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Spotsylvania says Civil War event ‘positive’

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The sesquicentennial re-enactment of the Civil War battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House last month fared better than one marking the Battle of Chancellorsville last year.

The county spent $161,132 to put on the May 1–4 commemoration and collected $140,307 from ticket sales, re-enactor registrations and merchandise sales—about $21,000 shy of what it spent on the event.

But Spotsylvania also benefited from an increase in local spending, educational opportunities for schoolchildren and national media exposure, county spokeswoman Kathy Smith said.

“The re-enactment was tremendously positive for Spotsylvania in so many ways, including bringing national and international visitors to and stirring interest in the county,” Smith wrote in an email. Businesses were pleased with what she called the “economic surge” from the event, she said.

General expenses such as marketing, site preparation and transportation totaled an estimated $139,916—or $9,916 more than what was originally allocated. Overtime for county staff, including Sheriff’s Office employees, added another $21,216 to the price tag.

Tourism Manager Debbie Aylor said in a presentation that county staff had to work late into the night clearing rainwater from trenches at the re-enactment site in the historic courthouse area. She didn’t say whether that contributed to overtime costs.

Last year’s Chancellorsville re-enactment cost the county about $187,000. That event generated $125,331 from ticket sales, merchandise sales and registration fees—about $15,000 less than last month’s re-enactment.

This year’s event drew 3,591 registered re-enactors, about 500 fewer than the Chancellorsville re-enactment. But revenue from re-enactor and vendor registration fees increased by $2,066, from $85,180 last year to $87,246.

The increase is at least partly because more re-enactors than expected paid a late registration fee, Smith said. Many indicated that they had been monitoring the weather.

Merchandise sales also increased from $5,816 last year to $6,985 this year.

And ticket sales this year brought in $46,036, about $11,700 more than last year.

Re-enactors, Smith said, came from as far away as Germany, Australia and Arizona for this year’s festivities. And she said thousands of spectators showed up over the weekend, boosting revenue at hotels, shops and restaurants.

“I do know that there was a lot of beer sold in this county, and I didn’t have any of it,” David Childs, a re-enactor coordinator, told the Board of Supervisors recently. “I was too busy.”

Jake Jennette, another re-enactor coordinator at this year’s event, told the supervisors that he hopes they’ll welcome re-enactors again. “There are so many opportunities,” he told them.

Board of Supervisors Chairman David Ross told them that they are “welcome in Spotsylvania County any time.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402