Re-enactors create a live history book in present-day St. Augustine.
Guns aloft, Spanish Militia soldiers enter the clearing. Each man looks tense but determined, unsure of the territory but willing to stake his life on it. Indigenous people surround the soldiers, and suddenly it does not seem so easy to take La Florida.
Scenes like this one aren't just a part of St. Augustine's past - they are part of the present as well. These are the living history scenes that create a real life storybook for visitors, stitching together the pages of the city's founding days. In St. Augustine, when words fall short, interaction, exhibition, and engagement bring these experiences to life.
The re-enactors at sites such as Fort Mose, located of U.S. 1 Highway North, showcase colonial living. Each re-enactor dresses in the appropriate garb for their era and occupation. The Fort Mose soldiers are adorned in period military dress and carry muskets. They aim to teach visitors about life for the first free black citizens in North America.
Fort Mose hosts the First Saturday Militia Muster Living History events each month where the volunteers not only re-enact battles but re-enact life as it used to be. They practice firing drills, teach historic weapons use and safety as well as colonial cooking techniques and gardening, and they share stories of what colonial life was like.
This national monument, located on the bayfront and Castillo Drive, is maintained by the National Park Service and the re-enactors that work there. The Castillo and its volunteers strive to put visitors in the shoes of the early Spanish settlers through cannon demonstrations, musket firings, and stories of the days when St. Augustine was a fledgling colony of the Spanish crown.
Historic weapons demonstrations, including cannon firings, are Saturdays and Sundays at the fort.
Just a short walk across the street from the Castillo sits a large, wooden tower perched high in the sky; looking out over the bayfront and the Castillo. This tower sits at the Colonial Quarter, which is a living history museum that combines three centuries of history into a two-acre park and museum.
The re-enactors at the Colonial Quarter, located on St. George Street, dedicate themselves to their craft as well. They dress in period costumes and immerse guests in the culture of their period, whether it's the 16th, 17th, or 18th century.
From experiencing a British siege or crafting a bracelet in the leatherworks shop - at the Colonial Quarter, the idea is the same. The notion that the past can transcend the pages of a book fuels living history volunteers. Hearing stories and experiencing the lives of people from different periods of history unites present visitors with those that came before them.
The St. Augustine History Festival is a great way to learn more about the city's past. The annual five-day festival celebrates the nation's oldest city at these - and more - historical sites.