Students listen to Thomas Jefferson impersonator Kurt Smith.HARTFORD - The Lewis and Clark Historic Site invites the community to enjoy their Departure Weekend, with artisans, reenactors and more to commemorate the departure of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark from Camp Dubois.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12, 2024, people can stop by the historic site in Hartford to experience the world in 1804. From ropemaking to firing flintlock rifles, attendees can check out different exhibits and learn more about what life was like during the time of Lewis and Clark. Mike Bortko said that the goal of the weekend is to educate visitors and share the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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“It’s a historical event that took place right here in your backyard,” Bortko said. “We want the kids to know that a major event in American history took place near here.”

Bortko explained that the historic site is near the location of Camp Dubois, which Lewis called the “point of departure” in his journal on May 14, 1804. Every year, they host a free Departure Weekend to educate people about Lewis and Clark and local history.

Education is the main goal of the Lewis and Clark Historic Site. On Friday, May 10, 2024, they also hosted their annual Education Day, which invited eight busloads of fourth graders from around the Riverbend area to come to the site and explore. In addition to the different skill stations, students enjoyed a presentation by Thomas Jefferson impersonator Kurt Smith, who spoke about the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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“They swarmed,” Bortko joked of the students. “It’s just letting these little fourth graders know that these guys 230 years ago, you couldn’t get on a cell phone. You couldn’t get on your iPad, you couldn’t get on your anything. Once you were out here on the frontier, it was your own devices and whatever tools you may have brought with you. And so we just tried to give them a perspective of what it was like a couple hundred years ago.”

Students could check out the different exhibitions, speak with Thomas Jefferson, explore the inside of the museum and more. Kurt Smith will also perform as Jefferson at the Hayner Genealogy and Local History Library at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 10, and in a debate sponsored by the Madison County Historical Society on May 16, 2024.

Bortko characterized the Lewis and Clark expedition as one of the major historical events in world history. He noted that the Lewis and Clark Historic Site provides hands-on experiences for kids and adults to enjoy, and he hopes to see many people come out for the Departure Weekend celebrations on May 11 and 12.

“It’s everything,” he added. “You could look at the books, look at the pictures, but now you’re here and you’re seeing these different skill sets.”

For more information about the Lewis and Clark Historic Site, visit their official website at CampDubois.com.

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Apr 17, 2024 - Visit Lewis and Clark State Historic Site May 11-12 for Point of Departure Commemoration

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