GETTYSBURG, Pa. — A veteran Civil War reenactor in Pennsylvania says he will take over planning a 2020 reenactment of the battle of Gettysburg after the organization behind the annual event said it didn’t intend to host one next summer.
Dustin Heisey of Manheim, who says he has been taking part in reenactments since he was 14, says he wants to keep the tradition of honoring the soldiers alive.
“My primary focus is, let’s bring honor back into our hobby and, we’re portraying these men who sacrificed so much for their country, I want them to be remembered and I think it should be done every year,” Heisey told The (Hanover) Evening Sun.
The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee said in a post on its website last week that after a quarter century of organizing the annual July observance, at this time it “does not anticipate organizing or hosting a 157th reenactment.”
Operations Manager Randy Phiel said the aging demographic of reenactors and varied visitor interest meant that “the hobby is declining somewhat.” He also said the trend shows that reenactments are most successful every five years, and spreading them out might help build anticipation and visitor interest.
Heisey told the newspaper he plans some changes, including a flat rate for reenactor participation (although he ultimately hopes to make it free); no stage tent area or VIP seating in the grandstand; and a Settlers Row area where reenactors can sell Civil War paraphernalia.
“Ultimately, I want to keep the atmosphere feeling as 1860s as much as possible,” Heisey said.
To pay for the event, his ideas include a T-shirt campaign and sponsorships, he said. Heisey said the response he has received from reenactors, spectators and Gettysburg residents has been “overwhelming.”
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