A Blast in The Past

Chippewa Falls event revives fur trade, lumbering eras

Tom Giffey

Hollywood’s got it all wrong: Time travel doesn’t require a futuristic machine. All you need is some historical knowledge and imagination, although guys in buckskin help, too. These elements and more – itchy-outfit clad re-enactors, historically accurate food and games, and period props – will help visitors step back into Wisconsin’s early history at The Past Passed Here, an annual historical encampment in Allen Park in downtown Chippewa Falls. The event will conjure up the late 1700s and early 1800s, when French fur traders, lumberjacks, and Native Americans plied the rivers and forests of the Chippewa Valley. And the past literally did pass here: Allen Park was a meeting site for French and Native American fur traders and later was the site of Chippewa Lumber & Boom Co., which has been called “the largest sawmill in the world under one roof.” The event’s goals are twofold: teaching local kids about history and educating community members as well. Students from area school districts will visit the encampment during the day May 8-10, while it will be open to everyone May 9-12. The re-enactors will bring to life era-appropriate food, commerce, and music, as well as other elements of camp life, such as tomahawk throwing and sawing competitions. Demonstrators will also show off old-time skills, which in previous years have included blacksmithing, spinning, and tanning hides. If that’s not enough, you can chow down on grub like buffalo burgers, voyageur stew, kettle corn, fry bread, or old-fashioned candy. The past never tasted so good.