The Virginia Reel: More Fun Than Phones

June 16, 2015

Last weekend I went back in time — to 1854, to be exact.

It was the Fort Sisseton Historical Festival at Fort Sisseton in South Dakota, an annual celebration where re-enactors give visitors a sense of life in the 1800s. Growing up, our family made the pilgrimage each year. At that time, all I cared about was getting my hands on rock candy and the most amazing kettle corn you’ve ever tasted.

This time around, I found myself drawn to the demonstrations highlighting life during the 1800s. From watching the skilled hands of a blacksmith to learning how to load a bayonet, I was captivated, and my kids were too. As we wandered the grounds and explored the fort, jails and officer quarters, we stumbled on a period dance demonstration.


I found us seats so we could have a good view of the actors’ waltzing, but quickly found out it was an interactive experience. So there we were, partnered off with random folks learning the Virginia Reel. Never Virginia Reeled before? Me neither. But it was a lot of fun — and easy enough for my 5 year old to catch onto. 

An hour later, we left the hall sweaty, laughing and self-proclaimed experts. But the best takeaway was this: In the 1800s, there were no TVs, no iPhones, video games or computers. They had to be creative and dream up their own entertainment. “Downtime” was a time to reconnect, celebrate and let off some steam. These days, we have so much going on — and so many things competing for our attention — that oftentimes the importance of personal connection gets lost.


So as we left Fort Sisseton, our family made a pact. No TV, no iPhones, no computers for the rest of the weekend. We would just hang out and make up our own fun. 

You know what? It worked.