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Fort Cooper brings history alive

Hundreds are taking in the re-enactments this weekend.

By JORGE SANCHEZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 24, 2002

[Times photo: Stephen Coddington]
Harvard Burney of Fanning Springs says he is reminded of his Indian ancestry when he participates in re-enactments of the Seminole wars.
INVERNESS -- The blasts of muskets and cannons echoing through the pine forest at Fort Cooper State Park helped turn back the hands of time to a more rugged period of Florida's past.

The state park is observing the Second Seminole Indian War this weekend, and the high point of the festivities comes during the twice-daily battle re-enactments. During the re-enactments, a troop of U.S. Army regulars tries to ward off Seminole warriors, who seem to be hiding behind every tree and firing sporadically in guerrilla attacks.

The Army regulars unleash terrifying volleys from their cannons and use cavalry charges to defend themselves.

All to the delight and amusement of hundreds of spectators, who are watching the action from bleachers and lawn chairs just a few yards away. Battle re-enactments are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today at the park, 3100 Old Floral City Road, just south of Inverness. Admission to Fort Cooper Days is $4 for adults, $1 for children 6-17; children under 6 are admitted free. For information, call the park at 726-0315.

Free parking is plentiful, including disabled parking, and a shuttle takes visitors to the re-enactment site on the far side of the lake. Plan on arriving at least 40 minutes prior to the re-enactments to allow enough time to reach the site.

There is a fine selection of period crafts and lifestyle displays to examine in between re-enactments.

For people who like American Indian crafts and jewelry, there are vendors with impressive displays.

Among them is Cheyenne Two Mothers, an Inverness resident whose mother was a full-blooded Cheyenne. She sells handmade jewelry, hairpins, moccasins and dream catchers.

Another vendor, Mike Lonewolf, a Mohawk Indian from Oklahoma, had some items which are harder to find on the festival scene. Lonewolf had an array of smoking pipes crafted from antelope and deer antlers, along with handcrafted jewelry, amulets and flint knives.

Lonewolf also had several exquisite knives and axes, along with some rabbit and coyote face pelts and ankle shakers fashioned from deer toes.

He said he enjoyed the festival.

"Anywhere that people take pride in their culture and their history, and keep the place looking clean, then I'm happy to be here," he said.

Many people returning from Saturday morning's re-enactment said they enjoyed the show.

"It was fast-paced, but it seemed accurate," said Pam Kemp of Inverness. "You don't get to see stuff like this too often."

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