Pierre le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, will walk again this weekend on the shores he settled more than 300 years ago. At least, an actor portraying him will.
A reenactment of Iberville’s arrival at Biloxi Bay will be the focal point of the 1699 Historical Society’s Weekend of Discovery in Ocean Springs.
Iberville, played this year by novelist and retired Ocean Springs School District Superintendent Robert Hirsch, will make his first appearance at a reception Friday at the Ocean Springs Community Center. The reception begins at 6 p.m., and will feature a saxophone quartet and an “unveiling of the court” — the costume-clad community members who will play members of the crew Iberville brought ashore in 1699, and the Native Americans who greeted them.
“What 1699 is able to do is preserve and promote the historical significance of Iberville’s landing that led to development of so many traditions that we all enjoy today,” said Stopher Haug, a director of the festival.
Iberville chose a high spot in present-day Ocean Springs to build Fort Maurepas, giving the French a foothold in the area. For about three weeks in April 1699, he directed his crew of dozens of men to burn the forest where the fort would go, hew oak and hickory trees, build a palisade and garrison, and plant peas, beans and corn. They guarded their fort with cannon.
Saturday’s festivities will include a 5-kilometer run/walk at 8:15 a.m., a regatta at 10 a.m., a children’s pet parade at 11 a.m., lunch at noon and a paddleboard race at 2 p.m. The full-dress reenactment begins at 4 p.m. Saturday. In years past, dozens of community members, many local middle and high school students, have dressed up in either French colonial or Native American garb and reenacted the first meeting between the two groups.
Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran remembers participating in the festivities when she was a child in the early ’70s. Her grandfather, A.P. “Fred” Moran, was the first person to play Iberville in a reenactment, in 1938. She said so many years of attending the festival has taught her a lot about the 18th-century explorer.
“He was like the Johnny Depp of his time,” she said.
Iberville wreaked havoc across English colonies in present-day Canada and New York before journeying to the Gulf Coast to help establish the colony of Louisiana.
Deanne Nuwer, a professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi, said Iberville’s landing at Ocean Springs established a cultural foundation that still supports the Gulf Coast.
“Every time we eat gumbo or dance a French soiree — even celebrating Mardi Gras,” she said, “that hearkens to the French culture of 1699.”
Re-enactment of Pierre le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, landing
What: 1699 Historical Society Weekend of Discovery
When: The main event will take place when Pierre le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, steps onto the shores of the Coast at 4 p.m. Saturday during the annual Landing of Iberville Full Dress Reenactment at Fort Maurepas Park on Front Beach in Ocean Springs. Other activities surround the landing at 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by a free concert by Blackwater Brass from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Fort. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Ocean Springs Community Center/Fort Maurepas Park/Ocean Springs Yacht Club