Battlefield Guide Services

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Play for a Kingdom - Hardly

September 13, 2009 brought Old Rules (1864) Baseball to the Spotsylvania Courthouse area. Two deserving teams, the Maryland State Champion Elkton Eclipse vs. the newly formed Williamsburg Pastimes, met on the diamondless field as the closing event for Spotsylvania County's poorly promoted "1859-era County Fair". The overall event was the first in a proposed series of commemorative special programs to promote the observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial through 2015.
Hopefully things will improve for future events but this sparsely attended premier left plenty to be desired. The ball clubs played valiantly, final score 22-2, with the champs still champs. The crowd generated by the well hidden final event of the Fair reached a shameful half dozen by the final pitch and this figure of course does not include those who came as friends of the teams or the ice cream vendor.
The absolute lack of banners, signage, anything, to indicate there was something interesting happening in the remote location, doomed the public attendance. But the real problem with the "Fair" was the complete nonchalance of the county organizer who assembled the participants, which included a medicine show, political debates and a concert/lecture pertaining to spiritual songs of field slaves. These elements which, properly promoted, would have carried the event, were left dangling in a sparse presentation amidst construction debris and earth moving apparatus. The donated use of the land was in itself commendable, but the scattered placement of the participants left those who did happen upon the "festivities" feeling like they were wandering the plains of Nazca.
Additionally, for this "1859" fair, there were some displays that made one forget what the whole thing was about, primarily the inclusion of antique fire engines (gasoline powered, yes) and a petting zoo of three alpacas. All "period" vendors were absent due to the lack of advance notice given by the organizer. Once again, (yes, a process with a history) the county staff failed to realize that events of this magnitude really do require at least a solid year of advance notice. It is obvious to the writer, that despite constant suggestions to the contrary, there prevails the belief that "re-enactors" and these "sutlers" along with period craftsmen and women, sit around by the phone just waiting to be called at a moments notice. No, they do not hit the road like a carnival.
But, bottom line, if you're going to put on an event, at least promote the thing. And for God's sake, put some sort of banner or signage at the entrance so the passing public has a clue that there is an event they are welcome to attend.

The attached image shows the winners of the baseball game posing for wet plate photographer Terry Thomann of the Civil War Life Foundation. Some of the best features of the "Fair" had been brought to the table by Mr. Thomann, a volunteer, who's knowledge and experience should have been heeded by County staff from the days of inception. It was not to be this time.
Acknowledgment should also be given to Debbie Aylor of the County Visitor Center, who has a genuine appreciation for and knowledge of her community's history. She is very capable, if allowed some latitude.
It is hoped that things will improve. Someone needs to get a clue.