The Revolutionary War battle reenactment isn't the only thing that drew a crowd to Red Bank Battlefield in National Park on Sunday.
NATIONAL PARK -- Ready, aim, fire!
Every year, hundreds of people flock to Red Bank Battlefield in National Park to watch the reenactment of a Revolutionary War battle that took place there in 1777 and celebrate one of the historic site's biggest events -- the 18th Century Field Day.
From musket fire to quality family time, here are the top highlights of the day's event.
1) Peeks back in time
From the Whitall House -- the homestead of the family who called the land that is now the battlefield home -- to the 18th century-style artisans who came out to show off their skills, one of the main aims of the day's events is to introduce attendees to the way people lived during the time of the Revolutionary War.
"It's our connection to our human history," said Owen Kelsey of Palermo, Cape May County, as he pounded a metal hook into shape as part of his demonstration of blacksmithing techniques while a crowd gathered around.
"This goes back thousands of years. We wouldn't be here without this technology."
2) Living theater
The highlight of the day, without question, is the battle reenactment that puts Hessian and British soldiers up against aContinental Army that's fighting to protect the river bank and thus, partial control of the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. Spoiler alert: Things go well for Col. Christopher Greene and his defense of Fort Mercer, which stood on the park's grounds.
The canon blasts and musket fire are more than enough to draw a crowd, but add in the demonstrations and shows put on for children throughout the day, and it makes for an immersive day of history. For example, two reenactors kept the attention of two dozen children as the pair went through an elaborate sword-fighting route. Gavin Dunn, 8 of Haddonfield, was decked out in his British uniform and got to be a part of the action. He said a few of the moves the reenactors put on may have looked tricky, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
"It's the Revolution, nothing is cheating," he said with a smile.
While the battle was raging on, it was a much more laid back scene along Hessian Avenue, the main drag leading into the park. Families, many who have lived along the stretch of roadway in the tiny municipality for decades, set up chairs, food, drinks and more on their front lawns as they turn the annual event into the perfect excuse for family bonding and catch up with old friends walking past.
"We've been doing this for a long time," said Jean Warner as she sat in a circle of family and friends Sunday afternoon. She and her husband Kevin have been hosting their annual get together for 40 years. While they're disappointed runners from the day's Jonas Cattell Run don't come through around 2 p.m. like in years past -- the 10-mile run now starts early in the morning -- it's still a great excuse to whip up a few batches of chili and invite everyone over, said Warner.
Her next-door neighbors the O'Sullivans had a similar set up, and had started out the morning by having people over for warm apple cider.
"We never know how many people are going to show up," she said as she sipped a cup of 18th-century-inspired grog an anonymous soldier dropped off. "Sometimes we'll even make it down to the reenactment."Michelle Caffrey may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ShellyCaffrey. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook.