Blue and Gray Gettysburg attendees produced lots of green and little crime

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GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Modern-day Yankees and Confederates like to do more than just shoot at each other with replica muskets in re-enacted battles. They also spend money.

And despite being armed -- or maybe because of it -- they seem to be law abiding.

That's the word coming from businesses and the National Park Service following the 10-day celebration that marked the 150th anniversary of the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.

"The business we did from June 28 to July 7 was great," said Max Felty, president of Gettysburg Battlefield Bus Tours. He had 14 or more buses running each day, some double-deckers holding 75 passengers and some enclosed vehicles holding 45.

"Our bus tours were sold out by midmorning every day, and we added several more tours, which also sold out. We had a lot of positive feedback from visitors. Some of our drivers have worked for us for 20 years and they'd never seen anything like it."

The stately Gettysburg Hotel, built in 1797 on the square in the center of town, also did major business.

"We have 118 rooms, and we were at capacity every day," marketing director Andrea Proulx said. "It was a great week. We definitely exceeded our expectations."

"We had long lines every day, especially on July 4th and 5th. We served 650 customers on both those days, the most we've ever had in one day. Every day when we opened up [at 10 a.m.] there were long lines of people who were hot and wanted ice cream," said Corinne Ruppert, who works at Mr. G's Ice Cream Parlor on Baltimore Street.

While final figures on attendance and spending are still being collected, National Park Service and Adams County officials say they believe the crowds met the estimate of 250,000 or more that had been predicted over the 10 days.

Also smiling was Barbara Franco, director of the new $103 million Seminary Ridge Museum, which formally opened July 1. It's housed in a former Lutheran Theological Seminary classroom building, built in 1832 on a hill just west of town and was the site of the first day of fighting July 1, 1863.

"We've had long lines of people every day we've been open, at least 1,000 people each day. We're ecstatic," Ms. Franco said.

The county's Convention & Visitors Bureau had predicted $100 million or more in economic impact.

"We don't have those numbers yet," vice president Stacey Fox said. "But when you look at the many comments we had from visitors, on social media and in emails, it was very positive feedback."

Adams County has 2,500 hotel rooms, and many tourists had to stay in neighboring counties because they couldn't find a room near Gettysburg.

"I don't know if every hotel in the county was a complete sellout, but a lot of them were, many of them in advance," she said.

National Park Service spokeswoman Katie Lawhon had several statistics showing the popularity of events, including:

• Up to 10,000 people attended one of the signature events on the evening of June 30, a candlelight march to the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

• Some 15,000 re-enactors and tourists crossed the battlefield known as Pickett's Charge on July 3, with another 25,000 watching from the sidelines. Walkers went from Seminary Ridge, where Confederates were massed July 3, 1863, to Cemetery Ridge, where Union forces were stationed and fought off the Confederate attack.

• Up to 5,000 parents and children participated each day from July 1-4 in family activities held in a tent near the Visitors Center & Museum.

• A total of 15,000 people attended "living history camps" for both Union and Confederate forces July 1-3, with hundreds of tents pitched and re-enactors showing how soldiers lived during the battle.

• A total of 110,000 people attended the nearly 300 lectures and battlefield tours given by park rangers from July 1-4.

"Attendance definitely met or exceeded our expectations," Ms. Lawhon said. "We especially wanted to attract younger visitors and new visitors, looking for the generation that will protect Gettysburg 20 or 30 years from now. We think we engaged those younger people."

Police said people complied with the law as well: There was just one arrest by park rangers, of a person charged with driving under the influence.

Gettysburg police reported no celebration-related arrests. Two men were charged after stealing a car July 3 and crashing it into a house, but police said the incident wasn't related to the festival.

"We were successful in having a safe experience for our visitors," Ms. Lawhon said.

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Tom Barnes: or 717-623-1238.


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