Antietam National Battlefield Attracts Thousands +
Antietam National Battlefield Attracts Tens of Thousands of Visitors During 145th Anniversary of Battle, NPS Releases Statistics of Record Attendance
(Sharpsburg, Md)- The actual 145th Anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Antietam was September 17, 2007, and the National Park Service has announced that Antietam National Battlefield Park attracted tens of thousands of visitors during events surrounding the anniversary. It was one of the busiest times ever for the national park.
According to John Howard, Superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield, "We certainly had an extremely busy time period from September 8th through September 23rd. The total visitation to the battlefield - just during that two week stretch - was 98,297 visitors. This is a huge number of visitors to the park."
While the weather was warm and dry during the period, Howard said that attendance was way up at ranger-led programs. "The average number of people attending each ranger-led program was 94, and it's very interesting to learn that about 45-percent of the people had never been to Antietam before, of those who participated in the anniversary hikes."
Superintendent Howard also stated that since September 18th, he and his staff had received more than 145 letters of commendation from people as far away as Great Britain. "I've read letters from people from more than fifteen states, who really were moved by their experiences at the Antietam National Battlefield." Howard said there are more letters and e-mails coming in every day.
Also, interesting to note, from October 1, 2006 through September 27, 2007, "We have had an additional 5,230 visitors attend our interpretive programs. That's a large jump in visitation to our actual counts of those visitors who go on interpretive programs with our staff," said Howard.
Hotels, motels, B&B's, and campgrounds all reported very brisk business, during the days surrounding the September 8th and 9th reenactment in Boonsboro, and the actual Antietam Anniversary around the weekend of September 14-17.
It was a very busy time for the staff and volunteers at Antietam National Battlefield, and also at South Mountain Battlefield State Park. According to South Mountain Chief Ranger Al Preston, numbers of visitors were significantly larger during the weekend of September 8th and 9th, than in years' past. "We had well over 3,300 people come to the battlefield at Washington Monument State Park on South Mountain, to hear our historical presentations, and to take tours of the 1862 battlefield. It was a very busy time for us at South Mountain."
The Battle of South Mountain happened on September 14, 1862, and led to the Battle of Antietam which took place on September 17, 1862. Antietam is known as the single bloodiest day in American history, with 23,110 casualties in a single day. The battle also led to President Lincoln releasing the Emancipation Proclamation, which began the process of abolishing slavery.
Antietam National Battlefield is Western Maryland's most-visited historical attraction. "This is one of the top attractions in the State of Maryland," according to Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Antietam brings people to Washington County from all around the world, and continually makes national and international news. For instance, I was giving a tour of the battlefield and national cemetery last week to the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Wesel, Germany, and we ran into people from Oregon, California, Illinois, and we met a Scottish couple visiting from overseas. All this on a typical Monday afternoon at the battlefield."
Riford said that according to a recent Civil War Preservation Trust report, the Antietam National Battlefield Park creates more than $10 million of local economic impact annually. The two-year old report said that 309 jobs are created or maintained independent of the battlefield (every 702 tourists support one full-time or full-time equivalent job). If the count for all park visitors was used, the job figure is nearly 500. "The battlefield's visitor center records about 350,000 visitors annually. Therefore, having the Antietam National Battlefield here in our county means about 500 people have full-time jobs." Total park attendance is about 700,000 people, because about half of the park's visitors never check into the visitors' center, and merely tour the park on their own.
Additionally, visitors to the park produce tax revenues. The 2005 report said that visitors generate about $1,413,000 annually in local and state taxes. This is a non-resident tax revenue contributed locally each and every year, which helps offset the growing cost of residential services here in Washington County.
Some of the large events at Antietam National Battlefield include the annual Salute to Independence, which is a concert by the world-class Maryland Symphony Orchestra, along with a spectacular fireworks show. The event includes a battery of cannons fired by the Maryland National Guard, during the 1812 Overture. The Salute to Independence is scheduled for July 5, 2008. This event attracts more than 35,000 people annually.
Another great event is the annual Memorial Illumination at Antietam, which is set for December 1, 2007. 23,110 candle luminaries are placed about the battlefield, by more than 1,400 volunteers, in the largest illumination display in North America. The five-mile long driving tour attracts upwards of 20,000 people annually.
For more information about Antietam National Battlefield, see: www.nps.gov/anti. For more information about Hagerstown-Washington County, see: www.marylandmemories.com.
[Published with permission.]