I wish I could be a reenactor but…I can’t find any reenactors!
This seems to be a common complaint among folks trying to get into the reenacting hobby. Reenactors can be a bit insular, but it’s nothing a little Google-fu and creative thinking can’t fix. Here are a few bits of advice on finding reenactors to talk to.
1. As I’ve mentioned before, you may not be able to find exactly what you want in your immediate area, so be general in your searches. Instead of searching for, say, “WWII reenacting units in York, Nebraska” you need to be searching for “WWII reenactments in the midwest”. Reenactors travel for events, and in areas where they’re not common, they often travel great distances, so keep that in mind when searching. Just like they (hopefully) taught you in school, if your searches are still not turning up anything useful, broaden your search terms.
2. Look for reenactments as well as reenacting units, and don’t be picky. Attending a reenactment and chatting with reenactors is a great way to get into the hobby, and we’re often much more open in person than over email. Also, don’t just look for reenactments that are of the period you’re interested in. Many reenactors portray multiple time periods, so it’s entirely possible to meet a Vietnam War reenactor at a Revolutionary War reenactment, or a WWII reenactor at a Civil War event. Also, remember that many reenactments are private and un-publicized outside the hobby, so if it looks like your preferred period isn’t portrayed in your area, don’t give up – you may just not be seeing everything that’s actually going on.
3. Be creative in thinking of ways to find reenactors. Check flickr for photographs of reenactors and contact the photographer see if they are reenactors themselves (many are). Check the reenactment/reenactor/reenacting tags on Tumblr. Look for reenactor blogs (there. are. many.) and contact the authors. Reenactors are out there, we just may not be in the most obvious of places.
4. Know the words to search for. Here’s a selection of some of the keywords that will help you in your searching endeavors: reenactment, living history, reenacting unit, tactical reenactment, historical site, timeline event, military display, costumed interpreters, As I mentioned before, try to search for events, not just reenacting groups. You can meet all sorts of reenactors at public living history events, and many times you will find that the websites for those events will list the groups that will be in attendance. Once you find that, you can use those names to search for the websites of those groups.
5. Be aware that many reenacting units don’t have a web presence. Many groups prefer to keep things easy by using a simple Yahoo mailing list for unit organization and communication, and so it can be hard to find the members online. Keep in mind that many reenactors aren’t exactly social media-savvy and most prefer offline, face-to-face contact. If you can’t find reenactors in your area online, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist, so keep trying.
I hope that these bits of advice will help you to find reenactors, who will then also help you get into the hobby. If you’re reading this and would like me to help you, feel free to contact me and I will do what I can.