Wednesday, April 4, 2012

150th Anniversary of Shiloh

Confederates Attack Union
Forces in the Hornet's Nest
This past weekend we drove 600 plus miles from Dallas to attend The Blue-Gray Alliance 150th Anniversary Reenactment.  I want to thank all of the reenactors for their contributions.  Unfortunately, my compliments have to end there.  I was very disappointed in the event as were others who I talked with.  Rather than point out the flaws, let me instead suggest some things that can be done from a spectator perspective to have a successful event. 

  1. Have a simple, easy to navigate web site for the battle.  Include the usual who, what, where, when information.  Provide a local map and a map of the reenactment site.
  2. Put up road signs indicating the way to the site from major intersections.  Don't assume all of your attendees will be from the immediate locality.  This is a great way to attract tourists and their money to your town. 
  3. Make it easy to enter the site and park.  Having one or two people help cars park or collect parking fees is not sufficient.  It shouldn't take 45 minutes to get into the site.
  4. Provide transportation from the parking lot to the spectator area.  A 3/4ths of a mile walk may not seem like much unless you are carrying a small child or a senior citizen with a bad back or leg.
  5. Have plenty of signs and volunteers to help people.  People should not have ask other spectators for directions.  Volunteers should help guide people.  This is another opportunity to sell your community to the folks who drove hours to get there. Have your rude and indifferent friends stay home.  This is the time and place for smiling faces and friendly people.
  6. Don't promise what you can't deliver.  If you say you are going to do something make sure you do it.  The Shiloh event touted that spectators could watch two battles simultaneously.  That was impossible for virtually all the people who attended.  The place in the middle of the field that you might see both battles from was lined with trees and underbrush making it virtually impossible to see the battle.  The second battle could not be seen from the main viewing center where most people stayed.  The organizers promised an appearance by the CSS Hunley.  It wasn't there. 
  7. Provide water and bathrooms near the spectator area.  Realize that the reenactors aren't the only ones who can become ill. 
  8. Start the event on time.  If the program is supposed to start at 1:30 pm start then not at 2:00 pm 
  9. Provide narrative for the battle using a public address system. It will help explain what's going on so that the events on the field have some meaning for the spectators. We were fortunate in having a kindly reenactor near us who explained to those with earshot what was going on.  I brought my handouts from my class on Shiloh so I had a pretty good idea about what the reenactors were trying to recreate.
  10. Have plenty of toilets and make sure that they are fit for use by human beings. 
  11. Keep the trails and pathways passable.  Rain will come, but that doesn't mean the place needs to become a swamp.  Put down some straw or sand or boards.  Leaving the site with enough mud on your shoes and clothes to plant a small garden is not how you want to remember the event.
  12. Have enough food for hungry spectators.  Shiloh did a good job in this capacity.
  13. Set up an information/help station.  This provides a rallying point and place to find lost kids or grandparents.  A great place for the Chamber of Commerce to set up house.
  14. Provide access to the encampments and living historians.  Its nice to be able to visit with the reenactors.  They might even want to recruit you.  Allow access to the living historians throughout the day.
View of the battlefield
before cannon volley
The bottom line is the good old golden rule.  Treat your guests as you would like to be treated.

If don't think these suggestions are appropriate, you might want to consider having a reenactor only event.

If your reenactment event subscribes to these ideas, let me know I'd like to attend.  If you think my suggestions are a lot of nonsense, let me know as well so I can skip your event.


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