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Perry Cuskey

Anniversary Weekend

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Normally the main event for me during the anniversary is taking part in the various hikes. This year was a little different in that respect, as I only went on three hikes during the weekend. The rest of the time I was out doing independent studies, as Mona would say. I spent some time walking around taking pictures as well, including several of those then-and-now shots. It's a good way to see how the park has (and in some cases hasn't) changed over the years, I've found. You can learn some interesting things just wandering around on your own, snapping pictures.

Other than that, probably the main thing I came away from this year was the answer to a question I've wondered about for a while now. The question relates to last year being the big One-Five-Oh for Shiloh, and boils down to this: Now what?

Once the Big Anniversary was over with, what came next? Would interest in the park and the battle begin to fade for several years, or would it pick up? Would the anniversary hikes be continued, expanded, cut back? What, if anything, would change for Shiloh after we passed from 150 to 151 and beyond?

It's only one year later of course, but it looks to me as if the early answer to the Now What question is pretty encouraging.

For one thing, the hikes have not only been continued, they've been expanded. And interest in them does not appear to be waning, judging by some of the ones I saw, and the three I was on. No, there wasn't the 200+ per hike like last year for the 150th, but the numbers were solid compared to previous years. The Dawn Patrol Hike, for instance, I'd rough-guess had around 50 people along. That thing starts at 5:00 a.m., so that's a good crowd. And most of them were even awake. :) The next hike I was on had about that many, and the other one I'm sure had more than that.

Plus, the park has expanded the anniversary programs beyond just the hikes. They did this last year, but you had to wonder if that was simply because of The Big One, or if they would continue. To this point at least, they've been continued, and it appears this will be the case going forward. So even folks who may not want to take part in the hikes, or perhaps can't really do so, now have other options. This is a good thing.

And the crowds on Saturday were nothing to sneeze at, even aside from the hikes. When I headed over to the visitors center area at one point, the parking lot was so crowded they were using the field to the south for overflow parking, and had people out front directing traffic. This was also the case last year, but again, last year was The Big One. This year was The First Next One. So the crowds were a minor annoyance and a pleasant surprise.

The park was also looking awfully spiffy, more so than I've probably ever seen it. Park trails have been widened and/or improved, including those leading out to fairly remote markers and monuments. Other areas have been cleared of intruding brush, and a number of position markers have received a fresh coat of paint. And new signs are everywhere, replacing once-existing signs that have not been in place for decades. Every field, or at least the vast majority of them, has been identified with a new sign. As well as several prominent landmarks, troop locations, and camp lines newly (re)identified with signage. And when I say new, I mean so new that you could literally still smell the paint when you walked past them.

We also can't forget the expanded and re-done main tour route from a few years back. And of course last year saw the debut of the new film.

Taken all together, it strikes me that the battlefield park is moving forward, in the best sense of the word. And there's probably more to come. So even though I may have had the "Now What" question in the back of my mind when I arrived on Thursday evening, by the time I left on Monday morning, the answer I had was, "some pretty good things."

I realize that we might not all agree with some of the decisions they make regarding the park, or the interpretation of the battle. There's room for disagreement about such things. But on the whole, I think the park and the interpretation of the battle are both in some good hands. What I saw at the park this past weekend only reinforced that.


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