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County preparing for Civil War battle, again
5,000 visitors, $423,000 in revenues could result

By Daniel Silliman

Everybody knows how the Battle of Jonesborough will end this year.

It will end the way the battle ended in 1864, and the way it ends in every reenactment: The canons will fire, the Southern forces will be split and the supply lines will be cut, again, allowing General William T. Sherman to march into Atlanta.

Even though everyone knows how it ends, about 5,000 people are expected to come to Jonesboro to watch the battle and see the Confederate re-enactors try to take the day.

"They keep trying to win it every year, they keep trying every year," said Carol Cook, the event planner for Historical Jonesboro. "You cannot change history. You cannot change it, but what you can do is learn from it and move forward."

Education is one of the things that keeps people coming back to the fall festival, Cook said.

This year, Historical Jonesboro is increasing the education aspect of the four-day Autumn Oaks Festival and Battle of Jonesborough.

On Thursday, Oct. 11, there will be an education day for elementary and middle school students. On Friday, there will be a panel of educators and historians speaking to educators on the Civil War.

"There is going to be so much to learn," Cook said. "We need our kids to understand our heritage, not just our history, but our heritage. I feel like, if we can get to our kids and help their teachers teach these kids about our heritage, they'll have a little more respect."

Pat Duncan, president of the Clayton County Visitors Bureau, said the annual event is successful, in part, because it brings children in to see the "living history," and it becomes a family tradition.

"Of course," he said, "it's like an amusement park or a theme park -- you've got to add something new every once in a while to keep new people coming."

Interest in Civil War battles and re-enactments has been ramping up, recently, he said.

The Jonesboro event likely will bring in visitors interested in all things related to the four-year war, and locals who are interested in learning more about the area's past. It will bring people who are interested in the Southern side of the war and amateur historians who want to know why the battle -- which was "little more than a skirmish," Duncan said, "when compared to some battles" -- brought about the fall of Atlanta.

Those 5,000 people will bring in the historical society's major funding for the year. Cook hopes the 2007 event will raise between $15,000 and $20,000, which will be used to maintain, preserve and restore the historical properties owned by the group.

The event also serves as an annual economic boost to modern-day Jonesboro, Duncan said, with each visitor spending about $173. If half of the visitors are from out of town, the autumn festival and battle reenactment might bring $423,500 into the county.

The money is spent mostly on retail products, but also on lodging, transportation, food and amusement, Duncan said.

"That's really important to the county," he said.

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