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Muzzleloaders hold annual North Dakota convention

It looked a bit like the people and wares from an early 1800s fur trading post, plus a few Civil War soldiers, were transported to a modern metal-framed building on a cold January Saturday in 2011.

The North Dakota Muzzleloaders is holding its annual convention and trade fair this weekend at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.

Vendors dress in period clothes and sell items from that era: handcrafted snowshoes, trade silver, beads, weaving looms, beeswax candles, firearms and pottery. About 75 tables are set up in the Hartl Ag Building. The event continues today.

"It gives people a glimpse back into history," said Darrel Kersting, the trade fair coordinator. "It's like you're in a museum, only here you can touch."

This year's show also featured a display of Civil War items, including an original Ellsworth 1.5-inch breech loading rifle, owned by the Lake Country Mountaineers.

"The first time I saw this cannon, I was just shaken," said Jody Marquardt of Vergas, Minn., dressed in a blue replica Union uniform.

Like most people taking part in the trade show, Marquardt describes himself as a history buff.

Interest in history spurred Jim Roth of West Fargo to begin making trade silver - ornamental items reminiscent of those traded to American Indians by fur traders.

Roth cuts shapes from sheets of silver with shears and then engraves them using a chisel and hammer. Many of his pieces depict a two-barred cross, which Roth said American Indians liked to wear because it looked similar to a dragonfly.

Roth said the annual trade fair is a midwinter get-together for people with common interests.

Many members of the group also do reenactments, such as primitive camping, as well as shooting of black powder firearms.

Jason Spiess of Moorhead brought his 4-year-old son, Otis, to the trade fair to introduce him to a different era. Otis enjoyed seeing the old rifles, furs and even animal teeth.

He also liked interacting with the vendors in period costume.

"For him, it's like a Halloween party," Spiess said.

If you go

* What: North Dakota Muzzleloaders Convention and Trade Fair

* When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today

* Where: Ag Building, Red River Valley Fairgrounds, West Fargo

* Admission: $3, children 12 and under free

* Info: (701) 866-4991