Updated: September 23, 2013 2:11PM
This year is the 150th anniversary of Baum’s Bridge, but that time span is just of fraction of the thousands of years that this spot near Kouts has been used as a place to cross the Kankakee River, according to John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society.
This weekend’s Aukiki River Festival celebrates and shares some of that story. Aukiki is a Native American word for river, and the possible source of the word Kankakee.
“What made this place unique and so important was that it was like a funnel. It was one of the few places between about South Bend and Momence, Ill. where there was a reliable and relatively easy crossing point on the Kankakee because the river was fairly narrow and this spot held its banks. There is even archeological evidence that this was a hub of communication and transportation going back 10,000 years,” according to Hodson.
“What makes this festival unique is that we cover a wide range of history while sticking to the mission of telling the history of the Kankakee River. This section of the Kankakee River has seen Native Americans, French voyageurs, British soldiers, pioneers, and has connections to the Civil War. We’ll have about 40 to 50 encampments with re-enactors telling of about 350 years of history. We’ll also have autos up to about the 1930s and plan to add a little about the agricultural history of the area and have some antique tractors.”
The festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Scheduled activities include skits of trading between Voyageurs and Native Americans on Saturday morning and a fashion show across the decades at 2:30 p.m.
On Sunday there will be an 18th century storyteller at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
“One of the things we stress with our participants is interaction with the guests so there will be lots of informal demonstrations and activities. For example the black powder shoot, tomahawk throw and knife throw are popular.”
Other demonstrations and activities include spinning, quilting, paddle making, fabric dying and flint knapping, plus children’s activities.
The styles of music that will be performed also spans the centuries from traditional French music by Trois Canards to 1930s style music by Trilly Cole.
The Aukiki River Festival is a free event, but Hodson said donations are appreciated and will go toward Kankakee Valley Historical Society restoration projects, including a recently acquired Civil War-era log cabin.
To get to the festival site, take Indiana 49 south of Kouts to 1050 South and go west. At Baums Bridge Road turn left. For more details and links to historical information go online to www.kankaeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org.