ST. CHARLES, MO. — With thunderous volleys from cannons and hearty "Hip, hip, hoorays" from a welcoming throng along the Missouri River, the three 1800s-style boats came ashore to a hero's welcome Saturday, 200 years to the day when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark met up before their adventure through the uncharted West.
The crowd of thousands wasn't exactly historically accurate, but the re-enactment of the landing was living history, right down to the replicated tent settlement, muskets, campfires and all the itchy, wooly garb.
"It was overwhelming coming in here, when we saw the crowd literally lining the banks as far as you could see," Peyton "Bud" Clark Jr., a great-great-great-grandson of William Clark, said after taking part in the keelboat ride to this St. Louis suburb.
"I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye," said Clark, decked out in garb that folks in his famed ancestor's day might have worn.
The keelboat and two canoelike pirogues had left Illinois a day earlier in the re-enactment -- part of a weeklong bicentennial party years in the making. It commemorated the infancy of what would become the explorers' 28-month, 8,000-mile trek through the Louisiana Territory.
Actors -- including Bud Clark, a retired Ford Motor Co. engineer from Michigan -- twice over the next week will re-create the expedition's formal departure from St. Charles.
Outside one actor's tent Saturday, a buckskin was stretched out to dry. Mounds of wood stood ready to stoke smoky campfires being used as Dutch ovens. An artisan chipped away at a log being fashioned into a canoe.
Women, including the suburb's mayor, strode about in period dresses and bonnets; men in buckskins or colorful military uniforms of the day.
Yet despite all the nods to the past, the modern was unavoidable. A yacht shadowed the three replica boats, each powered by a motor. Video cameras of onlookers whirred. The portable restrooms -- amenities Lewis and Clark might have cherished -- were hard to miss.
"We've been fans of the Lewis and Clark expedition for quite a while," said 80-year-old retired chemical engineer Dave Miller. "Seeing all these people, all these children here is wonderful."