Bridge over the river Allegheny

Tidioute re-enactment returns for 10th year

Times Observer photos by Stacey Gross Each year, during the reenactment of the battle of Remagen, the bridge into Tidioute is “blown up” just as the actual bridge in Remagen was destroyed during the battle itself.

It’s time once again to blow up the Tidioute Bridge.

The battle of Remagen will be reenacted throughout the streets of Tidioute for the 10th strasight year on Saturday, and reenactors from as far afield as Canada, Virginia, Maine, and Minnesota began rolling into town on Wednesday.

According to Pat Tarasovich, of the reenactment group “Battle Babies out of Erie, Pa.,” camps began going up Wednesday in preparation for what is one of the most-anticipated and sought-after reenactments of the year, and the largest public battle in Pennsylvania. The reenactment of the battle of Remagen provides many unique experiences for those who’ve never been to a re-enactment.

I was one of those people, actually, three years ago when I was sent to cover the Remagen event for work. If I’m honest, I’m not a crazy history buff, and while I have no issue with the topic of World War II, I’ve never been interested enough in it to seek out events devoted to it. I’m neutral, at best on history of any genre, and had I not been assigned to cover it I probably would never have gone to see the event.

I am glad I was assigned. One of the things that stands out most to me as a non-history buff is the immersiveness of the event. Even knowing that it’s a reenactment and that the endless rounds being shot off during the hour-long event are blanks, it’s impossible to go to the Remagen event and not have an autonomic reaction. It will get your heart pumping for sure. It’s exciting, and it’s in your face. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to be present as a town becomes engulfed in war – to observe that process – Remagen will put you front and center, and it’s as close as you’re going to get to the actual experience from any reenactment situation.

Times Oberver photo by Stacey Gross Reenactors from as far away as Canada, Virginia, and Maine show up to beat the Germans back across the bridge before blowing it up.

Tarasovich, who’s in a far better position to comment on the uniqueness of the immersive nature of the event as a reenactor with 25 years of experience, agrees. “Other reenactments,” said Tarasovich, “it’s like you’re watching ants on a hill.” Remagen will make you a part of the action. Tarasovich said that the “Battle Babies” bring around 15 to 20 participants to the event. “That’s a small unit,” he said, adding that some units bring as many as 40 or more people along with them. It’s also an event that appeals to actual veterans, not just as spectators but as participants as well. Many of those who participate in Remagen each year have family histories that include members fighting on either the German or the American side.

The camp opens to the public in Tidioute at 11 a.m. on Saturday, said Tarasovich, and reenactors will be staying in authentic digs, and will be in character, giving those coming to visit a taste of what camp life was like during WWII. At 2 p.m. sharp the bridge from Route 62 into Tidioute proper will be closed down to both cars and pedestrians, so event organizers suggest figuring out which side of the river you want to watch from and getting there well before 2 p.m.

The battle itself begins at 3 p.m. and runs until 4 p.m., with a ceremony at 2:30 p.m. to honor the WWII and other veterans who always turn up to take advantage of priority seating just before the bridge. Event coordinators ask that all spectators observe a few rules while attending the reenactment. Spectators are asked to stay behind the roped off areas during the battle, and to follow any instructions given to them from fire police and reenactment volunteers. If you’re being asked to move it’s for your own safety and that of the reenactors. Parking will be limited, and it will fill up fast, so event coordinators suggest getting to where you plan to park early and then walking to the camp and vendors until the bridge closes. Spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on. In addition to closing down the bridge at 2 p.m., event coordinators remind those using Route 62 that the road will be closed from approximately 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. while the event is going. “Plan for delays and drive carefully as Route 62 will be congested,” they advise on the event’s website.

Tarasovich invited anyone who does visit Tidioute this weekend to “come visit us at camp, walk around, see what it’s all about, and visit the vendors.” There will be a number of vendors available selling authentic WWII merchandise, among other (more contemporary) wares. The AMVETS kitchen will also be open again this year, and offering a military lunch.

By far, said Tarasovich, the thing that sets Remagen apart for him as a reenactor is that stamp of approval that the event and all of its participants get from the veterans to attend each year. “It really means a lot to know that they endorse us,” said Tarasovich. Honoring veterans, after all, is what it’s all about.

Times Observer photos by Stacey Gross The Remagen reenactment in Tidioute is an entirely immersive experience for spectators.

Camp closes at 5 p.m. on Saturday, so there will be a short opportunity to visit after the battle if attendees wish to do so, said Tarasovich.

Lee Lindemuth, who heads up the Tidioute World War II Reneactment Committee, will again be acting as emcee. During the veteran’s ceremony, said Lindemuth, a presentation will be given by Beth Zigler, whose father Bruce was a WWII veteran, about her perspective on her father’s service, and what life was like for her as a daughter of a WWII vet. There will also be a wooden commemorative coin for sale, similar to a military challenge coin, to commemorate the decade’s worth of reenactments. For Lindemuth, too, the veterans in attendance are always the highlight of the event. “We’re losing those WWII vets every year,” lamented Lindemuth Wednesday. “And all those great stories go with them.” He will be honored to honor them once again at this year’s reenactment, he said.

Learn more about the event at www.tidioute.org/events/ww-ii-reenactment.