Chairman says re-enactment hurt APCWS

July 02, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

A Hagerstown-based Civil War preservation group improperly took the lead in last year's Antietam re-enactment billed as the largest of its kind in history, the organization's board chairman says.

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The time staff members of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites spent preparing for the 1997 re-enactment distracted them from their mission of saving Civil War battlefields, said Alan E. Hoeweller.

Hoeweller also accused Hagerstown and Washington County officials of backing out of their commitment to the September event, which was hailed as a tourism coup.

"That's not our task to promote Hagerstown," he said.

The association assumed much of the overhead and was never compensated for the countless hours put in by the organization's president, Dennis Frye, and other staffers, he said, although he could not give a dollar figure.


Local event organizers said no one let down the association.

In fact, dozens of local people helped to coordinate the event, said Susan K. Saum-Wicklein, Hagerstown councilwoman and co-chair, with Frye, of the local Antietam Commemorative Committee.

"It is a slap in the face to the city of Hagerstown," she said Tuesday.

The association got more than $75,000, or about three-fourths of the profits from the re-enactment, said Saum-Wicklein, who is also on the association's board.

But Hoeweller, a Cincinnati businessman who was elected board chairman in January, said the donation didn't make up for the time spent by the staff or the time lost in fund-raising.

Del. D. Bruce Poole, who was on the re-enactment organizing committee, agreed that Frye and the association worked hard to pull off the event.

"Their staff was asked to do a lot of things that maybe they hadn't counted on," he said.

But so did the rest of the community and the Antietam event was a success because it was a community effort, he said.

The re-enactment grew so large - an estimated 100,000 spectators and 12,500 re-enactors - that all involved had to pull together in a last-minute surge, he said.

"It was a team effort. We all worked ridiculous hours to make that come off," said Poole, D-Washington.

Saum-Wicklein said the event led to a 10 percent increase in APCWS membership.

Saum-Wicklein said the association should be trying to draw in, not alienate, the re-enactment community.

"They are the best advocates for what APCWS does," she said.

Why Hoeweller believes the association took on a larger role in the re-enactment than expected was not clear.

Robert Edmiston, the association's chief operating officer, said it was partly because the staff of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau was cut just two months before the event.

He acknowledged that a lot of people outside the association worked hard on the re-enactment.

"We don't want to think anyone in the community was not appreciated," he said.

Hoeweller also said he was concerned that Frye and Saum-Wicklein may have had a conflict of interest because they belonged to both the local re-enactment committee and the association.

Saum-Wicklein could not be reached Wednesday to respond to that charge.

Frye was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Hoeweller said he didn't want to blame any one person.

"We should have realized what was happening. We couldn't afford it," he said.

Hoeweller said the association won't take the lead in organizing any future re-enactments.

Antietam organizers are planning an event in 2000.

The association would rather play a smaller role.

At the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg this weekend, for example, the association will get a portion of the proceeds just for lending its name to the event, Edmiston said.

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