GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — The organization behind the annual reenactments of the Civil War battle of Gettysburg says it doesn’t plan on hosting such an event in the summer of 2020.
The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee said in a post on its website that after a quarter-century of organizing the annual July observance, at this time, it “does not anticipate organizing or hosting a 157th reenactment.”
Operations Manager Randy Phiel told the Gettysburg Times that he considers the decision more as “hitting the pause button” rather than the end, citing several factors that led to the decision.
“It’s a well-known fact that the hobby is declining somewhat due to the age demographic of the reenactors and varied visitor interest,” Phiel said. “Also, outdoor weather-related events come with their own set of dynamics.”
Phiel told The (Hanover) Evening Sun that the trend shows that reenactments are most successful every five years —the 100th anniversary, for example, hosted 1,100 reenactors and 60,000 visitors while the 125th anniversary hosted 2,000 reenactors. He said it’s his hope that spreading the reenactment out would help build anticipation and grow visitor interest, but there are no definite plans to do that.
The committee has annually hosted three- or four-day reenactments on farms in Freedom or Cumberland townships, including encampments, battle reenactments, sutlers (civilians who sell provisions to the troops), living history presentations, and education programs.
The announcement offered thanks to all of the reenactors, visitors, and local staff that have participated in the in the annual events “making those dusty old history books come alive.”
Norris Flowers, president of Destination Gettysburg, said living history encampments separate from the anniversary committee’s event are regularly hosted by the Gettysburg National Military Park, Shriver House, and Gettysburg Heritage Museum. He said he was sorry to hear about the committee but didn’t think it would affect local tourism.
“It’s going to be missed, but a few years ago when we had the rainout, people realized there was still things to do here. We still have a great product here, it’s just going to be different,” Flowers told the Gettysburg Times.