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Hundreds gather for camping trip, history lesson at High Plains Regional Rendezvous

Kory Krogen of Boscobel, Wis. shows off different ribbons on his lodge from different camps around the country he’s been a part of during the High Plains Regional Rendezvous on Saturday south of Fargo. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO – They came to this muddy clearing south of Fargo from Wisconsin, Kansas and Texas to sleep in canvas tents, trade for beaver pelts and read by candlelight.

Sound peculiar? The hundreds gathering here for the High Plains Regional Rendezvous love and embrace it.

One part camping trip and one part history lesson, their rendezvous is a weeklong get-together with the flair of Lewis and Clark – complete with the garb and gear of the early 1800s. That means out with the cellphones and gas grills, and in with the wood-and-string fishing poles and teepees.

“We try to keep modern things out,” said Gail Jordahl of Detroit Lakes, who is the event’s “segunda,” or second-in-command.

It’s based around the rendezvous of the 1800s, when traders would gather once a year to barter for goods rather than travelling to port.

Their modern-day mimickers stay true – with a few exceptions, like a massive water tank, plastic coolers for food and porta-potties peeking out behind burlap. But the attendees haul in their gear in cloth sacks or wooden ox carts, and their clearing hugging the Wild Rice River is filled with campfire smoke.

The event officially kicks off today and closes on Saturday. By then, they’ll have held archery and shooting competitions with gunpowder rifles, hosted fashion shows in voyageur dress and traded hand-hammered metals and stories.

But most importantly, they’re together. The High Plains Regional Rendezvous rotates yearly between its five member states – North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Kansas. And it’s one of several rendezvous events nationwide, which means there are lots of familiar faces.

“It’s like going to a family reunion,” said Fargo resident Jan Zaeske, the event’s “booshway,” or commander. “We’re really known as a family camp.”

This week’s rendezvous is Zaeske’s first time putting the event together, but she’s been going to them for 35 years. The history buff in her loved it, and the family-friendliness won her over.

Zaeske brought her own daughter, Katelin Zaeske, to her first rendezvous when she was just 6 months old and never stopped.

Deb Krogen’s parents raised her going to the rendezvous too – a tradition she continued with her own children. The kids can run free and play, and it gives her a chance to relax.

“It takes your mind off of everyday worries and stresses. It just takes you back to a simple time,” said Krogen, who drove 450 miles from Boscobel, Wis.

But it took 10 years to get her husband, Kory Krogen, on board. When she finally lured him away from his motorcycle and boat to spend a night in a canvas tent, he was hooked.

“Within a few years, I was going more than she was,” Kory Krogen said with a laugh.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502

Kyle Potter
Kyle Potter is an enterprise reporter at the Forum. He came to Fargo-Moorhead in May 2013 after stints at the Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minnesota Daily. 
(701) 241-5502