Fort Bridger Rendezvous marked 50 years

Grizzled mountain men at camp and sitting on Traders’ Row to sell their wares at the Fort Bridger Mountain Man Rendezvous over Labor Day weekend at the Fort Bridger State Historic Site. PIONEER PHOTO/Virginia Giorgis

Growing from handful of tepees to second largest visitor event in Wyoming…

FORT BRIDGER — The 50th Fort Bridger Rendezvous and Black Powder shoot last weekend at the Fort Bridger State Site turned time back to the early 1800s as the Rendezvous recreates a slice of early American history.

Weather predictions were it was to be hot and dry until a short time before the kickoff of the Rendezvous. Then all predictions included some moisture on the days. But the real weather change rolled around Sunday evening as the sky opened up and delivered a cloudburst sending people inside and dispersing the crowd. Monday’s rain added to the fast shutdown of the Rendezvous as people wanted to pack their things and head for home.

But before the heavy rain came Sunday, Fort Bridger was a site of action with many grizzled buckskin clad mountain men, pioneer ladies, Native Americans and pilgrims or flatlanders (visitors) traversing the area.

As for the tepees in the primitive village, visitors were welcome, but they are told not to enter lodges unless the owner was there and asked them in. The heavy action, as usual, was on Traders Row where pre-1840 goods (replicas) were for sale. This included furs, beads, buckskins, knives, tomahawks, candles and much more. Some traders take a little stretch to make the era such as selling modern-day Mexican blankets.

Also a prime part of the Rendezvous is the Native American dancers just north of the bandstand. The dancers presented various dances indicative of their tribes and danced twice a day.

The Fort Bridger Rendezvous creates a step back in time to the pre-1840’s of the American West in the Rocky Mountains in the fur-trapping years. Rendezvous or a French word for meeting, proved to be a place designated in the fall so the mountain men could trade their furs, or plews, for products normally bought with cold, hard cash. The rendezvous is reminiscent of the trips west by entrepreneur William Ashley and the goods he carried for the mountain men. The plews were like money in the bank and were used to buy the supplies the mountain men would need for another year. The fur companies thought it was better to keep the mountain men in the wilderness to trap instead of returning east for supplies.

This was the 50th year as the Rendezvous was canceled one year due to COVID.

At this year’s Rendezvous the traffic was down on Friday, but proved to be a bumper crowd on Saturday as multitudes of people attended the Rendezvous.

Participants dress in pre-1840 attire and goods on Traders Row are to be pre-1840, as the event strives to replicate the early rendezvous and some of the trade goods. Mountain men with long scruffy beards stride across the grounds dressed in leathers and moccasins. Ladies dressed in skins or pioneer-type dresses are part of the mix. And soldiers, carrying the long barrel Flintlock rifles are also part of the scene.

There was a ‘Gray Beard’ run for the older mountain men this year. Also, a kids’ shoot was held for those 16 and younger. These shooters had to be able to hold their muzzleloader by themselves, although younger kids could kneel. They had to be in primitive dress to compete for the Tennessee Valley Muzzleloader prize.

Some burly mountain men were on hand to give primitive demonstrations such as lighting a fire with scraps of grass, beaver trapping, a lesson in Indian sign language and more.

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