NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE – American flags will soon fly over Old Town.
Just as it was 200 years ago, the area will be occupied by U.S. soldiers who took control of the Town of Niagara following the Battle of Fort George.
This weekend, hundreds of re-enactors will descend upon Niagara-on-the-Lake to recreate the battle which originally took place May 25-27, 1813.
“This will be the largest event of the year,” explained Peter Martin, event coordinator with Parks Canada.
The town, then referred to as Niagara, was strategically located between British and US forces during the War of 1812. In Upper Canada, there was Fort George, the westernmost of the British fortified posts on Lake Ontario. Across the river, on the US side sat Fort Niagara.
This weekend, the battle between the two sides will be brought to life through a weekend reenactment featuring two days of battles, an evening bombardment and more.
“It’s so big, we have to spread it out,” explained Martin adding they are expecting between 800-1,000 reenactors for the event, coming from across Canada as well as parts of the United States.
The major battle reenactments will take place Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. in The Commons, just outside the fort, and will be free to the public to attend.
“There’s so much more room there,” said Martin, comparing this weekend’s battle to the Battle of Queenston Heights held in October. “It’s going to be a much bigger display.”
Throughout the weekend, Fort George will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, with regular admission rates applying. There will be demonstrations and activities, as well as an evening show on Saturday starting at 8 p.m.
Called “The Bombardment of Fort George” it will commemorate the massive assault on the fort, 200 years to the day. In 2013 however, the US bombardment that left the fort in a burnt ruin will be recreated using artillery, pyro, sound and lights, as well as a big fireworks display set to music as the finale. The evening portion will be a ticketed event and tickets will are on sale at the Fort George Gift Shop for the show.
On Monday, on the exact 200th anniversary of the battle there will be a special memorial service held to remember the fallen at the site of the former rifle range on Lakeshore Road.
Following the battle in which the U.S. defeats the British forces, 15-stripe American flags will once again fly over the town and U.S. soldiers will patrol the streets for the commemorative event Niagara Under Occupation which lasts right through December.
Students dressed as period American soldiers will patrol Queen and King Streets. Organized by the Niagara-on-the-Lake War of 1812 committee, soldiers on patrol will interact with residents and tourists alike, acting as occupying soldiers but really providing literature and information about what Niagara would have been like at that time.
It’s a chance to see what life would have been like under occupation, explained event chair Rick Meleon, adding it would have been common place to have soldiers dropping in to be fed or raiding homes for treasures.