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Mackinac Island Honors Memorial Day with Special Reenactment at Fort Mackinac

Memorial Day ceremonies continued on Mackinac Island, early Monday morning.

It’s an old tradition to honor Memorial Day at Fort Mackinac, with a reenactment to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.

Historical interpreters say this is one of the most important displays they perform each year.

“The people that were buried in [Fort Mackinac Cemetery] wore the exact same uniforms that we’re wearing today, so it’s definitely a humbling feeling when you go in,” said historical interpreter Jack Swartzinski. “It’s a very important part of my job and it’s something I take very seriously.”

Mackinac State Historic Parks revived this tradition around 20 years ago, in the same fashion that the soldiers at Fort Mackinac did in the 1890’s.

“Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, it was developed after the Civil War to commemorate, originally Civil War soldiers who had died in the war, and then it was expanded to include all fallen soldiers,” said Director of Mackinac State Historic Parks Steve Brisson.

Ceremonies like this mean a lot, not just to those involved, but to the tourists who come from all over the country to visit Fort Mackinac.

Keith Stokes is visiting from Lenexa, Kansas and said his favorite parts were the firing of the guns and the laying of the wreath.

“We come up every summer, we love the whole Straits area, this is the first time I’ve been on the island on Memorial Day itself,” said Stokes. “I grew up in Mackinac City and it’s been a part of my life.”

Historical interpreters at the fort say days like today are about doing their best to honor war history in the most realistic way possible.

“It’s the honor of bringing history to life for them, people get to walk around this fort and all the buildings are original, all this looks the way it did back in the late 1880’s,” said Swartzinski. “Then again, for us to play that physical representation of those soldiers marching in and firing volleys off and playing TAPS the same way that they would have done 140 years ago.”

Next, those at the fort are preparing for the next two biggest events of the summer, the lilac festival and the Fourth of July.