Sidney to Again Host Civil War Living History Weekend

(Photo provided)
A Union squad on patrol fires at Confederate troops near the Ross covered bridge in Tawawa Park during the 2016 Civil War Living History Weekend. The biennial event is scheduled to return to the park September 15 and 16, 2018.

Sidney will again host a Civil War Living History Weekend September 15 and 16, 2018.  Planning is already underway for the event, which will again be held in Tawawa Park.

“As we proved in our inaugural effort, the park’s 220 acres are ideal for such an event,” stated J.R. Sharp, a Confederate reenactor whose Company B of the 1st Tennessee Infantry encamped at Brookside for their spring drill on more than one occasion.  Captain Sharp commands Company B, has been reenacting for two decades, and is on the committee organizing the event.

“There is no question that the park’s unique terrain features, including Tawawa Creek, Amos Lake, the valley and the overlooking bluffs will once again provide both the reenactors and spectators with a unique experience,” agreed Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst.  Barhorst is again chairing the organizing committee.

“Some reenactors came last year almost as scouts for their respective units,” Barhorst noted.  “I can’t tell you how often individual visitors, some from several states away, commented on the natural beauty of the park.  Some came from cities five, six and seven times larger than Sidney – they couldn’t believe that a city our size could have such a wonderful park when their own communities didn’t.”

“I heard the same comments,” stated Parks and Recreation Director Duane Gaier and a member of the planning committee.  “When I told them that the advertisements all detailed the wooded terrain, the water features and the hills and valleys, their response was nearly always the same.  ‘Do you have any idea how many communities have told us their event was going to be held in their wonderful city park with all the features you claimed to have and when we arrived, we found a concrete slab with a couple of basketball hoops and not a tree or stream in sight?’”

“An event like the Civil War living history weekend is one that I had discussed for nearly two decades with reenactors like Doug Slagel and Doug Benson,” Shelby County Historical Society Executive Director Tilda Phlipot explained.  Both have been active members of our organization, and both have extensive reenacting experience.”

“Our initial event went well, and we are looking forward to next year’s event.  Such programs are a great way for us to teach the community an important part of our history and make it come alive,” Phlipot continued.

“Events like this could not be accomplished without the strong partnerships we have within the community,” Phlipot stated.  “We’ll need even more volunteers this year than during the first event because of the increased number of reenactors expected to attend.”  Phlipot is also a member of the organizing committee.

Slagel, who has been active as a Union reenactor for more than two decades, is again serving as a member of the planning committee.  He served on the planning committee two years ago, and has extensive experience helping to organize national events.

“Many reenactors were involved in major events leading up to the Civil War’s Sesquicentennial (2011-2015), and there simply wasn’t a good way to move into a crowded field of events.  With the Civil War’s 150th anniversary now behind us, reenactors are looking for events that require less travel and expense than those big national events, and are now open to new events.” Slagel stated.

“When planning for the 2016 event, we were looking at a biennial event – one that would fit the off-years with the event held at Zoar Village.  Reenactors like to be able to schedule their time, and this would provide them the opportunity to schedule vacation at the same time each year, heading to Shelby County one year and to Tuscarawas County the next.  That worked well, and we are pleased with the result,” Sharp noted.

In addition to Union and Confederate units camping at the park, there will also be civilian units.  Elizabeth Topping, who has been reenacting as a period civilian for twenty-four years, is again serving as a member of the organizing committee with emphasis on the civilian camp.

“Although we had only a handful of sutlers last year, they all enjoyed the experience, and plan to return,” Topping stated.  “Working out the ‘bugs’ associated with our first event was relatively easy.  Those who attended had an enjoyable experience.  I expect that most will bring associates with them next year.”

“We chose the fall for a number of reasons,” Barhorst noted.  “We wanted to avoid the long-established reenactment at Ohio Village, school is in session and students have the opportunity to attend on their own time without disrupting the school schedule, and the fall just seemed to be a better time for the park in that the sound of gunfire would not disturb the wildlife as much, especially nesting birds.”

“As a result of this being an ongoing event, we have an interactive website fully operational so that event information is available to both reenactors and spectators,” Sharp stated.  When he is not commanding the 1st Tennessee Company B, Sharp is an end-user computing technician with the Kettering Health Network.

The event is being funded in part through a grant from the City’s Lodging Tax, administered through the Shelby County Historical Society.  “The Lodging Tax was levied to raise funds to help bring tourists to the community,” Barhorst stated.  “This is one of a variety of events Council has looked at that are family-friendly and will encourage travelers to come to the community.  After our experience in 2016, we know that the Civil War Living History Weekend fits that definition.”