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American Independence Festival Brings Hundreds to Exeter

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Jacob Carozza/NHPR
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The twenty-fifth annual American Independence Festival brought hundreds of visitors to Exeter this weekend. The festival aims to show visitors what life was like in the colonial period. 

For the professionals in colonial garb, like milliner Tara Raiselis, it is a place to show their unique skills and teach curious visitors.

"A milliner in the eighteenth century was sort of your fashion emporium," Raiselis explained. "Think of it as your miniature department store."

Raiselis says these stores were almost always owned by women, who would sell fabrics, trims and "readymade garments like stockings" for both men and women.

Several craftspeople at the festival agreed that there are many opportunities for them in New Hampshire.

"From the top of the state to the bottom, you can find so many wonderful reenactments, historical festivals and education," says Ann Marie Jackson, an herbalist.

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Credit Jacob Carozza/NHPR

Raiselis agreed, noting that many historical societies throughout the state have events similar to the American Independence Festival.

The festival also features Revolutionary War reenactments—but not every participant gets to be a patriot.

"Oh, I love being a redcoat," says Charlie Ziniti, who has been doing reenactments all along the East Coast for almost 20 years.

"It is a part of American history," he says, "so if there wasn't us going out here and portraying that part, then you wouldn't have the battles and things like that that you see."

For people like Ziniti, the festival is another chance to bring history to life.

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