Fans of the pioneering days are turning the clock back to the early 1800s as part of the High Plains Regional Rendezvous. The pioneer enthusiasts pitched tents at 165 campsites near Perham on June 16 and will complete their one-week stay on June 23.

Proud to serve as the Booshway, taken from the French word "bourgeois," while supervising the campers, is Pat Hodnefield of Vergas.

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"I've been a member of High Plains Regional Rendezvous for 20 years, and this is the first time that members from five states (Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas) have camped in Otter Tail County," said Hodnefield. "We're pleased with a really good turnout."

Rendezvous participants have held regional campouts for about 28 years. Five years ago the group camped near the Twin Cities. Ten years ago, the event was held near Bagley. Fifteen year ago, near Brainerd.

As noted on the group's website, the campout is a "primitive rendezvous" - a gathering of people who are interested in recreating the lifestyles and traditions practiced by early Americans involved in the fur trade and exploration of our country's vast wilderness areas.

Personalities portrayed range from participants in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, Early American Longhunters and Western Fur trade characters.

A primitive rendezvous takes the form of large encampments, where history buffs gather and practice living as trappers, traders, boatmen, longhunters, natives, voyagers and soldiers in pre-1840's style.

Why 1840?

"That's the last year of the golden days of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, the last year when beaver peltry were harvested in the wild and sold at a wilderness rendezvous in the American West," said Hodnefield. "Camping in white canvas tents, cooking over an open fire, wearing historically accurate clothes, participating in period contests of skill and having a great time doing it are the hallmarks of a modern primitive rendezvous."

The public was invited to the camping area southeast of Perham, near Minnesota Street and 450th Avenue, this past weekend.

"We're having a great time," said Brian Joyner, who traveled with Jeff Noe from Sparta, Wis., to Perham. Joyner displayed a raccoon pelt and Noe exhibited a beaver pelt.

Beth Piepenburg, who came to Perham from Willmar, Minn., says she finds each rendezvous a relaxing experience. On Saturday, she prepared wild rice.

Don Knudsen and his wife, Pat, of Omaha, Neb., have been rendezvous participants for about 15 years. They are former teachers who enjoy going back in time to the 1820s.

"Each participant has a personal story," said Hodnefield. "It really is all about having a good time at every rendezvous."