How To Join A Reenactment Group in 5 Steps


It doesn’t matter who we are, we would benefit from having a hobby. In today’s electronically connected world, many of those hobbies take place in our homes and perhaps without direct human interaction. That is why many are now turning to reenactments as a way to enjoy time with others.

It is possible to get involved in those reenactments, regardless of whether they happen in our area or not. Some traveling may need to occur if they don’t, but that is just part of the enjoyment that historical reenactments offer.

reenactors portraying 284th rifle division
Reenactment group example – reenactors portraying 284th rifle division of the Red Army. Source: www.epicmilitaria.com

If you’re interested in joining a reenactment group, you need to find a group, prepare to travel, and learn as much as you can about the history associated with what they offer. Every group is different, but the more you learn about the event and the organization, the more you will enjoy the process.

Although there are going to be variables associated with any reenactment group, there are also some things you can do that will allow you to take part in the reenactment and get the most out of it.

Find a Reenactment Group

This may seem like the easiest factor to consider but in many cases, there is a lot of complexity involved in it. Consider the fact that you are going to have a lot invested into the group, regardless of whether it is time or money. Making the right choice from the start can go a long way in helping you to get the most out of the process.

If you live in an area that is close to where historical reenactments take places, such as Gettysburg or another area where a significant battle was fought, then you may want to look into that first. On the other hand, you may have developed an interest in some historical event that took place hundreds or thousands of miles away from your home.

The 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry reenactment group
Reenactment group example – The 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry. Source: Sutton Nebraska Museum; www.suttonhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com

You might also consider taking part in reenactments that are popular in many areas. For example, if you have an interest in Renaissance fairs, you may find that you can travel from one event to another and continue to enjoy it all year long.

Undoubtedly, the first place to look is in your local area. There may be reenactment groups that you can join and they will be in a position to help you get up to speed on the type of reenactments they do.

Usually, your first searches will be most likely:

  • “reenactment groups near me” – when you do not know the period yet,
  • “civil war (or other) reenactment groups near me” – when you have decided on a specific period already.

Based on your location those searches will give you basic info to start from, but you would usually have to go through a few pages of results, as there is no single directory where you can find all of the groups.

Another benefit of joining a local group is the fact that they can help you put your kit together. Unless you are willing to offer a significant financial investment at first, it may take some time before you have everything necessary.

Check Online for Reenactment Groups

Something else you may want to consider is looking online at reenactment groups. Many of these groups will have their own website, allowing you to see what they offer when the reenactment takes place and any barriers to entry that may exist.

With a little bit of searching, you may even be able to discover groups in your local area or elsewhere that you had not considered before. You may have started out wanting to get involved in a Civil War reenactment but by the time you finish your research, you could be traveling to Renaissance fairs.

online database of reenactment groups
Example of an online database of selected reenactment groups in the USA, by the state. Source: www.milsurpia.com

Finally, consider traveling to historical reenactments. You really can’t top what is available when you actually see these events take place in person. They often will also actively recruit members to the group, and the fact that you are there in attendance makes you a prime candidate. There is no better way to learn than to see it for yourself.

Learn the Rules and Regulations

Another factor that needs to be considered when joining any historical reenactment group is that each has its own set of rules and regulations. Some of those regulations might be quite extensive, and the more you know about them, the bigger your role in the group.

In most cases, the rules are going to be spelled out very clearly in a document. You might even be able to see that document online in advance.

Reenactment Guidance Notes from NAReS
Part of Reenactment Guidance Notes from NAReS (National Association of Re-enactment Societies). Each section has full instruction included. Source: www.nares.org.uk

Don’t simply skim through the information as if it were an afterthought. Make sure that you study it carefully and become almost an authority on the subject prior to the time that you ask to join the group.

Why is it a good idea to understand all of the rules before you ask to join a group? Because they will see that you are serious about taking part in the reenactments and doing all you can to keep things authentic.

In addition, some of the rules and regulations are going to be associated with safety. Many historical reenactments offer a degree of danger, especially when firearms are included.

Safety regulations for reenactors
Safety regulations often include a test, like this Safety Tests of the Pacific Area Civil War Reenactors. Source: www.ncwa1863.org

You might think that the safety rules are going to be the same from one event to another. In reality, there may be some significant differences so be sure to review that information prior to asking to join the group. It is especially important to review that information prior to the time that you take part in any of their events.

Some groups are going to require that you are as authentic as possible when it comes to your attire and your weapons. It isn’t just a matter of wearing a uniform out of that time, however, you also need to understand something about it.

As you interact with spectators during the event, they may ask you questions about what you are wearing or perhaps the weapon you are using. This is your opportunity to give them a piece of history and allow them to walk away with some accurate knowledge.

demonstrating a firing position with a rifle musket
Civil War reenactor Steve Betschart demonstrates a firing position with a rifle musket in Roseburg. Source: Michael Sullivan, The News-Review, www.nrtoday.com

That is why it is a good idea to learn what is required by the group in regards to attire and weaponry. Understanding this will help you in many ways.

Learn Extensively about the Event

Along with learning about the group and their regulations, you should also learn about the event. Take the time to learn everything about the history of the event and be as accurate as possible in the information you take in.

You should then find out if there are specific requirements to that event that may differ from other events that the historical group takes part in. Becoming familiar with these in advance will help you to be an active and productive member of the group.

standards for reenactors Gettysburg
Example of information and standards for reenactors provided by The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee. Source: www.gettysburgreenactment.com

Put a Kit Together

One of the things that are important for any historical group is that the people who are members have all of the equipment necessary. That equipment is known as a kit.

In most cases, the reenactment group is not going to expect you to have everything together in advance of joining. They may even be willing to help you put your kit together so that you can get started easily.

example of a full WWII soldier reenactment kit
Example of a full WWII soldier reenactment kit. Source: WWII History & Reenacting YouTube Channel

Of course, any tools or clothing that are lent to you by the group will eventually need to be returned. They sometimes keep some of that equipment on hand for those who are new. As you continue to build your own kit, any borrowed equipment can be returned and used by others.

Consider Joining Other Groups

Although it is good to be in a specific group and learn as much as you can about the event, it is also good to be in other groups. In some cases, a group may only be active for a few weeks or months out of the year.

You may find that it is beneficial to choose events that are location-specific or seasonal. This could even give you the opportunity to travel to other areas and take part in those events.

Being part of a historical group is an excellent way to learn a little bit of history and to take part in something that is bigger than you. By being an active member and throwing yourself into the role, you can help yourself and others along the way.

ReenactmentGuide

Group of reenactment passionates, writing for people looking to start an adventure with historical reenactment and struggling to find valuable and actual information.

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