"We're not going to put anyone in a position to get hurt," said Hilary Krueger, director of Pennsylvania's Washington Crossing Historic Park, which hosts the re-enactment.
For Rinaldi, playing the military leader was the role of a lifetime nonetheless. It was also a family affair - his father, Ronald Sr., and his 11-year-old son, Ronald III, joined him on the march.
"I would have loved to have crossed," he said, "but it was still fun. It wouldn't be Christmas without going to the crossing."
Rinaldi, 46, of Branchburg, was chosen by a panel of three crossing experts to portray the general for two years.
An avid history buff - he's amassed more than 500 books on the American Revolution and earned a degree in U.S. military strategy from Duke University - Rinaldi has taken part in every re-enactment of Washington's crossing of the Delaware since he was 14.
In real life, he's a county crime scene investigator. But on Thursday, he riled his fellow 130 re-enactors and put on a show for the estimated 12,000 spectators in attendance.
"Fight men! Fight for all that you are worth, for all you cherish and love," he said as Washington.
Yardley, Pa., resident Paul Vando brought sons Miles, 10, and Luke, 7, to watch a piece of history repeated.
"I really wanted to start a tradition that the kids can look forward to every year," he said.
"Miles loves history," he said, before Luke interjected: "And I love hot chocolate and cap guns!"
On Wednesday, President-elect Barack Obama also asked the country to look to Washington's improbable crossing of the Delaware River on Dec. 25, 1776, as inspiration to get through current tough times.
The president-elect said in a holiday message that Washington and his army "faced impossible odds" as they fought against the British on that Christmas, the day they surprised Hessian forces at Trenton and won victories that gave new momentum and hope to American independence.
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