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The Great Rendezvous

July 12 to 14, 2024

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hundreds of re-enactors from across North America converge to re-create the annual summer gathering held at Fort William over 200 years ago when it was the inland headquarters of the North West Company! The historic re-enactment will include artisan workshops and demonstrations, contests, a grand canoe arrival, and more!

Beyond the Pelt: Speaker Series

Discover tales of adventure, trade routes, and the profound impact of the fur trade across continents and communities. Hosted in the North Canoe Shed, these sessions offer a nuanced perspective of the fur trade; exploring both material culture and cultural exchanges between Indigenous Peoples and European settlers.

Gender Identities in the Fur Trade

Friday at 1 p.m. with Jeremy Kingsbury

Join us as we journey into the history of Two-Spirt individuals through the accounts of fur traders and George Catlin. Followed by an open-ended discussion on sources, different gender systems through time, and what this information tells us about the fur trade.

Listening to the Fur Trade

Saturday at 1 p.m. with Daniel Laxer

The landscape of the fur trade was punctuated by sound: shouting, singing, dancing, gunpowder, rattles, jingles, drums, fiddles, and – very occasionally – bagpipes. Daniel Laxer unearths traces of music, performance, and other intangible cultural phenomena long since silenced, allowing us to hear the fur trade for the first time.

History of Maple Syrup

Maple syrup making is a process that brings family, friends, and even strangers together. Learn from the experts and discover the history of Canada’s sweetest export.

The Art and Practice of Western Medicine in the Early 19th Century

Sunday at 1 p.m. with Matt Roy

Gain insights into the minds of medical practitioners working in the fur trade.

Artisan Demonstrations

Building a Birch Bark Canoe

Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Guided by Indigenous knowledge and technologies, our skilled canoe builder will construct a traditional birch bark canoe, showcasing the enduring legacy of Indigenous craftsmanship. 

The finished canoe will be launched on Sunday at The Departure at 3:30 p.m.

Redingote in a Week

Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Claire Sparling, Fort Gilbraltar’s historical tailor, joins Marie Revel, Fort William Historical Park’s professional costumer, to hand sew an entire redingote (formal 19th century men’s coat) in a week.

Dress in a Day

Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fort William Historical Park’s costuming team will make a dress in a day using 19th century tools and construction methods.

Skills of the Anishinaabe

Daily, 3 to 4 p.m.

Experience how the Anishinaabe live in harmony with Nimaamaa Aki (Mother Earth). Learn about the transition and melding of different tools and technologies through trade.

Churn and Learn

Daily, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Witness the age-old tradition of turning fresh cream into golden butter. It’s a nostalgic experience that’s as educational as it is delicious!

Sheep Shearing

Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.

Watch as skilled shearers highlight traditional historic techniques. It’s a blend of innovation and heritage!

Hands-on History

Bannock Making

Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Learn Bannock baking methods at the Anishinaabe Encampment! Participants can drop by and help make this iconic treat, for all to enjoy.

Buttonholes, Stitches and Fabrics

Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. with Claire Sparling

Learn the finer details and the finishing touches with textile artist Claire Sparling.

Métis Finger Weaving Workshop

Saturday and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. with the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO)

Learn about the cultural significance of the voyageur sash and make your own mini-sash. Capacity is limited.

Fur Trade Jam Session

Saturday at 4 p.m.

Join Fort William’s inhabitants and the visiting re-enactors for fur trade singing and dancing.

Activities and Entertainment

Grand Arrival

Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Witness the spectacle of many canoes arriving, echoing a time when these watercraft were essential to the exploration of our heritage river systems.

The Departure

Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

Join us as we launch a newly crafted birch bark canoe from Fort William’s wharf. 

Art of the Storyteller

Daily, French at 11 a.m. and English at 2:45 p.m.

Storytelling teaches important lessons and instills cultural values from generation to generation. Come enjoy fun and interesting stories from the Anishinaabe and voyageurs cultures.

Paddle a Canoe

Daily, 10:45 to 11:20 a.m. and 2:45 to 4:20 p.m.

Try your hand at throwing a trade axe. Voyageurs and tradesmen spend their leisure time trying to best one another in this game of precision and skill.

Axe Throwing (13+)

Daily, 12 to 12:30 p.m.

Try your hand at throwing a trade axe. Voyageurs and tradesmen spend their leisure time trying to best one another in this game of precision and skill.

Fire a Musket (13+)

Friday 3:30 to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 3 to 3:30 p.m.

Firearms were an important trade item in 1815. Learn the skills you’ll need to use a fur trade era musket to hunt for your food.

The Betrothal (Drama)

Friday at 2:30 p.m.

A betrothal between cultural groups.

Historic Buildings

Step back in time and explore Fort William in 1815. This is the inland headquarters of the North West Company, the world’s largest fur trading enterprise, with posts stretching across North America.

Scavenger Hunt

Explore the historic site as you unravel riddles and test your fur trader knowledge with the Rendezvous Scavenger Hunt.

