Citizen’s Forum, Monroe MI in March!
Grab a cup of your favorite warm beverage: I’m sitting down today (via a whole stack of excitable aetheric communications) with Kristen Mrozek, one of the founding forces behind 2017’s debut living history conference in the upper mid-west, The Citizen’s Forum of the 1860s. Registration is now open for 2018, I’m going to be there speaking and teaching, I wanted to get a little behind-the-scenes info for everyone in the region!
Every educational gathering seems to develop it’s own personality, right from the start. At the Citizen’s Forum, I’d describe the focus as “history loving, everyone welcome”–there’s a feeling of lightness, enjoyment, and camaraderie amid the scholarship that strikes a nice balance for experienced and new living history enthusiasts.
As Kristin says, “We want our attendees to feel that primary sources are attainable.” The conference follows through on that this year particularly well, with a focus on how period images inform historical interpretation. The Citizen’s Forum also features original artifact displays, up close and personal, all through the weekend–yet another avenue making primary sources attainable.
I asked Kristen what aspects of the conference have her particularly excited this year? “We have an all-star cast of speakers, with topics designed to hit a range of interests, and I’m personally psyched about the workshops. Last year, we started with two workshop options, and this year attendees have nine to choose among!”
The location for the Forum, in Monroe MI, is perfectly sited for attendees in the upper mid-west, and for anyone flying in from other regions–even Canada is an easy hop. Having taught in Michigan, I can tell you that Michigander living history folks are uniformly delightful–welcoming, very family-oriented, and eager to cross-contaminate (AHEM) MEET new history friends.
The weekend of 22 March was carefully selected to avoid conflicting with other conferences, and still be early enough for everyone to head home and apply what they’ve learned to the 2018 interpretive season. I know I’ll be incorporating aspects into our interpreter training for the small local history park where the little girls and I volunteer each year!
The official host hotel is the moderately-priced, but very comfortable, Holiday Inn & Suites Express in Monroe, about a 15 minute car-ride from the Forum venue on the campus of Monroe Community College. Kristen says, “A car is useful to get around, but if you’re flying in, let us know so we can try to hook you up with a car pool!”
One of the things that most impresses me about the Citizen’s Forum is the budget-friendly aspect. With other great conferences like The Citizens of the 1860s Symposium in Gettysburg, The Citizen’s Forum is focused on making it easier to access top-quality learning, closer to home. As Kirsten put it, “We also considered the benefits of having a family-oriented conference. Sometimes we want to bring children along, but the sheer cost is overwhelming. The cost for a young person ($45) is less than half of the regular adult registration ($110).”
And, several lucky attendees have been awarded scholarships in memory of dear history family members
Sometimes, the hardest thing about a conference experience is having to pick and choose topics. The Citizen’s Forum is solving that with a combined topic track all day Saturday, and more workshops on Friday and Sunday. There’s also built-in time for shopping and visiting, without losing a single minute of program!
And one of the best things about any conference experience? The social events that help us all get to know one another! This year, we’ll enjoy a Friday night soiree at the Historic Sawyer House, where attendees and presenters will get to spend time in a 19th century home, sipping punch and catching up (or meeting for the first time!) If I remember to pack my period eyeglasses, I’ll be the grinning stout lady perched in a corner–if I forget them, I’ll be the squinting stout lady perched in a corner. Hermit Liz does come out of her shell now and then!
Does the supernatural draw you? This year will have an optional ghost tour at The Old Mill, if you’re up for some 19th Century frissons down your spine.
One thing many people worry about is having The Right Clothes for a conference experience. Kristen assured me that period dress is not required at any point during the conference–we’re in modern settings, learning through modern presentations and PowerPoints, after all!–though if anyone does wish to dress out, Friday night’s soiree is a great time to do it!
This year’s workshops are designed to get you all set with great wardrobe options, though! I’m excited to help people with hands-on fitting from patterns, and direct draping workshops, and you’ll find the collars workshop from Sara Gonzalez, and cravats class with Eric Smallwood to ideal in rounding out a great physical impression.
Last year’s debut conference weekend had quite robust attendance, with over 100 attending. This year, the organizers have expanded the conference space and raised the attendance cap, but good programs often sell out before the deadlines–so get your registration in very soon to make sure you can come out and learn.
Whether you’re returning from last year, or new this year, you can expect a warm welcome at the Citizen’s Forum. Everyone has attendee comfort as a primary goal. You might even get a quick phone call or email from Kristen herself, just to make sure your questions are answered and needs are met!
So often, living history events aren’t set up for modern socializing–we’re too busy Doing History to catch up on modern hobby chat, sharing research, and the like! Events like The Citizen’s Forum are all about learning, connecting, and socializing. As Kristen notes, “As I sat and chatted with friends, I realized that they came from all over the country, and this was one of the few times we could gather.”
With built-in shopping time as well, we don’t have to sacrifice presentation attendance or socializing to shop some great vendors, including Samantha McLoughlin, The Victorian Needle, Miller’s Millinery, Sullivan Press, James Country Mercantile, and Lucy’s Hairwork.
The Too Long; Didn’t Read summary: HIE THEE TO THE CITIZEN’S FORUM. We’re going to have a blast.