Old Fort gives French flavor to holiday season

November 25, 2018

Dennis Dix looked the part of Père Noel : Father Christmas, in French.

White beard. Bag to hand out gifts (gold foil-covered chocolate coins and real 50-cent coins) to children. Red coat.

But the look came together almost by accident.

“Halloween a few years ago, I made a coat and the kids loved it and started calling me Santa Claus,” he said.

Dix was among several re-enactors at the Historic Old Fort for Joyeux Noel, French for “Merry Christmas.” The annual event is billed as a French Christmas and New Year’s celebration at the fort, a recreation of the installation that was built in Fort Wayne in 1815.

Inside one of the fort’s buildings, 17-year-old Harrison Snyder was dressed as a private in a U.S. infantry regiment and told those who wandered into his barracks that low-ranking soldiers slept four to a bunk and had to do their own cooking. In another, woodwright Kip Lytle put together dove-tail boxes and showed visitors how to craft the items.

“I find it to be a fascinatingly fun hobby,” said Lytle, an Air Force veteran who worked with computers and had little opportunity to be creative. “At the end of the day, I can point to something and say, ‘I made that.’”

Despite the holiday theme, the focus among re-enactors and visitors was history.

Symeon Braxton of Philadelphia was there with his sons, Desmond, 4, and Samson, 6. In town to join family for Thanksgiving, they were visiting historic sites around Fort Wayne including the History Center.

“This is cool,” Braxton said.

Andrew Kendall of New Haven, who visited the fort with his son, Jackson, 3, agrees.

“We always love coming out to the Old Fort,” Kendall said. “All the re-enactors really get into character. French Christmas was a really neat idea.”


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