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Baraboo River Rendezvous moves due to flood fears

August 29, 2018

Moving the Baraboo River Rendezvous from the riverfront to the Sauk County Fairgrounds was no fun, but it beat trying to start a fire without matches in the rain.

The Spirit Lake Mountain Men who’ve organized a reenactment of the fur trade era for 25 years appreciate the skill it took to survive in the wilderness without modern amenities. That’s why the group didn’t hesitate to demonstrate self-sufficiency in the face of adversity Wednesday as the threat of flooding prompted organizers to move the event to the fairgrounds.

Heavy, persistent rain has caused flooding upriver. By the time the three-day event starts Friday morning, the rendezvous grounds at Spirit Point near Circus World may be submerged.

“We had an opportunity to move in dry conditions,” organizer John Rogers said Wednesday as he packed up his campsite. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Rogers thanked the Sauk County Agricultural Society for welcoming the rendezvous to the fairgrounds. He wasn’t happy about packing up camp and relocating, but he pointed out a silver lining in the rain clouds: Improved visibility.

“I actually think this might be a positive note,” Rogers said. “People will be able to see us.”

The Spirit Lake Mountain Men anticipated a big crowd for the rendezvous’ 25th anniversary. They hope recent weather won’t dampen attendance. Last year’s event drew 48 campers.

“At least 100 campers is what we want,” Rogers said. “We’re expecting a large crowd.”

Each Labor Day weekend the fur trade era returns to Baraboo. Teepees, buckskin garments and demonstrations of lost arts dot the grounds as participants hold hatchet-throwing competitions and make pancakes over open fires.

“It takes real skill to get it done,” said Craig Sauey, who has participated in the rendezvous since its inception at Lower Ochsner Park. “It’s a fascinating way of life.”

The event continues to draw new participants such as Erik Hintze, who hadn’t attended since his high school days. He was drawn to the rendezvous as an adult because it celebrates self-sufficiency. “I like the outdoor stuff like the mountain men era,” Hintze said.

Student groups will visit Friday for free. Otherwise attendees will pay $1-2.

“It’s a good time for a very reasonable price,” Rogers said.

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