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Antietam illlumination attendance up

December 24, 2008

SHARPSBURG - The National Park Service is reporting that attendance for this year's Antietam Memorial illumination was up, compared to the last few years. Park staff estimate there were approximately 23,500 people who drove through and saw the illumination.

"We had a four-mile line almost all night," said John W. Howard, superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield, referring to the Dec. 6 event. Howard said that this year being the 20th anniversary, and the increased publicity, helped bring about ten percent increase of visitors.

"It's nice to know that so many people attended this year's illumination, despite some traffic challenges" said Tom Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Interstate 70 was closed for several hours due to icy road conditions and affected those traveling from the east." Riford said many people couldn't make it to Antietam National Battlefield who wanted to because of the interstate closure.

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Many people traveling to the illumination were stuck in traffic on Interstate 70, including two Eyre buses the CVB had chartered for tours of the illumination. Some people did not make it to the illumination at all and others were able to take alternate routes to get there. The Maryland State Police were in contact with the CVB during the evening hours of I-70 challenges.

This was the 20th year for the illumination, named one of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2008 by the American Bus Association (ABA). The illumination was selected by an elite tourism industry committee. Inclusion in the Top 100 list, published as a supplement to the September/October issue of Destinations Magazine, indicates that the Annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial illumination offers excellent entertainment value to both tour groups and individual travelers from around the world.

The Annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial illumination was presented by the American Business Women's Association, Antietam National Battlefield, and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Washington County Commissioners also contributed financial assistance for this year's event, which is the largest single-day volunteer event in Western Maryland - with 1,400 people helping set up the 23,110 memorial luminarias.

Gov. Martin O'Malley attended the event this year, along with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, and several local officials. Two movie crews captured footage of the illumination this year, and a writer from National Geographic Magazine covered the event, along with television stations from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and also a television crew from Comcast Cable in Allentown, Pa.

For more information about Hagerstown-Washington County, see www.marylandmemories.com.

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