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Until they perfect time travel, try this

September 03, 1997

Next weekend will bring Washington County residents (and thousands of guests) the ceremonies commemorating the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. If you haven't gotten your tickets yet, you should, because this may be the most elaborate event of its kind ever staged in Washington County.

There'll be not one, but three battle re-enactments featuring soldiers in authentic garb of the period. There'll be a parade Friday morning as soldiers march from the Long Meadow shopping center through Public Square and on to Rose Hill Cemetery, where many slain soldiers were buried. There'll even be special showings of the movie "Gettysburg" Friday and Saturday night at 6 p.m. at the Maryland Theatre, and a concert of Civil War-era music by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra at Municipal Stadium.

Even if you're not particularly interested in the Civil War, there are several reasons you ought to attend next weekend's events. The first is the scope of what will happen. Imagine a live play with a cast of thousands, with uniforms authentic down to the last button. When the guns fire and they sound the charge, nothing else but time travel will be able reproduce the experience.

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The second is that the Artz farm, on Rench Road off the Sharpsburg Pike, is slated for development after this event is over. Whether or not this event is staged again - they're talking about doing something every five years - the Artz farm will never again be in its present pristine state.

And finally, not to be pessimistic, but who knows whether such an event will take place again? Or whether a new site will be as suited to the activities as this one? Even if there is a 140th anniversary commemoration, my feeling is that there'll be an enthusiasm about this first go-round, a determination to do everything perfectly, that it may be impossible to reproduce.

Certainly no effort has been spared in putting together the 135th ceremonies. Washington County planners have devised a traffic plan (that The Herald-Mail will share) to keep traffic flowing smoothly, so that those who want to move between the Artz farm and activities at the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival can do so easily and safely. The Washington County Hospital has donated at medical supplies and will man a medical center on-site. And hundreds of volunteers have been recruited to do everything from hosting tours to picking up garbage.

Two adults and two children can attend all the weekend's events at the Artz farm for just $40. But there will be a variety of other events, including:

- Roger Keller, a local author and historian, will deliver a free slide presentation and lecture on Hagerstown's Civil War history on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church at 141 S. Potomac St.

- A special "Sutler's Stew" meal featuring dishes from the Civil War era will be served from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13, at the old Schindel-Rohrer building at 28 S. Potomac St. Adults will be charged $5, with children under 6 free.

- A Maryland Symphony Concertwill be held at Municipal Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets for adults are $10, for children $5 and box seats will go for $15. For tickets call 1-888-248-4597.

- A country dance will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, beginning at 8:30 p.m. at 28 S. Potomac St., featuring Matchbox Music Productions and Mike Rohrer. Tickets are $5 apiece at the door. For more information, call (301) 739-8577, ext. 116.

- Downtown Hagerstown will feature a series of "ghost tours" on Thursday, Sept. 11 and Friday, Sept. 12. The $3-per-adult tours (children under 12 free) will leave from 28 S. Potomac St., at the following times: 7:30 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 8 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Advance registration is recommended, but not required. For more information, call (301) 739-8577, ext. 116.

- For information on Sharpsburg Heritage Festival events, including walking tours, a Friday, Sept. 12 barn dance and performances of Civil War music, call 1-800-228-STAY.

- For information on 135th commemoration tickets, call 1-888-248-4597.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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