Businesses prepare for big Cedar Creek crowds

By Ryan Cornell

MIDDLETOWN — For many Middletown businesses, the third weekend in October is the busiest time of the year.

Upward of 10,000 spectators and 6,000 reenactors — give or take a couple thousand depending on this weekend’s weather — are expected to fill the town each day for the Battle of Cedar Creek sesquicentennial. Some have already begun trickling into the area’s restaurants, stores and hotels.

Inside the Italian Touch, a whiteboard sign greets hungry reenactors with a welcome scrawled in marker.

Manager Tim Palmer described the Cedar Creek crowd as the “Apple Blossom Festival of Middletown.”

“It’s one of those things where you get bombarded,” he said, “and it’s exciting and overwhelming at the same time.”

At the Dollar General, Assistant Store Manager Steve Clemens said customers will usually have two items on their shopping list this weekend.

“A lot of people when they come in, they want two things, and we never have them: they want American flag stuff and they want oil for their lanterns,” he said. “We never carry it, but they come in asking for it.”

He said customers might want to drive a little further north to Southern States for oil.

Clemens said he’s already received his first request for lantern oil Wednesday night, and has noticed a steady stream of new faces since then.

“We’re seeing a lot of new people we haven’t seen from around here,” he said. “This is a small town, so we pretty much know everyone who comes in here from Strasburg up to Stephens City, and we’re starting to see a flow of new people coming through here.”

Exactly one year after purchasing the Wayside Inn in an auction, owners Len and Becky Reeves were preparing the bed and breakfast on Thursday for a full house.

According to Becky Reeves, it’s the first time since they began owning the inn that all 22 rooms have been booked.

Guests started reserving rooms at the beginning of the year, she said, with as many as five people sharing some rooms.

She said they’ve already received their first reservation for next year’s reenactment weekend from someone who couldn’t make it this year due to an injury.

Because of the sheer volume of guests, they’ve decided to offer buffet-style dinners on Friday and Saturday night.

Becky Reeves added that they’re hoping to serve some of the cavalry reenactors, who would travel from the battlefield to the inn on horseback.

“They called to see if [their horses] could graze in our backyard, and we said, ