Annual event draws thousands of visitors
Clusters of tents, reenactors portraying centuries of American history, children's activities, an array of food stands and other family-friendly events will fill the expanse of the Audrain County Historical Museum Complex, 501 South Muldrow, for the 11th annual Walk Back in Time.
This year's three-day living history event – scheduled Sept. 28, 29 and 30 – is expected to draw more than 10,000 visitors. Museum Executive Director Dana Keller said the event has come a long way since its beginning, and continues to improve each year. Keller started working at the museum a year after the first "Walk Back" was held in 2001.
"The first year they probably had 2,000 to 3,000 people and they were thrilled. And look where we are now. Last year, we had anywhere from 12-to-13,000," Keller recalled. Asked what the drawing power is, she said "There are so many events so many people have like World War reenactments, Civil War reenactments and history events, that I think it's the complete timeline of American history that seems to be the real draw to our event; and the fact that Paul Baum works tirelessly to make sure every single year there are new and different things to see.
"He's constantly working to make it not bigger – because we fill up our 11 acres of ground every year – but better. Each year, he makes sure our quality keeps improving."
The reenactments will start at the 1770s colonial campsite and progress with timeline camps to a 2011 Army combat display. "It's an entire history lesson in one short walk," she said.
This year, a few new attractions have been added. Following Friday night's Historical Society Fish and Chicken Fry, the Graceland Mini Theater will present "The Demise of Wild Bill Hickok" inside the mansion. Admission is free. After that, "The Civil War in 3D" will be presented by Bob Zeller.
"This is a really big deal," Keller said. The digital stereoscopic slide lecture by Zeller begins at 8 p.m. at the Country Church. There is no charge for admission.
Last year, the 1930 "America Between the Wars" campsite made its debut and this year plans to return with even more fascinating features. "Babe Ruth will be hanging out in that campsite, along with a man who plans to bring a variety of Coca-Cola coolers and show a historical timeline," Keller said. An amateur photo contest is another new attraction. Information for the contest can be found on the museum's website at www.audrain.org. The winning photograph will be featured in the August 2013 Missouri Life Magazine.
As always, those attending the weekend event will have the opportunity to rub elbows with some "pretty historic people," with the return of reenactors portraying generals MacArthur, Pershing and Washington.
The Missouri Military Academy also plans to once again offer a battalion review on the museum grounds.
"Last year, it was so powerful and enjoyed by many," Keller said. Other traditional features will include the 1860s Vintage Base Ball games, the children's activities, attic treasure sales, live entertainment, candlelight tours and more.
Weather permitting, Keller expects attendance as immense or larger than last year. She credits the community for the event's success in years past.
"Last year, everything was perfect for the 10th anniversary. The weather was perfect, the temperature was great and attendance was insane, and I feel like it's going to be another good year for us," she said. "Since there's really no way to secure the grounds and charge admission, it's expensive to put an event like this together. If we had to do it by ourselves (without the community's help) it would be a fraction of the size, draw a fraction of the attendance and a fraction of the revenue coming into the local economy. You'd be surprised how much impact Back in Time has on some local businesses. Their investments are good for our community."
All proceeds from the event, Keller said, go into the museum's general fund.
For more information about the 2012 Walk Back in Time, contact the Audrain County Historical Museum Complex at (573) 581-3910 or visit the web site www.audrain.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.