Fort Union Rendezvous weekend

WILLISTON, N.D. - It's the busiest time of the year at the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site.

What was once known as the most important fur-trading post of the Upper Missouri, is now a historic site thousands of people from all over the nation come to on rendezvous weekend.

The Fort Union Rendezvous has been an ongoing tradition for 37 years, and rangers say they hope 2019 is their busiest year, bringing in more than 3,000 people.

"The fact that we're growing as a site is unique in the muzzle-loading community. A lot of groups are dying, and we're seeing a lot less visitation. We’re seeing a lot less muzzle-loader groups. Our site has been gaining, and we're very lucky on that. We are capitalizing on that," said Lisa Sanden, Fort Union Trading Post park ranger.

Historically accurate demonstrations take place throughout the day to show visitors how busy the area was in the 1800s, and how much work goes into trades like blacksmithing.

“I'm married and have two kids, and I've been ‘smithing,' this will be my 40th year this year. I learned with my uncle when I was a first grader, and he would just take us out in the shop and have us work on things. I’d help with the shoeing of the horses and everything, and I've been doing it ever since," said Thomas Brown, master blacksmith.

Brown has been coming to the rendezvous for 14 years, and says he loves going back to the old way of making things.

“You get more of a satisfaction when you are doing everything by hand. Everything is a little bit more controlled. If you mess up on a power hammer, you can mess up fast. Where if you're doing it by hand, you can catch it beforehand and you can kind of fix it,” added Brown.

Some people say walking through the vendor area makes them remember the stories and objects their family members have passed down through the years.

“Just by looking at the blankets there, those just bring back memories. And the toys, what they used to play with. It's just a lot of memories," said Anna Flores, a first-time visitor.

They will have various events and vendors out here for all ages until Sunday.

For more information on event and speaker times, you can go to https://www.nps.gov/fous/planyourvisit/rendezvous-information-for-participants.htm