The 39th annual Old Settlers Days festival will give visitors a chance to step back in time and explore Waynesville’s past this weekend, especially its role as a Union post during the Civil War.
The festival kicks off with a special live theater performance Friday night, with a variety of events planned throughout the day Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon. All events take place at Roubidoux Park, located just off the historic Waynesville Square.
“We expect even more (Civil War) reenactors this year than we’ve had in the past,” said Denise Seevers, president of the Pulaski County Historical Society, which hosts the two-day festival. “We will have more horses and cavalry demonstrations, along with infantry demonstrations. We’ve even got an extra battle (reenactment) this year — we’re doing three instead of two.”
This year’s main reenactment, scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, will portray an actual skirmish that happened along the Old Wire Road, when Union Soldiers from Fort Waynesville ambushed a group of Confederate recruits traveling north from Arkansas, according to Dale Sanford, a local reenactor with the St. Louis-based Turner Brigade.
“It happened Aug. 28, 1862, in a place in the Buckhorn area called the California House Inn in Colly Hollow, about three miles west of Waynesville,” Sanford said. “The 13th Missouri State Militia ambushed (Confederate forces) as they were coming through, killing between 40 and 60 of them, and capturing nine.”
Two of the Confederate prisoners were later reported executed, but later research by reenactors determined that one of the prisoners escaped, Sanford said.
“It didn’t happen the way they put it down in the official report,” Sanford said. “That’s what Sunday’s reenactment is about — the execution and escape, which probably happened near the park where the reenactments will take place.”
‘An Evening with Grant’
Events kick off at 7 p.m. Friday with a performance of “An Evening with General Grant,” at the park’s main stage.
Civil War reenactor Wayne Issleb, who has researched and portrayed Brig. Gent. Ulysses S. Grant during reenactments for many years, performed a similar play with the same title during last year’s festival; however, Seevers said this is a brand-new show.
“He wrote a new play over the winter; it’s still about Grant’s life, but it’s a different show,” Seevers said. “It will be at the main stage. We will have seating for ticket-holders, which we will have cordoned off.”
Tickets to the show are $5 for adults and $3 for children. Tickets are available at Lone Oak Printing, the Pulaski County Tourism office and the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum.
Beginning Saturday, visitors can visit encampments run by Civil War reenactors as well as the Kickapoo-Trace Muzzleloaders, who recreate the era of the mountain men in the early 1800s.
Both encampments will be open at 8 a.m. for visitors to tour Saturday and Sunday and will offer living history demonstrations and more.
Throughout the festival, visitors can visit a number of vendors offering a variety of food, crafts, other hand-made items and more. Seevers said some vendor booths are historically themed.
“We have about the same number of vendors this year that we had last year,” Seevers said.
“We have a couple more muzzleloader-era traders than we had last year,” she continued.
— At 10 a.m., the festival’s opening ceremony takes place, punctuated by an opening volley fired jointly by Kickapoo-Trace Muzzleloaders and Civil War reenactors.
— Also at 10 a.m., Waynesville’s oldest standing structure, the Old Stagecoach Stop will open for tours. Located on the nearby Historic Downtown Square, the building once served as a Civil War hospital. The building will remain open until 4 p.m.
— At 10:30 a.m., musical entertainment begins with Back Porch Players performing at Pavilion 3 until 5 p.m.
— Also at 10:30 a.m., the first heat of the annual Armed Services YMCA Pulaski County Duck Race takes place on the Roubidoux Creek. The annual race features decorated duck decoys, which float down the creek in a series of heats to determine the winners.
— At 11 a.m., the Wire Road Skirmish reenactment begins.
— At 1 p.m., the Armed Services YMCA Duck Race championship race is scheduled to take place.
— At 2 p.m., the second Civil War battle reenactment of the day is planned.
— From 5 to 7 p.m., the encampments will be closed to the public.
— At 7 p.m., a Civil War period dance with music by the Back Porch Players will be held at the park. The event is open to the public.
— At 9 p.m. the festival will hold a Night Fire and Artillery Show, with Civil War reenactor cannon crews conducting a night fire display.
The festival continues Sunday with the opening of the respective encampments at 8 a.m. Other activities on the schedule include:
— At 9 a.m., a Period Church Service will be held at the main stage.
— At 10 a.m., the Back Porch Players will perform gospel music.
— At 1 p.m., the final Civil War battle reenactment will be held.
— At 3:30 p.m., the event closes.
For more information about the annual Old Settlers Days festival, visit the “Pulaski County Museum & Historical Society” Facebook page.