SIDNEY — Tawawa Park will be alive with preparations for Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend beginning Thursday. The park will close to visitor vehicular traffic Thursday evening, Sept. 15, at 7:01 p.m., and not reopen to visitor vehicular traffic until Monday, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m.
It is expected that the first overnight guests will begin arriving Thursday.
“Sutlers and some military units coming in from considerable distance away have advised that they will arrive on Thursday,” said Shelby County Historical Society Director Tilda Phlipot. Phlipot is a member of Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend Planning Committee.
The park will have numerous activities during the weekend, with the first being the Sidney Rotary Club’s annual Pancake Breakfast. The breakfast will be served at Tawawa Park’s Geib Pavilion from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17. Tickets are available from Rotary members in advance at $6 each. Tickets can be purchased onsite the morning of the breakfast for $7 each.
City lots in nearby designated parking areas (watch for signs) are being used for event parking.
“There are more than 2,000 parking spaces nearby,” said Sidney Parks and Recreation Director Duane Gaier. “Volunteers using golf carts will help transport handicapped individuals to the Ross Bridge. From there, they will be able to easily get to the Confederate encampment, the Union encampment and the civilian camping area.”
“There will also be a Shelby Public Transit van that can assist with moving guests from the outlying parking lots to the drop-off point near the Union encampment, and then back to the respective parking lots when they have finished their visit,” Gaier said. Gaier is also a member of the planning committee.
“We have worked hard to put together a program that will appeal to reenactors as well as to residents who simply want to learn more about the Civil War era,” veteran reeanactor and former Sidney resident Douglas Slagel said. “In addition to visitors being able to catch a realistic glimpse of camp life, they will also be able to attend sessions in the Education Tent that will provide additional information about everything from the life of the common soldier to medicine in the Civil War to learning more about luminaries such as Clement Vallandigham and Harriet Beecher Stowe.” Slagel too is a member of the planning committee.
“The civilian camp will include tents for sutlers, who will have wares for sale,” Elizabeth Topping said. “In addition, civilians who would have followed the army will be encamped there. The Education Tent will also be located in the civilian camp,” Topping stated. The Education Tent will host the various guest speakers as well as church services during the two-day weekend. Topping is a veteran reenactor and a member of the planning committee.
“We have spent a great deal of time working to create an environment that will cause reenactors to want to return to this venue in 2018,” J.R. Sharp said. Sharp is the Confederate commander for this event and also a member of the planning committee. “Union Commander Tim Bills and I have worked out a number of scenarios in which our troops will be skirmishing throughout the two-day event. In addition, there will be major battles both days at 2 p.m., and what we believe will be a spectacular night battle on Saturday evening beginning at 9 p.m. “
“The Sidney event has been the talk of the re-enacting world. If it continues, I can see it only growing larger and larger,” Sharp said. “Tawawa is a remarkable venue, and once those who have attended return home and tell their friends, they too, will want to come in the future.”
“In putting the event together, we made every attempt to include a wide variety of activities,” said Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst. “We were fortunate to ‘recruit’ the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regimental Band. They are playing at the unveiling of the new Lincoln statue in Dayton earlier on Saturday, and will arrive in Sidney in time for their concert at 7 p.m. They opted to come to Sidney rather than travel to another Civil War event – and I’m delighted that they did.”
“They will be playing in concert at Geib Pavilion,” Barhorst said. “Those attending should bring lawn chairs or a blanket on which to sit. In the event of rain, the band will move to the Sidney High School Auditorium.” Barhorst is also a member of Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend Planning Committee.
The band will also play limited religious selections early Sunday morning following the Catholic Mass and during the period Baptist service. A period Latin Mass will be celebrated by the Rev. Frank Amberger, pastor of the Church of the Holy Angels. Mass will begin at 7:15 a.m.
A period Baptist service will be held at 8:45 a.m. in the Eductation Tent. George Gnade, pastor of the First Baptist Church, will preside over that service.
Those attending either service will be permitted to drive their vehicles to the parking lot at Wagner Glade, where the education tent will be located. Those who attend the religious services will need to leave immediately after the service concludes.
“A limited number of souvenir programs have been printed for the event,” Phlipot stated. “They will be for sale for a suggested $5 each, with a few copies of a deluxe edition available at $10 each.”
The program will include a listing of the names of soldiers from Shelby County who served in the Civil War. While the listing is the work of a number of people, it is primarily the work of Debbie Neubert Barber, who compiled the list of Shelby County’s Civil War veterans from various source material. It is believed to be the most complete listing yet collected.
Barber began compiling the list in 2013 for an exhibition honoring the 150th anniversary of the Civil War at the Ross Historical Center. For that exhibition, each soldier’s name was placed on a star so that when seeing the constellation, visitors to the Ross Center would gain a better understanding of the tremendous sacrifice made by Shelby Countians during that conflict.
“We will also have peanuts in hand-made, souvenir bags available,” Phlipot said. “They will be available for a $5 donation.”
The proceeds from the sale of the programs and the souvenir bags of peanuts will benefit the efforts of the Shelby County Historical Society. Additional funds raised as a result of the event will be used to restore tombstones of local Civil War veterans.
“Grave restoration is near and dear to the heart of J.R. Sharp,” Barhorst said. “By accident, my wife and I found the tombstone of Private Cyrus Russell ready to topple over one day when we were in Graceland Cemetery. Since my wife is a member of the Russell Family, we took it upon ourselves to rescue the stone.”
“With the help of the folks at Nickol Monument, we believe that the stone should stand for another 150 years. When J.R. suggested this cause, it made sense. It was only after the stone was back in place that I learned that Private Russell died in 1862 as a result of wounds he suffered in battle.”
The Board of Trustees of the Monumental Building will be opening the building so that visitors can see the memorial tablets. The tablets contain the names of the more than 300 Shelby Countians who died during the Civil War.
“The Trustees thought that it was important that those attending the Civil War Living History Weekend have the opportunity to stop, see the memorial tablets and hear the story of how the Monumental Building came to be,” local historian and Monumental Building Trustee Rich Wallace said. “The building was the first in Ohio constructed to both honor those who died in the Civil War and serve the community.”
“The Monumental Building served as the home of the Grand Army of the Republic,” Wallace said. “It also served as the offices for the City of Sidney, Clinton Township and housed the library. For many years, it was the center of the community.”
The tablet room will be open on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. It will be open on Sunday, Sept. 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There will be limited food and drink available onsite. The Boy Scouts will have ice and a variety of drinks available. Food will also be available.
The venue is free and open to the public.
“There seems to be tremendous pre-event buzz in reenacting circles,” Barhorst said. “There has been a great deal of planning that has gone into this event. Now we can simply pray for great weather and the rest should take care of itself.”