Fort Riley, Kansas



Fort Riley history comes to life

By Suet Lee-Growney | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | September 29, 2017

    Dressed in 1800s American pioneer costume, Bob White sits in front of his canvas tent and watches his wife Melody White weave a dreamcatcher in the southwest corner of the Artillery Parade Field Sept. 23 during Fall Apple Day. This is Bob’s 17th year participating in Fort Riley’s Fall Apple Day as a period reenactor.

      The couple have been married for 12 years and have been participating in the annual fall event at Fort Riley together for 11 years.

      “I started coming out here before we got married and she’s been out here for 11 years,” Bob said.

     Participating in the reenactment section of Fall Apple Day is something the Whites enjoy doing together. They said they like sharing the educational part of their experience with others who walk by their reenactment scene. In the 1800s, Fort Riley was only a territory.

      “That was when they hired scouts because, when Fort Riley was here (in the 1800s), it was only a territory,” he said. “I enjoy being out here to teach them what it was like in those days. I look at it as a learning thing out here. We encourage people to ask questions, what we do out here and why, and all kinds of things.”

      The couple also comes back each year because they enjoy mingling with the Soldiers.

      “Plus we love being around our Soldiers,” Melody said. “We have an adopted son in the Army down in Fort Hood (Texas).”

     Bob Smith, Fort Riley Museum director, said the reenactment section is called the Historical Fort Riley area of Fall Apple Day. Each year before the event, the museum system would call for reenactors to participate.

     “We, months in advance, put the word out for reenactors and we’ve got contacts with Civil War reenactors, the territorial capitol reenactors, folks that do old-time crafts — things like that,” Smith said. “We’ve got a blacksmith. We’ve got someone that’s making apple butter.”

    Also participating in this year’s period reenactment are the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, 82nd Airborne Living History Association, who were portraying the 1st Infantry Division on Fall Apple Day, and World War II Reenacting Corps.

      “We outreached to them and tell them ‘Apple Day is such and such day, would you like to come?’ and we’ll coordinate everything with that,” Smith said. “They come and set up what we call living history events and reenacting and interacting with folks. We have our World War I, since we are doing the centennial of WWI this year. We have reached out to a number of the reenactors from even the Kansas City area to come in and bring their items and their displays.”

      Smith said the interesting bit about the period vehicle display, which is mostly WWII vehicles this year, is that they are privately own. Each of the owners worked with the museum staff, who coordinated access, to bring those historical, tactical vehicles onto Fort Riley.

     “What’s really cool is all of these folks that have vehicles here, these are their vehicles,” he said. “We’re always thrilled they come in with trailers, flatbeds, a semi. Actually, our three half-tracks came in on a semi last night. So they come in and we sort of, with security and access, we work very well with the access control people, and got the necessary waivers to get on post and everything. Because we’ve got a lot of heavy weapons here today.”

     The museum continues to put on the Historical Fort Riley reenactor area each year during Fall Apple Day because, for some, this living history exhibit is their only means of association with the museum on post. This is Smith’s 11th year coordinating the living history section.

     “Because it’s great outreach to advertise the museum and the historical significance of Fort Riley,” Smith said. “A lot of people, this is their contact with the museum. So we are happy to do that, to make that contact.”

       And contact is what the reenactors did. They spread historical knowledge to everyone they spoke to.

     Bob said someday, when he turns to Fall Apple Day, he would like to build a Mormon handcart and bring it with him to add to his reenactment scene.

     “Someday I (am) going to build a Mormon pull cart,” he said. “When (pioneers) came though, they had pull carts with all their stuff in their cart.”


Tag Fall Apple Day Festival 2017