Mass Military History Expo to begin

  • Attendees of the Military History Expo speak to reenactors at the Orange Municipal Airport Sunday, May 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • World War II reenactors take part in a battle reenactment at the Orange Municipal Airport during the Military History Expo Sunday, May 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • A World War II reenactor jumps his horse during the Military History Expo in 2017. Recorder FILE PHOTO

For the Recorder
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ORANGE — A self-proclaimed history buff, Dan Eaton, along with his wife Miss Eaton, wanted to showcase their community’s rich history.

Three years ago, with the support of local government officials and fire and police departments, the couple held the first Massachusetts Military History Expo, showcasing historians, equipment displays, live demonstrations and battle re-enactments.

“Not only do we want to showcase local military veterans and local military history, but also how some of the industries in the area contributed to the war efforts from pre-Revolutionary War all the way to present day,” said Eaton.

This year the event is scheduled during Armed Forces weekend this Friday through Sunday. Held at 645 South Main St. in Orange, the expo on Friday will feature a military flea market and showcase military vehicles and artifacts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The expo will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m on Saturday and Sunday, as well. It takes places on more than 20 acres of land featuring military vehicles and equipment, along with more than 300 re-enactors. There will be three battle reenactments each of the two days — one at 11 a.m., one at 1 p.m., and another at 3 p.m.

But, Eaton said, the re-enactments will also showcase how soldiers ate and lived during wartime.

“It is not just going to be about battles, it is going to be about everyday life,” he said.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Eaton said the event will showcase about 500 feet of simulated trench systems to demonstrate the types of trenches used in the war.

Attendees will also be able to tour the famous C-47 “Whiskey 7,” which deployed paratroopers over Normandy during the D-Day invasion, said Eaton. The plane will land at the expo Friday afternoon. Eaton said the plane’s owners ask for a small donation prior to the tour.

Eaton said bringing in the vintage equipment allows people to experience and understand its use far better than one could in a museum. Seeing and hearing the equipment up close is something movies or museums are unable to recreate for people, he explained.

“We bring it in to showcase it because, otherwise, it is sitting behind ropes in a museum,” he said.

Derek Estler, a volunteer for the expo and previously an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, along with serving in Vietnam, said some people have misunderstood the expo’s goals in the past.

“It is history, it is not glorifying war; most of us have been through wars and we are the last people in the world to glorify it. We want people to learn a little history, which seems to be missing in our schools,” he said. “And, we want to pique people’s interest so they explore it more on their own.”

Eaton said volunteers have previously gone to local schools to discuss military history, but will not be able to this year due to scheduling conflicts.

“One of the goals of the show is to get kids interested in history ... and to open up a book,” he said.

Tickets for children ages 6 to 16 have been lowered to $5 for the weekend. Friday admission to the event is $5. On Saturday and Sunday, admission for adults is $20 and veterans, senior citizens and active duty military can receive a $5 discount to enter. World War II and Korean War veterans get free admission.

Vehicle convoy

On Friday, the expo will participate in a vehicle convoy at 6 p.m. The purpose of this free event is to showcase to the general public some of the vehicles, equipment and personalities from the event taking place at the Orange airport on Saturday and Sunday. The convoy will leave the back gate of the Orange Municipal Airport and travel on South Main Street toward the center of town. The convoy will turn right at Trail Head Outfitters & General Store onto East Main Street, where it will make a stop at Anne’s Dairy Drive-in, and will be stopping and displaying the vehicles.

At 6:45 p.m., the convoy will return via East Main and South Main streets. The public is encouraged to line the route or stop by and visit Anne’s during the planned stop.

For more information, visit Facebook.com/historyexpo or www.history-expo.com