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Fort King National Historic Landmark hosts Hammer In Blacksmithing Festival

65-year-old David Biggs was in a standalone forge at the event displaying the craft of making smaller, more detailed pieces like various hooks and rings for everyday use. (Chandler Hawkes/WUFT News)

Everywhere you looked on Saturday at Fort King, someone was hammering metal.

Tents with forges and fires dotted the fort during the first “Hammer In” blacksmithing event hosted at the fort in Ocala. It was built in the name of Colonel William King, who commanded Florida’s Fourth Infantry. Its construction took place during times of tension between the Seminole Tribe in Florida and the nation. When the wars were over, it served as a courthouse starting in 1844 but was then abandoned, and much of it was torn down by civilians who needed the building material.

In 1927, the Ocala Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution purchased the property in an effort to preserve what is left of the fort and promote what it represents.

Starting at 10 a.m. and continuing into the early afternoon, the Florida Artist Blacksmith Association’s blacksmiths took over the fort.

Keith Hill was one of the many blacksmiths at the event. Hill is a “Forged in Fire” champion and a long-time enthusiast of the art of blacksmithing.

“This is why I love doing this,” Hill said. “I love seeing the younger generation getting involved and being interested and just doing things like pumping the bellows and having them see how everything functioned back then.”

Linda Vollmar and her grandson Luca made their way out to Fort King on Saturday to enjoy the festivities and engage in a blooming passion from Luca.

“We’ve watched that program together, Forged in Fire, and then to see one of the blades that was used on the show and meet the guy who made it, you know a real-life archaeologist,” Linda Vollmar said. “Then the stories that the women told us about what a blacksmith’s life was like and what the wife’s life would be like really brought the history to life.”

For Luca Vollmar, his favorite part of the day came from a personal interaction with Hill that not many other people got to do. Hill brought out the blade with which he won Forged in Fire and let Luca hold it.

The boy’s interest had brought him to Fort King, resulting in him holding a $22,000 blade forged and created by hand.

“I’ve really liked blacksmithing,” he said. “I thought it was cool for a while, so my grandma told me they had an event down here, and I thought it would be cool to go.”

David Biggs, 65, was another blacksmith at the Hammer In festival on Saturday who worked mostly on handmade hooks for the public.

“Every community had their own blacksmith,” Biggs said. “He was the woodwright, the wagon guy, and they did everything. Most people think of a blacksmith as a farrier for the horses, but they fixed guns and did everything you needed. They were the MacGyver in a day.”

The event yielded a great crowd from the local community, and most people left with a smile on their faces. The grandmother and grandson, in particular, said they will be returning the next time the Hammer In festival comes to Fort King.

Chandler is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.