Residents prepare for onslaught of re-enactment visitors

September 07, 1997


Staff Writer

With up to 50,000 spectators and 12,000 re-enactors expected to attend the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam commemoration event this weekend, Rench Road residents are battening down for an onslaught of inconveniences.

The road will be closed to non-event traffic starting Tuesday, when residents will have to start showing a special pass to get in and out.

That's only the beginning of what they'll have to bear as what organizers say could be the biggest Civil War re-enactment event ever is staged around them.


Some say the hassle will be well worth it because of the importance of the event. Others have concerns that even careful planning can't prevent problems when so many people are involved.

"It's probably going to be a pain," said David Early, 25, who lives near the designated spectator parking areas.

Early said he can't understand why organizers didn't pick a spot closer to where the real battle occurred.

Still, he said, he can see the event's educational merit and might even attend some of the weekend's activities.

Early said he can accept the unavoidable noise and traffic as long as organizers keep people from trespassing into his yard and littering.

"It doesn't bother me so much as long as they do their thing and don't affect me," he said.

Helping out with preparations for the event, including helping erect a wooden fence and making signs in his woodshop, has convinced Skip Kelbaugh that organizers have everything under control.

Kelbaugh, 39, who rents a farmhouse off Rench Road from the Artz family, said he doesn't think the event will cause him any problems personally.

He is happily expecting a house full of company - including his two daughters, their boyfriends and assorted friends of his and wife Cindy's - because of it, he said.

"I've got more friends than you would believe," Kelbaugh said.

He said he never had much interest in the Civil War until he got caught up in the event frenzy.

"To me, I just can't wait until everything happens. I think it's going to be great," Kelbaugh said.

Phyllis Sparger, 48, said she feels fortunate to have something so neat going on close to home.

"I think it's really great to have it around here. I know it will inconvenience some people. For me, I thought, `What's three days?'" said Sparger, who said she is looking forward to witnessing her first battle re-enactment.

Doris Rager, 45, said she has mixed feelings about having such a large-scale event in her backyard.

"I'm looking forward to it, but I'm a little upset ... . It's like they're not considering our inconvenience at all," said Rager, who warned her boss that she might not be able to get to work if the traffic on Rench Road gets really backed up.

"I'm afraid of the accidents, the congestion that's going to be and property damage," she said.

While she said she is interested in seeing the battle re-enactments, Rager said she is very worried about how the explosions will affect area wildlife, livestock and pets.

"I've got a dog with heart trouble, and I'm afraid all the shooting is going to get her upset," she said.

However, Rager said her greatest fear is getting stuck in traffic if she has to rush over to Gaithersburg, Md., to care for her sick mother.

Dairy farmer James Burkholder said he has been assured by event organizers that his 93 cows won't be harmed by the shooting.

"But time will tell, I guess. I don't know," Burkholder said.

He said he has no interest in the Civil War or attending the event because he believes in nonresistance.

"To me, it's a waste of money. I think it could be put to a better cause," Burkholder said.

Still, he said, he has no choice but to stick around this weekend.

"I've got to milk my cows," he said.

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