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Editorial - The next re-enactment

November 14, 1997

Emboldened by the success of the 135th Commemoration of the Battle of Antietam, which raised $100,000 and set a record as the largest-ever re-enactment event, officials of four states say they'd like to do it again in 2000 - and on a grander scale - to promote the region's Civil War heritage.

We suggest that if they really want to do this, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia officials have to make a commitment of dollars and energy now, and be realistic about what can be accomplished.

As for the money, we recommend that if Washington County is serious about this venture and Civil War tourism in general, it should look into the purchase of a farm where this event - and future events like it - could be held.

Such a property, which could be purchased in part with Program Open Space funds, should be within easy driving distance of the interstates, but away from major housing developments that would spoil the illusion of being back in the 1860s. In between re-enactment events, it could be leased for grazing or crop production.

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The farm could also be the site for the recreation of a Civil War-era town envisioned by Ron Maxwell, director of the movie "Gettysburg." When it isn't being used for other purposes, it could be opened to tourists for a fee, or house a museum focusing on regional action during the Civil War years.

In the absence of the money or the will to pursue those options, however, Washington County officials need to line up a leased site as soon as possible, so that advance publicity and planning can begin.

As for the realistic outlook we spoke of earlier, local officials need to recognize that due to the scope of the event, and the vast army of volunteer labor required for a coordinated event spread out over several months' time, there will be some glitches, if only because weather is the only factor beyond anyone's control. A joint effort is fine, but Washington County's events shouldn't be linked so closely to other areas' efforts that another state's flop can put the success of the local celebration in jeopardy.

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