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Sullivan leaders considering giving taxpayer money to help fund re-creation of Battle of Blountville

J. H. Osborne • May 11, 2013 at 10:59 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — More than 500 re-enactors have committed to participate in the Battle of Blountville this year, according to public discussions last week by Sullivan County commissioners.

The Sullivan County Commission is considering giving $1,500 of taxpayer money toward sponsorship of the event, which will “celebrate” the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle.

Supporters of the plan say what is being promoted as the “Official 150th Battle of Blountville Re-enactment and Sesquicentennial Celebrations” will pump money into the local economy.

The theory is that event participants and attendees will spend money while they’re here, which will provide direct and indirect economic benefits by boosting sales and local businesses and generate sales tax revenues.

County commissioners have mostly spoken in favor of the funding. Commissioner Ed Marsh has questioned it.

Marsh said he supports the event and is willing to make a private donation himself, but he’s not sure the county should be spending general fund money on it.

One commissioner reasoned that if each of the 500 re-enactors were to spend $300 during the three-day event, that would mean an extra $15,000 for the local economy.

Commissioner Pat Shull asked if some of the 500 re-enactors who already have signed up are to portray Union troops. When told yes, Shull laughed and said you have to have the bad guys.

The issue could come for a vote by the full commission on May 20.

According to the Sullivan County Department of Archives and Tourism’s website, the celebrations are scheduled for Sept. 6-8 at the historic Hawley Farm in Blountville.

“This exciting event will be held as a special tribute to the Battle of Blountville which occurred on 22 September 1863,” according to the website. “Under new leadership of the Battle of Blountville Military Park Committee, the event coordinators are offering a $125 bounty for the first five (5) artillery pieces. Powder rations will be issued to the first 100 pre-registered soldiers. Meals and usual amenities will be provided for the re-enactors. Visitors will enjoy the historic Hawley farm which provides a beautiful scenic backdrop for the re-enactment. New to this year’s event, an old-time county fair will be held on adjoining property.”

The three-day schedule includes:

• Sept. 6 (Fri.) “Civil War Heritage Day” for local schools.

• Sept. 7 (Sat.) Battle of Blountville Re-Enactment and Old-Time County Fair.

• Sept. 8 (Sun.), Battle of Blountville Re-Enactment and Old-Time County Fair.

Also according to the county’s archives and tourism website, a groundbreaking is scheduled two weeks later, along with a dedication ceremony, for the “Battle of Blountville Military Park.”

That will be at 11 a.m. on Sept. 23, according to the website (www.historicsullivan.com).

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