Visit the Farm

Meet our friendly animals at the Farm. Consider lending a hand, there’s always chores to be done.

Young and Young at Heart

Métis Arts and Crafts

Learn about and try Métis Dot Art, a contemporary adaptation of Métis beadwork and create your own paper birch bark baskets.

Canoe Craft

Saturday and Sunday with the Thunder Bay Museum

Join the Thunder Bay Museum to create a design for the bow of a canoe on a button. You can see many different bow designs in the Canoe Shed. Try to replicate one or create your very own unique design!

Contests

The Three-Legged Voyageur

Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Put your coordination and communication skills to the test! Like the voyageurs, contestants must portage a pack laden with valuable fur to reach their destination. Competing in teams of two, each person will tie one of their legs together with a voyageur sash. Navigate through obstacles and overcome challenges while striving to have the quickest time.  

Axe Throwing (13+)

Friday at 3 p.m.

Try your hand at throwing a trade axe. Voyageurs and tradesmen spend their leisure time trying to best one another in this game of precision and skill. 

Boucher’s Foot Race

Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Voyageurs are competitive souls and always looking to prove who is the strongest and fastest of their brigade. If that sounds like you, participants in this contest of speed and stamina will race against each other, sprinting through the woods by Boucher’s Tavern and arriving back at the start. The first one to return will be crowned the winner.

Napawagan (Bone and Pin Game)

Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

Are you feeling lucky, or have something that you’d be willing to wager? This game of Indigenous origin will test your hand-eye coordination, and although it requires precision and accuracy, is accessible to everyone who wishes to compete. The rules of the contest have been developed based on historical sources and references.

Food and Drink

Now catered by The Chanterelle, the Cantine offers a delicious assortment of meals and snacks.

Rendezvous Crew

Participants must be registered re-enactors
Visitors are welcome to watch

Workshops

Finish in a Rush: Open House

Thursday and Friday, 4 to 9 p.m.

Enjoy tea and snacks in a cool and luminous space, surrounded by friends, to share your passion for historical clothing and put the finishing touches on your costume!

Modify Your Pattern and Adjust Your Mockup

Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. with Claire Sparling

Bring your 19th century themed sewing projects to a workshop hosted by Claire Sparling to gain helpful tips, tricks, and advice on the proper adjustments to make a perfectly fitted garment. Participants must bring pins, a tank top, a mockup pattern, and a paper pattern they are working on or would like assistance with.

Notebook Binding (Youth)

Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Young participants will learn the art of handcrafting notebooks using authentic 19th century materials and methods.

18th century Heart-shaped Pin Cushion (Youth)

Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Young reenactors can learn the timeless art of sewing by making their own heart-shaped pin cushions! Each child will proudly take home their completed pin cushion, ready to use and cherish. Parents must either be present or provide emergency contact information. Ten participant spots available.

Shortbread Cookies (Youth)

Sunday, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Immerse yourself in the art of baking and learn to make classic shortbread cookies from scratch. No previous baking experience is necessary. Parents must either be present or provide emergency contact information. 

Contests

RendezFoods

Sous Chef (ages 8 to 15): Friday, 11:30 a.m.

Chef de Cuisine (ages 16+): Friday, 11:30 a.m.

Do you have what it takes to outcook all the other brigades at Rendezvous? If so, roll up your sleeves, stoke your cooking fire, and choose your historic ingredients with care as you compose a mouth-watering culinary delight for the judges.

Fire Lighting

Saturday, 3 p.m.

Surviving in the interior can be harsh, and having the means to cook food and keep yourself warm is critical. Participants will not only build and start their own fire, but must boil a kettle of water as well. The first person to achieve this will be the victor. Anyone interested in competing must supply their own fire lighting equipment – kettles will be provided.

Cooking Tripod Assembly

Sunday, 3 p.m.

Showcase your mastery of knots and demonstrate some ingenuity to assemble a stable tripod structure, as swiftly as possible. Though time is of the essence, it must support the weight of a fully loaded cauldron – failure means elimination. Participants will be provided with three poles, a length of rope, and one metal hook to hang the cauldron.

Visitor Information

Admission Fees

  • Adult $12
  • Seniors (60+) $10
  • Students (13+ with student ID) $10
  • Youth (6 to 12) $10
  • Children (5 & under) Free

What to Bring

Weather-appropriate clothing, bug spray, sunscreen: This is an all-weather program and takes place indoors and outdoors.

Cash: There are no ATMs available on site.

Getting Here

Car: Fort William Historical Park is located at 1350 King Road, Thunder Bay. Parking is free.

Bicycle: Cyclists are welcome. Bike racks are available to use free of charge.

Thunder Bay Transit: Fort William Historical Park is accessible by the 4 Neebing bus route. Please visit the City of Thunder Bay Transit website for specific bus route information.

Boats & River Access: Boats cannot dock at events. There is no admissions entrance via the Kaministiquia River.
RVs: Camping is permitted at our campground with a reservation. RVs are not permitted in the parking lot for overnight stays.