KNOXDALE - Lauren Sallade usually can be found at Clarion Hospital working as a phlebotomist, but she also has been known to exchange her scrubs for buckskin.

The Mayport resident was certainly in her element at the Jefferson County Longrifles mid-winter rendezvous, an event that re-creates the life of Pennsylvanians on the 1750s frontier.

She spent the weekend living in a tent, cooking over an open fire and wearing period clothing.

"I have been doing this my entire life, ever since I was 1 month old," Sallade said. "My family still comes here. I guess you could say I grew up here."

And, it's where she met her boyfriend, Derrick Herman, also of Mayport, about five years ago.

"I usually shoot a .50-caliber, and a lot of times I can outshoot him," Sallade said.

The goal of the Jefferson County Longrifles is to "preserve the art and usage of flintlock and sidelock muzzleloaders" and to educate the public on the Colonial period in western Pennsylvania.

Dustin Lettie, of Punxsutawney, was originally introduced to the rendezvous by Sallade and Herman.

"I bring my son and daughter with me," he said.

Lettie's son Owen Neiswonger, now age 10, took first place in knife and tomahawk throwing last year.

For the past 45 years, the Longrifles have held the annual event twice a year, once in the summer and the second in mid-winter, at the club grounds on Harriger Hollow Road.

Lettie's daughter Mae Neiswonger, 14, likes the winter rendezvous.

"In the summer my tent is always hot and now it is cool," she said.

Sallade likes the social aspect of the event.

"In an ordinary campground, you can't just walk around and stop at someone's tent. When you come here you can walk to any tent, sit down and hang out," she said. "Everyone here is like your brother and sister. They are our family."

Conrad Snyder, vice-president of the Longrifles, said at one time "this was the frontier" and the event is generally authentic.

"At the winter rendezvous we will eat venison, chicken and a lot of time it will be stew," he said.

On Saturday, when the temperature was trying to break 20 degrees, Snyder said there were about 50 shooters registered and about 100 people in attendance.

In summer, though, he said the valley "will be wall-to-wall with tents."

Shooters can fire at the range or shoot at targets along a trail. The targets on the trail include small metal discs, Styrofoam eggs or a playing card.

The cards are placed on edge and the eggs have to be dislodged without hitting the target. The range varies from 10 to 50 yards.

Range safety officer Dan Garvey, of Brookville, ensures everyone is safe.

"I watch every phase of the loading and shooting," he said.

About 90 percent of the shooters will use a flintlock musket, according to Garvey.

"Most them are smoothbore, but there are a few rifles," he said.


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Editor's note: The writer is a Clarion University senior who is majoring in both history and communications. He also worked as an intern for the newspaper.

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