For the past 25 years, the annual Stone Fort Days have been one big block party for history lovers. Revolutionary War-era reenactors shoot guns, make a lot of noise and teach the public about the 1780 British raid and burning of the valley.
This year, visitors to the two-day festival didn’t need to imagine the past to understand complete devastation.
They live it each day.
After Hurricane Irene destroyed county office buildings, homes and businesses in Schoharie County more than a month ago, that devastation is fresh in their minds. They see it on their friends’ and neighbors’ faces as they work together to recover and rebuild.
“The parallels are striking,” said Old Stone Fort Museum Director Carle Kopecky. “So this year, we want to say, ‘You know what? That reenactment that we have every year is not all fun and games. This is what really happened to the people. And now you can feel for them because it’s happened to you.’ ”
Community residents and 18th century reenactors converged on the expansive Old Stone Fort site, where various reenactments and impersonations were held throughout the day Saturday. The annual event will also take place today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
That 1780 raid is no longer the worst thing that happened to the valley, Kopecky said.
“That raid was the most devastating thing to happen to this valley until this year,” he said. “None of the other floods destroyed as many buildings, as big a percentage of the structures of the valley as Irene. And the raid itself destroyed virtually every building between Vroman’s Nose and Central Bridge.”
About 80 percent of Schoharie structures were affected by Irene’s flooding, Kopecky said. About 70 percent of Middleburgh structures were affected. They weren’t burned to the ground, as they were more than 200 years ago. But a lot of them will have to be torn down, as many homes remain condemned, evacuated or rife with potential for mold growth.
This year is history in the making, said Museum Curator Dan Beams. Most people, aside from the reenactors, of course, separate themselves from historic tragedies. But that’s impossible to do now, he said.
“I’d never really witnessed the kind of devastation where people’s stuff was literally just on the curb,” Beams said. “It was mounds and you were literally just weaving around the mounds of people’s lives, people’s stuff. And how were they getting rid of it? With a backhoe. Most people have never really been that close to that and really understood what that means for yourself, your friends, your neighbors, your business.”
Middleburgh takes a break as well
Just outside village limits, another community was taking a break from the often grueling recovery process to enjoy a sunny, fall day. Middleburgh hosted its annual Fall Festival and Parade on Saturday, despite the flood damage residents sustained.
People watched from their homes, sidewalks and storefronts as floats, firetrucks and tractors weaved their way throughout town. The parade began at Middleburgh Elementary School and proceeded down Main Street, past homes with muddy lawns, missing chimneys, and damaged first floors.
The American flags, bright red fire engines and pastel-colored vintage cars brightened up an otherwise bleak and devastated community.
The parade festivities concluded with music, donated food and happy faces on the lawn of Middleburgh High School.
As both regions struggle to recover in the aftermath of Irene, they want people to know it’s OK to come into town. Not just to visit, but because the valley is still a beautiful place and they put on events to bring some normalcy back into each other’s lives.
“Come out and just support us, take part in these events and moments of celebration,” said Beams. “We’re providing hopefully that platform for people to have a good time, but also to think about the other folks who are out here. It’s OK to come to Schoharie now. Help support local business. Help by donating to flood relief. And have a good time, take a break, help raise their spirits by being happy and coming out and enjoying the area.”
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Schenectady County