Re-enactors talk history at De Soto National Memorial

skennedy@bradenton.comMarch 31, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Bill Boston sat atop his horse, showing off his 16th century-style outfit while wowing a crowd of listeners with his historical knowledge.

The Umatilla resident, 65, was among the re-enactors who shared history and demonstrated their crafts, skills and weaponry on a perfect spring day Saturday at the De Soto National Memorial.

"It's a way we can tell the story of Florida's 500 years of history," explained Dan Stephens, a National Park Service ranger at the memorial, 8300 De Soto Memorial Highway.

"Our park is attuned to not just telling about De Soto, but all of Florida's history," he added.

About 30 re-enactors had accepted the park's invitation to attend, representing native Americans, Spanish Florida colonization, the Seminole Wars, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, both world wars

and even Vietnam, Stephens said.

"It's to educate the public about their history," he added.

Among the re-enactors was a group of high school kids dressed in period outfits similar to those worn by conquistadors.

"We do it every Saturday," said Bethany Stevens, 18, a student at Bayshore High School, explaining that she was part of a youth advisory council affiliated with the De Soto Memorial that regularly volunteered at various events.

"It can be fun," she said.

Among the visitors enjoying the festivities wasRenee Brill, 29, of Dallas, manager of a mortgage auditing team. She was visiting her grandparents, Fran and Leonard Murray, of Bradenton.

"I told them when I visited, I wanted to spend time in activities like history or nature," she said. "This would be both."

"I was a history major in college, and like being outside," she said.

De Soto National Memorial is open seven days aweek. The Visitor Centeris open from 9 a.m. to5 p.m.; park grounds areopen from sunrise to sunset.

For more information, visit www.nps.gov/deso or call 941-792-0458.

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