The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee (GAC) was formed in 1995 by local community members. For smaller events the event staff totals approximately 150 and for five-year events approximately 400. The organization is comprised entirely of local folks, from the Gettysburg and Adams County area, who leave their full-time lives for a week in July and come together as one to make this event happen responsibly. The staff come from all walks of life, but have a common bond of cherishing and appreciating the historic community we live in. Many of us have been working together on this event for all 19 years. The senior staff has decades of professional emergency management, event management, public service, administrative and business experience in this community as well the local, state and federal level. One of the main reasons GAC was formed in 1995 was to consistently and responsibly organize the Gettysburg Civil War Reenactment. Up to that point, year after year, organizers came and went leaving pathetic event logistics, unpaid bills and local carnage in their wake. On Sunday evening after the event these organizers were gone and did not have to walk down the street on Monday morning to face their friends, public officials or neighbors. When this organization was formed in 1995, even though we were local and well known, most local providers would not participate in the event or extend credit to us for services due to the dismal history with previous reenactment organizers. Over the years we had to earn their respect the hard way! We had to earn it!
With 19 years of historic performance, The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee has earned the deep rooted respect and gratitude of the local community and municipalities for responsibly organizing the Annual Gettysburg Reenactment. We feel we have also earned the respect of most of the reenactment community that have attended our events, for our superb organization. There is generally never a problem with reenactor needs like wood, water, clean toilets, ice, emergency medical services, shuttles, traffic control, wildfire suppression, security and event management. We run the event utilizing a National Incident Command System model as outlined in the National Response Plan by the Department of Homeland Security. It has not always been easy to operate at a high level as there are few “normal” reenactments. Heat, humidity, injury, illness, high wind, lightning strikes, too much rain and flooding seem to be constants in the hobby. A high level of organizational performance is difficult enough at a normal event. Now throw in any of the aforementioned issues; risks increase, services decrease and the difficulty of responsible performance become much more difficult. This is especially true if there is no relationship with local providers, institutions and governmental bodies. Most reenactors who have been to a number of events, have experienced exactly what we are referring to.
The 149TH Anniversary Gettysburg Reenactment was a prime example of a potential calamity. The Gettysburg 149TH was definitely going to be a nice smaller event. Then the 101 degree heat with 107 Real Feel descended – for the entire weekend. Knowing the event was going to be diminished due to the intense heat do you cut back on resources? No – quite the opposite! As organizers we had a responsibility and obligation to the reenactors, the visitors and our community. We actually instigated additional resources and changes.
Planning for the 150th Gettysburg National Civil War Battle Reenactment had been going on in our community for over a year. Community organizations like the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Gettysburg/Adams Chamber of Commerce, The Gettysburg Foundation, The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, and local institutions like Gettysburg College and The Lutheran Seminary, and government agencies like the National Park Service, Gettysburg Borough, Cumberland Township and Adams County have come together and had been meeting on a monthly basis for over a year to insure a coordinated and quality experience for everyone. The 150th Gettysburg National Battle Reenactment has been called by some Gettysburg’s Olympic Moment. This collaboration led to the 150th Gettysburg Kick-Off last April where for the first time ever, there was living history and an actual skirmish at The Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary and fighting on Baltimore Street in downtown Gettysburg. Three other communities, Chambersburg, Greencastle and Fairfield, all with their own rich civil war heritage, also participated with events. The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee and its staff led the way in making all that happen and supplied the volunteer planning, leadership and resources as a proud and committed community members. This is just one example where it has been necessary to not only plan for the reenactment, but to also plan for the multitude of other events that had been announced and scheduled. The eyes of the world was on Gettysburg and we fulfilled the commitment.
Jim Fox, our Director of Planning & Command Center Supervisor for the past 19 years, was formerly the Emergency Management Director for the Adams County and is currently on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Response and Recovery Team. He has been meeting with the municipalities, Gettysburg Hospital, Adams County officials, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and the Pennsylvania Emergency Medical Services Federation to coordinate event planning efforts. For over 19 years The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee prides itself as having one of the best living history areas of any reenactment in the country. Living History coordinator Kirk Davis has been there all of these years making it happen. The living history area just gets better every year. Timon Linn, 19 years as GAC’s Deputy Director of Operations is a Gettysburg native. Timon has forty years in the reenactment hobby. He served Gettysburg as a Fire Chief and a municipal police officer. With 36 years in law enforcement, Director Public Safety; at Gettysburg College, Deputy Chief of Police at Elon University and recently retired as Chief from St. John’s College, Annapolis he brings a vast amount of knowledge and experience from both sides of the reenactment community. The Director of Operations/Incident Commander for the past 19 years is Randy Phiel. Randy is a 30 year veteran retired U.S. Law Enforcement Ranger for the NPS with an extensive background in event operations, emergency services, wildfire suppression, homeland security, dignitary protection and incident command. The York County Wildland Firefighting crew has been with us for at least 16 years. They arrive before the first reenactor sets foot on the property and do not leave until Monday morning. Many of the crew are also EMT’s and paramedics. One of the crew is an emergency room trauma physician who was extremely valuable after the lightning strike during the 148TH Reenactment. The extensive EMS staff are professionals from both the Gettysburg and Hanover areas who come back year after year offering a wealth of specific event experience. Our long-time office Administrator, Joanne Sease, is very dedicated and experienced when handling either Reenactor, visitor, community or media matters. Media Coordinator Andrea DiMartino is another community member who has been part of the organization for all 18 years.
As an organization we learned one thing very early in our history. When you organize a reenactment there are three very, very critical constituencies. They are the Reenactors, the Visitors and the Community. Too often one or more is neglected. It is consistently our goal to equally and responsibly serve all three. There is a reason that very few groups organize large reenactments. It is normally difficult, it takes experience and it is risky. As the Gettysburg Reenactment organization we continue to consistently learn and improve every year. That is good for the Reenactors, the Visitors and the Community. It also enables us to walk down the street every Monday morning, when the event has concluded, and hold our heads high.
We look forward to and welcome your participation in each Annual Gettysburg Civil War Reenactment. Reenacting this iconic and pivotal battle that took place July 1863 is a tribute to the soldiers who gave their all more than 150 years ago.
The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee
Each year the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, local organizers of the Annual Gettysburg Reenactment, choose several community and preservation causes and support these organizations with a portion of the proceeds from the event. Some of the past beneficiary’s have included The Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Association, National Park Service Cannon Restoration, Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg, The Civil War Trust, Brandy Station Battlefield, The National Historic Trust for preservation, the Lincoln Train Station, Marine Sgt. Eric McColley scholarship fund, The Wounded Warriors Support Fund, The Adams County Historical Society, The Land Conservancy of Adams County, The National Wreath Project and The Daniel Lady Farm.
All of these organizations do a wonderful job of improving our community and quality of life working with very limited budgets. Financial and volunteer support is needed and appreciated by all these noble organizations. For the past 18 years, The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee has supported, and will continue to support, community and preservation causes that reflect the heritage of our very special community.