Fort Washita starts 2013 'Rendezvous' with hopes of re-building barracks

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FORT WASHITA, OK -- For Mandee Skidmore, the Fort Washita barracks fire was personal.

"When I came and saw it for the first time I was in tears," she said. "It actually burned down a couple of months before my wedding and I was planning on getting married on it."

Two years later, the park is still recovering from the fire that burnt the barracks building to the ground.

Skidmore is coordinating this year's 'Rendezvous' - an annual re-enactment festival.

She said numbers have decreased the last few years.

"It used to be a lot more fun especially with the barracks still there, because we were able to go in and dance and cut up, and have a great time," she said. "It's just crushing."

Metal bars and yellow rope keep visitors away from the barracks - the building that's been the landmark and centerpiece for the Fort.

Ron Petty, Fort Washita historical interpreter, said the past couple years have been difficult.

"Not very well to be honest with you," he said. "Our feelings and everything kinda bounces off of that [building]."

Federal antiquity laws require the building be re-built exactly as it was before it burned.

"And that's lots and lots of money that we don't have," Petty said.

He said they've held fundraisers over the past two years. But so far they've only raised about $30,000. And the cost of rebuilding is estimated in the millions.

Earl and Norah Jean Harrell travel around the country to re-enactment events.

"This is our first year at Fort Washita," they said.

They said even though the barracks are gone, there's still something magical about Fort Washita.

"Because many of the historic rendezvous events we go to are in convenient sites, not necessarily the historic site that it happened on," they said.

Skidmore said she can't wait to see the barracks rebuilt. And she's actively trying to increase visitors to the festival.

"Because this is my favorite place in the whole world. And I love the barracks," she said.

The Rendezvous continues through Sunday.

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