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Civil War Sesquicentennial Gives Parks A Creative Marketing Tool

May 31, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The 150th anniversary this year of the start of the Civil War has given RV parks and campgrounds across the Southeast a convenient marketing tool for the next five years.

Starting with the commemoration of the outbreak of the firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., April 1861, operators are relying on the historical events that divided the U.S. to bring new guests into their parks.

Because most of the battles were fought south of the Mason Dixon Line, campgrounds in the Southeast are most likely to cash in on the historical celebration. But battles and military actions were fought as far west as New Mexico and in some northern states, including Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) and even Indiana.

Dirk Kuznik, second-generation owner of Oak Plantation Campground, a 220-site park eight miles south of Charleston, noticed a healthy influx of Civil War buffs leading up to and during the city’s Civil War commemoration in mid-April.

“About 50% were here for the Civil War and 50% were regular travelers,” he told Woodall’s Campground Management. One of his guests was one of the organizers of the events, staying for several months in his Airstream travel trailer, Kuznik recalled.

Virginia parks could benefit the most from the observance, since a number of key battles were fought there throughout the war.

One such park is the Bull Run Regional Park, a municipally run, 140-site campground adjacent to the Manassas National Battlefield. Though located along I-66 and a suburb of Washington, D.C., the park is heavily wooded and has a rural feel to it. The First Battle of Manassas, or Bull Run, was fought on July 21, 1861 and is considered the first major battle of the War, which would last until April 9, 1865. A major victory by the Confederacy, the battle will be commemorated July 21-24, and the reservations are filling up fast at the campground, said Jeff Randolph, assistant park manager.

Some of the campers are re-enactors who will take part in the re-enactment of the battle. An estimated 10,000 Civil War re-enactors from around the country will stage two days of re-enactments July 23-24 at Pageland Farm in Prince William County.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we do fill up. That will be a pretty big event,” said Randolph, 54, himself a Civil War buff and collector of relics.

Beginning July 21, four days of special events hosted by a variety of Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area partners, will mark the War’s start and bring into the national spotlight a four-year commemoration that will also denote the largest emancipation of slaves in history. The weekend is expected to draw dignitaries, celebrities, historians and an estimated 30,000 spectators.

Ceremonies begin on the 21st at the Manassas National Battlefield Park with introductions by elected officials and others. The day will also include living history demonstrations, a 3-D photo exhibit, a Civil War 150th Anniversary History Mobile, official battlefield tours, and the 100th Anniversary of the National Jubilee of Peace at the Old Manassas Courthouse in Historic Manassas.

The Bull Run Regional Park, part of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, will stage its own re-enactment or living history on July 18 using a replica of winter soldiers’ quarters in the process.

The park will commemorate the Second Battle of Manassas in August 2012.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership launched a six-week advertising campaign in early May, inviting visitors to experience heritage sites and attractions within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, which includes the 180-mile Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway from Gettysburg, Pa., to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home in Albemarle County, Va.

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