When you reenact, you do it for -- fun, or to honor those who really lived the history, or to explore what it must have been like, or to step outside of what you know -- the reasons vary from person to person. That's what makes our hobby so interesting and enjoyable. (Just pray with me that the politicians don't start regulating it!)
We started reenacting because of my interest in history. Because I couldn't see how we could afford to buy a rifle at that time, and because of my background, I felt I could do a chaplain impression. Because Vicki & I wanted to make it a family hobby, that also channeled our interests. As we learned about the US Christian Commission, together our living history presentation developed.
But when you reenact, especially with a living history emphasis, you always wonder how you actually come across to visitors who stop by your tent. Over the years, in various ways, the Lord has sent along encouragements that kept us going -- from the surprised "thank you, it's really free?!?" of a first time soldier-guest enjoying the food at our tent to the firm hand shake of a veteran reenactor we've known for years.
While going through some old magazines recently, I ran across one that was tagged "Keep". The old issue of the Camp Chase Gazette reminded me of a visit in 2004 by a woman reenactor who stopped by and started asking us a lot of questions. As she talked with us, she shared she was reviewing the Marengo event for the magazine. We answered her questions, shared lemonade and food with her, and told her come again anytime as she went on her way. I didn't give it a thought after that until later that year while reading the event review I saw our USCC presentation was mentioned in it; only one paragraph, but her summary was a written encouragement that we were accomplishing our goals:
Some suggestions about doing a Living History Presentation:
1) Pick something you have a passion for. Since it takes time and effort in research & in putting it together, choose an aspect of history that you enjoy.
2) Set some mental goals of what you hope to accomplish. These will likely change and develope as you develope your presentation, but goals will help you focus your energy and resources better.
3) Search for things that will draw people in to "see" what you have to teach. To set up a tent and sit out in front in a chair and hope people will "just stop by" is not the best approach. At least have a banner or sign out front ("Journalist"/ "Soldier's Aid Society" etc) which identifies and invites people to stop and look. Displays also are invitations. When people stop and look, you can begin to engage them in conversation about what you are portraying.
4) Say to yourself often "There is no such thing as stupid questions, only obnixous questioners". As much as some questions may make you roll your eyes, realize that the person asking may not really understand much about history. Treat them with hospitality and you will be able to lead them along. Yes, there will be know-it-alls that will play games with you, but at least give every person the benefit of the doubt when you first meet them. Especially children.
Postscript: Sadly, a few years later the reenactment at Marengo was discontinued. It was always one of our favorites, even though it was never one of the biggest. To those who worked so hard to put it on over the years -- "God bless you for your efforts".