Large scale battle re-enactments have become staples of Gettysburg summers.
That may change in 2020.
The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee will not host a Civil War battle re-enactment next year, according to committee Chair Randy Phiel.
“The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee (GAC) would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to all the re-enactors, visitors, and local staff that have participated in the Annual Gettysburg Civil War Battle Re-enactments for the past 25 years; making those dusty old history books come alive,” Phiel wrote in an email Tuesday.
Phiel said in an interview he is considering the anniversary committee’s decision to not hold a 2020 event more as “hitting the pause button” rather than the end. He said several factors lead to the decision.
“It’s a well-known fact that the hobby is declining somewhat due to the age demographic of the re-enactors and varied visitor interest,” Phiel said. “Also, outdoor weather-related events come with their own set of dynamics.”
The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee annually hosted re-enactments that lasted three or four days on farms in Freedom or Cumberland townships. The events brought together 100,000 re-enactors, 500,000 visitors, and 1,000 community staff members, according to Phiel. The all-day events included encampments, sutlers, living history presentations, education programs and battle re-enactments.
Phiel said he was most proud of how the re-enactment “pulled together Adams County residents from all walks of life.” He added that it was an honor to be invited to and attend the International Event and Festival Association conference in South Korea several years ago to discuss how the re-enactment teaches Americans about the Civil War.
The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee’s decision to stop hosting battle re-enactments does not mean the end of living history in Gettysburg.
The Gettysburg National Military Park, Shriver House on Baltimore Street and Gettysburg Heritage Museum on Steinwehr Avenue regularly host living history encampments that are separate from the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee event, according to Destination Gettysburg President Norris Flowers.
Flowers said he was sorry to hear about the re-enactment’s fate but does not think the cancellation will largely impact local tourism.
“It’s going to be missed but a few years ago when we had the rain out, people realized there was still things to do here. We still have a great product here, it’s just going to be different,” Flowers said.
Jason Martz, acting public information officer for the Gettysburg National Military Park, said Tuesday that re-enactors who wish to participate in the park’s events must be part of an organized group.
“We have a long-time relationship with some of the groups and any group that is interested in being part of our living history presentations should contact us,” Martz said.
Living history groups interested in working with NPS should contact Park Ranger Tom Holbrook at firstname.lastname@example.org, Martz said.