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Russell celebrates its heritage this weekend

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RUSSELL — This year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and the town of Russell, home of the only arsenal in St. Lawrence County, is celebrating in a big way.

Heritage Weekend, planned by history enthusiasts Kyle D. and Sally W. Hartman of Rensselaer Falls, will take place today and Sunday.

The weekend will feature 1812-era re-enactments by Forsyth’s Rifles, Ogdensburg, modeled after the First Regiment of Rifles, U.S. Army. Members of rifle group set up an encampment Friday at the Russell Attwater farm.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind event,” Mrs. Hartman said.

Today, Forsyth’s rifles will establish their encampment, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the historical players will demonstrate early 19th-century life, including cooking, candle making, tinsmithing, rope making, chair caning, spinning and carding, sewing and care of arms.

Visitors will be invited to the Russell Attwater farmhouse from 1 to 3 p.m., when the Swe-kat-si Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host a tea and open house. Historical displays will be available for viewing.

“Dinner with the Troops” will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Russell Fire Hall, sponsored by Russell Fire and Rescue. Patrons will have a chance to meet with Forsyth’s Rifles members. Visitors are encouraged to bring cameras.

At 7 p.m., the Russell Opera House, at the Town Hall, will present “An Evening of Local History and Music of the 1812 Era in Russell.”

The program, directed by Robin M. Duncan, includes “historical vignettes explaining how Russell relates to the War of 1812 and the Plank Road to Ogdensburg.”

“One of the speakers at tonight’s program is Bryan Thompson, historian of DeKalb,” Mrs. Hartman said. “He will be speaking about the Old Plank Road, which went from Russell through DeKalb to Ogdensburg. Forsyth’s Rifles was stationed in Ogdensburg. They would have been familiar with the Russell arsenal.”

There will be period music, 19th-century fashions, a firing of the arms and an English social dance demonstration by the “Lord and Lady of Dance.” At the performance there will be a 50-50 raffle, and refreshments will be served at intermission. The performance will benefit the Russell Opera House Restoration Fund.

From 8:30 to 11 a.m. Sunday there will be a “Breakfast with Civilians,” sponsored by the Russell Library and Museum, at the library/museum building. Patrons will have a chance to meet with camp followers of the Forsyth’s Rifles and take photos.

The closing ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. Sunday with an honor guard and wreath-laying ceremony at the Balsam Cemetery, adjacent to the Russell Arsenal site, to honor U.S. military veterans.

Throughout the weekend there will be handmade porcelain medallions featuring an image of the arsenal and table-sized miniature 15-Star Spangled Banner flags for sale to help with fundraising.

Russell Heritage Weekend is made possible, in part, by the state Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, administered in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

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