A Victorian Christmas at Pinecrest Village

1303-9509On a crisp winter morning in December, I visited Pinecrest Village in Manitowoc WI for their Victorian Christmas event.  With a fresh layer of snow, it felt like walking into a Terry Redlin painting.  Sledders on the big hill, visitors walking between the buildings heated by toasty warm wood burning stoves and carolers singing in each of the buildings as the festivities happened throughout the village.

1303-9316It felt like the days of old.  I had not been inside all the buildings so it was nice to visit inside a few more.  On the outside they were all decorated for Christmas.  On the inside, the buildings were decorated with the theme of the buildings accented for Christmas.  The fire station had a Fire Department theme Christmas tree, the Norwegian house had a decorated tree in the living room while ladies were making a Christmas specialty, Nordic Potato Lefse on the wood stove in the kitchen, and the white church was decorated with a simple but quaint couple of wreaths on the front double doors.


In the harness shop, WW1 soldiers were stoking the stove keeping it the warmest of all the buildings, for sure the best place in the whole Village.  In there on display were WWI items including surgical supplies, soldier’s uniforms and personal items, and even a homemade ornament decorated Christmas tree.


After visiting the whole Historical Park, with never enough time to see it all, I had a last Victorian Christmas glance over the whole site and thought for a moment how lucky they were in the early 1900s.  The simple pleasures of family, a close knit Village of friends and children enjoying winter fun outside.

1303-9520A Christmas scene for sure, found not in a painting, but experienced right here in Wisconsin.

To find out more about Pinecrest Historical Village, check out the Manitowoc County Historical Society in Wisconsin at https://www.manitowoccountyhistory.org/


Written by Nancy Greifenhagen

Christmas 2017

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The Vietnam Tactical 2017

On a Friday evening, one does not normally step back in time to 1969 during the height of the conflict in Vietnam. But then I have enjoyed the adventures my photography has brought me to and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


I was asked by one of the soldier reenactors if I would be the photojournalist at their Vietnam era tactical, which of course I responded a resounding “Yes!”  It seems like a lifetime ago when I wanted to be a photojournalist, maybe not necessarily a war photojournalist, but one out in the forefront of the action.  As one of the reenactors J.B. explained why he joined the tactical, he “may just be an adrenaline junkie”.  In some ways I can say that about myself when it comes to fast paced, access restricted, highly emotional situations that I have been able to photograph up close, behind the lines if you will.

The first night of the tactical, I enjoyed immersing myself in the world of the Vietnam Conflict reenactor conversations.  Some were light of heart, some downright disgusting (but one still laughed), and a few moments of seriousness, but for the most part, I got to know the guys and did not feel like the new kid on the block.  This dynamic intensified the moment a large presence Polish descendent soldier walked “on base” whom I heard so much about during the previous hours.  He immediately sat down, unwrapped three market fresh Polish sausages, unveiled “refreshments” and shared them around the table.  In that moment, I realized the importance of traditions to each of the soldiers, which are thrown together into their unit of all backgrounds, cultures and ages, all as one, yet still keeping their identities as if not to forget where they all come from.


Saturday morning teased us with some rain, but fortunately it held off until the afternoon.  We waited for a few more reenactors to arrive and then set out to take some posed images in the field before setting off into the “jungle” to play out scenarios.

Right out from the start, I was treated to real professionals: team work and communication at its height, searching out for the enemy reenactors, the Viet-Cong or “VC” as I learned later.

The morning went pretty fast with several ambushes working out fairly intensely.  The six Americans divided up in two groups of three, the divide and conquer technique was employed with the two units working together like a well-trained team.


By lunch time, with a few hours of “fighting” already completed, I was pretty happy for a break.  Lunch in the woods was a treat with rations and a good tree to lean upon, nothing fancy but primitive just like our brave soldiers may have done so many years ago.  It was a chance for the men to sit down and take a breather in a cleared underbrush area surrounded by cover.  After photographing the group, I quickly sat down to enjoy my lunch unaware and to my surprise in an area of Prickly Ash bushes, but was too tired to get up and move to a safer Ash free area.  I carved out enough space to sit and not be attacked by the Ash thorns, which sliced and diced any exposed skin.


Lunch even came with a little unscheduled entertainment with a small salamander found in the underbrush who visited several of the soldiers as they were packing up.  Fortunately for the salamander, he was not on the menu.


Round two after lunch we switched roles.  No I still was the photographer, but my group laid in wait for the enemy ambush this time.  I tried not to give away their positions, even though I was partially dressed in Vietnam era military clothing (thanks to the generosity of friends).   I concealed myself to the best of my ability, and yet still be ready at a moment’s notice for those split seconds of exciting shooting activity.  No time to rest for the weary, no successful (long) cat naps in the field.  It wasn’t until mid-afternoon, the rain started to fall, the last of the enemy was found and it was time to head back to camp for rest, relaxation and later a recreational bonfire.  I went straight to my car and with the tail gate open fell asleep until I realized I was getting rained on.  I still barely summed up enough energy or cared enough to move at first.

