Celebrate where Fort history began

Along with hot days, blue summer skies, and the B.C. Day long weekend, the annual Brigade Days festival arrives at Fort Langley.

The annual recreation of the arrival of the fur traders to the Fort is a mixture of history and celebration.

The festival lasts from Aug. 1-4, and involves re-enactors from all over British Columbia and Washington State.

For the four days around the long weekend, they’ll be roughing it in canvas tents, cooking over open fires, and demonstrating their pioneer-era skills for visitors to the Fort Langley National Historic Site.

The re-enactors are attempting to live like the early traders, gold prospectors, and First Nations people did in the mid-19th century.

Fort Langley started as a fur trading fort for the Hudson’s Bay Company, expanded into selling salmon and farming the Milner area, and then became a key stopping point for the miners heading up into the Fraser Canyon during the first B.C. gold rush in the late 1850s.

The re-enactors will be showing off skills of that era, including sewing, trapping, cooking, and the use of historic muskets and rifles.

A number of special events will be spread out over the week.

On Saturday, Aug. 2, there will be a day-long pig roast to view, as well as trapping and weapon demonstrations.

On Aug. 3, the traditional Fur Trade Cook-off culminates at 3 p.m. Arrive early to see which dish the judges pick as this year’s winner.

On Monday, the biggest event is the arrival of the brigades, replicating the time when the voyageurs from the Interior would come down the Fraser with their annual cargo of furs. From Fort Langley the furs would be sent overseas and traded back to Europe to fill the coffers of the HBC.

The fur traders would head back up the river to the Interior with trade goods for their trading posts.

The re-enactors, in canoes and a new York boat (see story page A3) will arrive at about 1 p.m. on the shore of the Fraser River near Marina Park opposite the Fort.

On the Monday afternoon, the Fort will hold a BC Day Caribbean Festival and Concert, which for the first time will be part of the Brigade Day festivities.

The free concert will start at 5:30 p.m., and the doors of the fort site will be thrown open for free admission for three hours.

The musical line-up includes Kwantlen First Nations, Langley Music School Fiddlers with Andrea Taylor, Caribbean dancers and a Tropitonics steel band performance. Visitors can bring chairs and picnic blankets, and can bring their own dinner or pick up some food at the Fort’s Full Barrel Café.

The Caribbean flavour of the celebration is in tribute to the longtime HBC trader and B.C.’s first governor, James Douglas, who was born in Guyana of Barbadian and Scottish descent. Douglas is considered the “father of B.C.,” and he read the proclamation creating the region as a Crown colony in 1858 inside the walls of Fort Langley.

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