'The eyes of the world are on Gettysburg'
By ED WATERS JR. | The Frederick News-Post, Md. | Published: June 18, 2013
GETTYSBURG, Pa. - A town used to visitors is preparing for its biggest-ever tourism program.
Between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors per day are expected at Gettysburg, Pa., said Norris Flowers, president of the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The 10-day special programs to mark the Battle of Gettysburg's 150th anniversary will bring in an estimated $100 million, said Carl Whitehill, media relations manager for the bureau. Whitehill said the bureau is estimating revenue for all of 2013 will be $750 million from tourism.
"The eyes of the world are on Gettysburg," Flowers told an audience of about 100 media representatives, business owners and Gettysburg residents at an update meeting last week at the Gateway Theater.
"This is our time to shine," Flowers said. "The 150th is important, but this is important to Gettysburg's future."
The events will mark 150 years since the battle, July 1 to 3, 1863, considered a turning point in the Civil War because of the major defeat of Confederate forces.
More than 400 events are scheduled from June 28 through July 7 in and around the town and Gettysburg National Military Park, Flowers said.
Information tents with free water will be available for visitors, and some of Flowers' staff members will be on the street in red vests to offer directions and a coordinated shuttle system to take visitors to locations from designated parking areas.
What businesses must do
Flowers told business owners they need to communicate with their banks to ensure they have ample change for visitors and trash will be picked up early before traffic begins on the streets. Vendors and businesses must work together to get commercial deliveries in early.
"Tell your employees to leave for their shifts early because of the traffic, and communicate to your staff to park in designated areas," Flowers said.
For businesses, residents and visitors, Flowers asked for communication and patience.
Safety is paramount
Members of the FBI, Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement will be out in force, said John Eline, director of Adams County Emergency Services.
"When it comes to explosives, we were planning for that before Boston happened," Eline said.
Law enforcement personnel, in and out of uniform, will be at reenactments, displays, on the streets and around town, Eline said.
"We are looking at things from what happened in Boston," Eline said. "We have people trained to look for things. But we need your help. If you see something suspicious, a suspicious package or anything, contact the police, call 911 if you need to."
Everyday life will go on in Gettysburg. "There will be fires, people sick, a need for ambulances, accidents," Eline said.
"The big problem is traffic, and we are looking at where tie-ups could be," Eline said.
What's going on
Scott Harwig, supervisory historian, Gettysburg National Military Park, said more than 200 events are sponsored by the National Park Service.
These will range from "key moments," 30-minute talks at the specific locations where various actions happened.
Re-enactors, a daily site in the historic town, will be joined by colleagues from around the U.S. At some sites, there will be entire companies with more than 100 infantry, artillery, medical and signal corps men and women in period costume. Visitors can see the daily life in the military camps, not just the battlefield actions.
"There will be a look at the aftermath, as well; what it was like for civilians, the wounded and prisoners," Harwig said.
During some demonstrations, roads will be closed, Harwig said. As an example, on July 3, visitors will be able to walk, with rangers, across Emmitsburg Road toward Little Round Top, following the path of Confederate Gen. George Pickett's ill-fated charge against Union forces. The road will be closed during that event.
"Some of these programs may never be done again," Harwig said.
Audience members expressed concern about issues from mail delivery to commercial trucks delivering items early in the morning to being able to get around town for their daily errands.
Gettysburg Police Chief Joe Dougherty said law enforcement would work with everyone on a "common sense" basis. When one resident said the meter maid confronted her when she chained her bicycle to a meter, Dougherty said, "If you have something like that, call me."
Some materials were to be ready by the end of last week, Flowers said, including an updated map.
"It is not just Gettysburg," Flowers said. "There are things going on in Emmitsburg and other places.
"This is history we are making here," Flowers said.