Communities to celebrate Civil War weekend

January 29, 2006|By JENNIFER FITCH


It's nearly time to dust off the hoop skirts and black stovepipe hats in anticipation of a Civil War Trails Discovery Weekend to be held in Franklin County, Pa., from Feb. 3 to 5.

The weekend, part of a Pennsylvania tourism initiative, will feature special presentations, shopping, recreation and dining in five of the county's communities: Chambersburg, Mercersburg, Greencastle, Waynesboro and Shippensburg.

The chambers of commerce in those communities have joined together to plan the festivities, which include walking tours, a musicale, museum exhibits and social gatherings.

"This is the beginning of trying to evolve our Civil War tourism," said MaryBeth Hockenberry, director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce.


State officials launched a Civil War Trails program to show how the war affected the entire state, not just Gettysburg. The program established seven "gateway communities" with ties to the war, and Chambersburg, one of those communities, expanded its participation into a countywide effort.


The Chambersburg Heritage Center on Center Square is essentially the headquarters for the discovery weekend, although the five chambers of commerce all have information for visitors, said Paul Cullinane, director of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

In Chambersburg, the Civil War Trails Discovery Weekend coincides with Ice Fest '06, an event that in the past has drawn 20,000 to the borough over the course of a single week, Cullinane said.

"We specifically developed the discovery weekend around the Ice Fest," he said.

Chambersburg will host two seminars on Saturday featuring nationally-acclaimed authors and historians including Ed Bearss and Jeff Wert, who both will sign books after the presentations. Both the morning and afternoon seminars will be on the campus of Wilson College.

Bearss, Wert and historian Ted Alexander also will be guests of honor at a VIP gala on Saturday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on the college's Chambersburg campus. The gala is open to people who purchase an $85 Discovery Weekend package.

Tickets are required at some events, while others are free to the public. The weekend package provides admission to almost all activities and includes a meal voucher.

The gala will allow event organizers to unveil the eight stories they developed as requested by the state. The stories of local participation in the war fit into four themes: Battlegrounds and troop movement; daily life and commerce; experiences of women and children; and the contribution of blacks to Pennsylvania's defense.


Mercersburg will highlight the blacks' contribution theme by showing the movie "Glory" at Star Theater. Several soldiers from the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first black regiment authorized by the Union side, are buried nearby, said Liza Main, director of the Mercersburg Chamber of Commerce.


Shippensburg is working with both Franklin and Cumberland counties for discovery weekends, and it was host to its own event marking the war between the North and the South.

"We traditionally have a Civil War weekend here in June," said Kevin Duffy, director of the Shippensburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

For the discovery weekend, Shippensburg will feature the River City Brass Band in a jazz concert at Luhrs Performing Arts Center on the Shippensburg University campus. Tickets for the Saturday concert, regularly $15 to $30, are discounted for people who purchased the weekend package.


In addition to guided walking tours, Greencastle will present memorabilia from Gen. George Custer and Little Big Horn at the Allison-Antrim Museum on Ridge Avenue.

Custer's "personal belongings were stolen by the Confederates in Hagerstown," said Bill Gour, director of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce.


Plans in Waynesboro include a living history presentation, "Gone with the Wind" tea and musicale.

In cooperation with the musicale, re-enactors will camp out at the 1912 Hoover House restaurant on West Main Street. Hockenberry said those re-enactors will lounge on the porch and stroll around the dining area.

"It'll kind of be like stepping back in time," she said.

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