WEST LAFAYETTE — Before you learn anything else about the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon Festival, it is necessary to know how to pronounce the name of the location: Fort Ouiatenon in West Lafayette. That’s we-OTT-n-ahn’.
The name traces back before statehood, before the American Revolution, to the early 1700s when Indiana was French and Indian country. Ouiatenon is the French pronunciation of the Miami Indian word for “place of the people of the whirlpool.” And the Hunters’ Moon, for which the celebration is named, is the first full moon after the fall equinox.
The Feast of the Hunters’ Moon, set this year for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 3 and 4, is a celebration of those times when Fort Ouiatenon was a fur-trading post located along the Wabash River.
Although Fort Ouiatenon was built by the French in 1717, Indiana has a rich heritage of not only French and Indian, but also Irish, Scottish, British and Germans who passed through Indian lands and traversed the rivers as explorers, as fur trappers and traders, and as members of the military.
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It’s these influences that blend together to make the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon a total sensory experience and a visual treat. Everywhere you look, your eyes are dazzled by the colorful costumes of the American Indian re-enactors, the stylish calicos and silks of the early 18th century ladies strolling the grounds, the variety of smart-looking military apparel and the rough, weather-beaten look of the buckskins and furs worn by the fur trappers and voyageurs.
Another predominant feature of the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon is the rich collection of scents and smells.
Depending on which way the wind blows and where you’re standing at any given time, one can breathe in the smell of horses and animals, gunpowder from the cannon-firing demonstrations, deerskin and leather, buffalo stew, catfish and cider — all wrapped in a blanket of hickory-scented campfire smoke.
The Feast of the Hunters’ Moon can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. With a full slate of entertainment and demonstrations on four stages and two arenas, attendees will have a hard time deciding what to take in: canoe races with the Northland Voyageurs, the vocal stylings of Hogeye Navvy, magic with Rodney the Younger, a demonstration of the Northwest Territory Alliance Militia, cannon firing down by the river or a French fashion show.
The variety of entertainment and activities explains why this is a two-day event.
Walking through the booths, exhibits and tents, attendees can take in demonstrations in blacksmithing, metalwork, quilting, weaving and woodworking. Watch as yarn is created on an authentic spinning wheel just like Great-Great-Grandma used to make. Watch a horse being shoed.
Beaded Indian leatherwork, handmade soap, wooden toys and authentic period clothing are sold by any number of dry goods and trading companies on the 30-acre grounds.
The Feast of the Hunters’ Moon is a fascinating look at the early days of Indiana, as many of the re-enactors pitch tents in the military camp, lean-tos in voyageur village, and tipis in the American Indian encampment. These areas are open for visitors, by the way, and it’s worth the walk if only to marvel over the fact that these dedicated re-historians are frying up bacon, cornbread and johnnycakes over an open fire with cast iron cookware.
Participants, re-enactors and artisans are friendly and willing to discuss history, their craft, or why they’ve opted to spend the weekend sleeping on the ground in a tent. The stories are fascinating, and the Feast of the Hunters’ Moon is history made fun.
Visit tcha.mus.in.us for comprehensive information about ticket pricing, shuttles, driving directions, and the full schedule of events.