Activity picks up in anticipation of re-enactment crowds

September 09, 1997


Staff Writer

A flurry of activity took place on the rolling hills of farmland south of Hagerstown Tuesday as workers set up tents, erected signs and mapped out strategy as a light drizzle fell.

They were working in anticipation of the real storm - of activity, that is - this weekend when 50,000 spectators and more than 12,000 Civil War re-enactors are expected to arrive for the 135th Commemoration of the Battle of Antietam.

"This is a big setup day for us," said event coordinator Greg Larsen.

Work throughout the day included making gravel paths for pedestrians, erecting food tents, hauling firewood, setting up a mobile tourism office and bringing supplies to the site. Rench Road, which will be in the center of the event's activities, was closed to through traffic for the first time Tuesday.


The commemoration, which will feature battle re-enactments and living-history displays, begins Friday and ends Sunday.

So far, close to 7,000 tickets have been sold through a toll-free number, with an undetermined additional amount sold at area locations, said Kate John, destinations resource manager for the Maryland Office of Tourism.

John said she has "absolutely no worries" that the number of people attending the re-enactment, boosted by an anticipated large number of ticket sales on the days of the events, will meet projections.

"We are thrilled," she said.

Meanwhile, more than 11,000 re-enactors have signed up to participate, said Don Warlick, site coordinator for the event. He said the actual number will easily exceed 12,000 and could go a few thousand higher.

"The main focus is not size. We want to do a good job for the re-enactors, then the re-enactors will do a good job for the public and themselves," he said.

The first re-enactors will arrive today, as will sutlers who will sell souvenirs and other merchandise during the event, and registration should be even heavier on Thursday, Warlick said.

Thursday also is the day members of the Funkstown and Halfway volunteer fire companies will arrive on site and begin setting up fire and ambulance service that will require as many as eight vehicles and 80 members from both companies working the event.

"We're setting up a separate station out there," said Douglas DeHaven, deputy fire chief at Halfway.

With so many spectators, re-enactors, volunteers and others at the event, emergency personnel will face handling fire and medical emergencies for enough people to populate an entire city, DeHaven said.

And there are several fire hazards - from the numerous campfires to the black-powder fire from the weapons.

"We know what to monitor and what to prepare for," he said.

Meanwhile, both fire companies are being careful to make sure their regular service will not be reduced because of the event, DeHaven said. Trucks and other equipment were borrowed from companies outside of Washington County to handle the extra demand, he said.

"This situation could very easily overtax an already overtaxed fire and rescue service, and our goal was not to do that," he said.

 The 135th Commemoration

of the Battle of Antietam

- by the numbers:

- 50,000: spectators expected over the three days, with a maximum of 30,000 expected on Saturday, the height of the event.

- 15,000 to 20,000: spectator parking spaces available.

- 12,000 to 15,000: military and civilian re-enactors expected.

- 4,000: bales of straw and 3,500 bales of hay, required for bedding, feeding and seating.

- 2,500: cases of Coca-Cola products.

- 612: acres of farm land the event is being held on.

- 350: tons of mulch to be used to cover Rench Road and give it a 19th century appearance.

- 300: horses.

- 200: portable toilets (minimum).

- 200: volunteers (minimum).

- 100: full-scale replicas of original cannons.

- 80 to 100: cords of wood for campfires.

- 85: sutlers, selling period items and other souvenirs.

- 50 miles: distance being traveled to the event by a cavalry unit.

- 30: Maryland State Police troopers assigned to handle the event.

- 22: Hagerstown City Police officers and about 12 fire police officers to handle the parade through the city.

- 12: food vendors.

- 4: ambulances (at peak times).

- 4: fire trucks (at peak times).

- 1: mile of temporary water lines.

Compiled by Guy Fletcher, Kerry Lynn Fraley, Laura Ernde, Steven T. Dennis and Brendan Kirby

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