I was asked to photograph this tactical just like the LIFE magazines portrayed the conflict.  It is impossible to replicate what our soldiers went through over in Vietnam.  We did our best to simulate, but definitely not duplicate.  I looked to capture their exhaustion, their comradery, their strife and tactics.   What an honor to “shoot” alongside you.


So maybe being asked to hang with reenactors does not happen frequently to you.  Still take advantage of those life experiences that are step aside from your norm.  You never know what you will learn and who you will meet.

Because what’s life without a little Adventure and a lot of Prickly Ash!


Written by Nancy Greifenhagen




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The Total Immersion Workout, An exercise in Lessons at the WW2 Tactical

There are Weekend Warrior types of people enjoying their weekends to the fullest all the time doing such things as fishing, camping, snowmobiling, building a cabin, chopping down trees, tractor pulls, etc.  I was around a great group of Weekend Warriors…on this Veterans weekend.  You could say I was one of those Weekend Warriors too, but you would have to call me a Weekend Warrioress… I guess.

I joined up for the 10th annual Wade House WW2 Tactical in Greenbush WI.  Me and around 50 soldiers, Americans, British and Germans fighting in the woods of the beautiful and very expansive Wade House grounds (of which I feel like I now have walked almost every inch of it).  Although I was not one of the WW2 soldiers on the battlefield, I was out there documenting their advances, retreats, and charges with my cameras as a HRS Press Corp reporter.

1297-0186My day at my first WW2 Tactical Immersion of which I was looking forward to immensely, was full of surprises and lessons learned.  A tactical is a lot different than events where the public attends to see a battle, talk about history, and watch demonstrations.  Both very important, however a tactical is just like it sounds.  There are tactical advances of soldiers strategically collecting or winning four flags in a linear row on the battlefield with no public around.  The soldiers are immersed in the feeling of a battle fight against their enemy gaining ground for their side, all in good fun.

1298-7454So on this very crisp morning, I set out to meet the groups at their safety inspection donned in an HBT suit borrowed from a generous friend so I would not stand out too obvious in the field.  Being the only woman onsite, it was hard to blend in, especially when I got a hot tip that I could drive right up into the battlefield and save myself a few (more than a few) steps of walking.  Being so clever, I thought, caused me to drive up upon, smack dab right in front of all the soldiers at their safety inspection as I went through the pass in the woods.  Nothing like showing up late to the party and having all the attention suddenly directed upon me.  So being subtle and blending in unnoticed was not an option anymore.  First lesson learned.

1297-0609Parking my car near the headquarters was a great idea until later, I found out that nothing is “safe” in the war zone.  So my car became one of those objects soldiers hid behind and shot around.   Now I know…Second lesson learned.

1298-7537FBMy third exciting lesson learned came at a time I found out: there is never a good time to take a quick break.  The central area to the tactical was a red building out in the open that had bathrooms. Nice, lucky for me I thought.  I slipped in the building hoping not to have been noticed.  All of a sudden, I hear this banging on the door thinking someone is loudly knocking, but quickly realized there was a gun fight just outside the metal door. Allies to my left and Germans to my right. So a few minutes go by and I think it is safe to exit.  As I exited I hear a high pitch whistle to my right and look just in time to see a stampede of Germans charging the Allies who had a machine gun.  They whizzed by within inches of me so fast that I did not have time to even pull up my camera before they were all gunned down all around me.  Within seconds, there I was, last one left, standing all alone among a sea of soldiers laying just past my feet, not even getting off one shot of the action.

1297-0082The guys having a blast (no pun intended) got up fairly quickly after taking their hits, I could hear one soldier saying “let’s reset and do that again!”  With the rules of the tactical, if you are seen and fired upon, you “take the hit”, take off your helmet and walk out of play for 10 minutes.  This gives the guys a few minutes to rest before re-helmeting up to try it all over again.


At mid-day there is a break to eat, reload and strategize.  Afterwards the groups reconvene and switch sides.  During the morning I hung out with the Americans, so this time I started out with the German units.  As it is always nice to get a group shot I naively stated, “Let’s get a group shot.  Why don’t we all gather around the jeep?”  Oops.  I was quickly informed that they did not have a jeep, although it looks similar to a jeep to the non-trained eye.  The vehicle was a WW2 era Volkswagen Kübelwagen. So they all then gathered around the Kübelwagen, not the jeep, for the group photo.  And now I know the German word for their “jeep”.

As the time ran out for the final moments of the day, the fire exchanges became even louder and more intense.  The fervor of the time running out, ammo to use up and the urgency to get the last flag as the tactical is almost over created this maddening sound from the woods in every direction.   If you are ever near, participate or photograph a tactical during your weekend warrior adventure, remember ear protection.  Stay “downwind” of the shooter.  The noise is deafening…Lesson learned.  Don’t worry, this lesson you will not forget.

1297-0134All in all, it was a fantastic day to work in the miles of hiking, freeze your tuchus off, or as you would say in German, friere deinen Hintern aus, and get your weekend warrior fix on.  Even though it was my first WW2 tactical, it will not be my last exercise and certainly not my last lessons learned.

For more information about the Wade House Fall Tactical, go to www.wadehouse.wisconsinhistory.org or to the join the Facebook group:  Wade House Fall Tactical

Written by Nancy Greifenhagen

November 11, 2017   Veterans Day


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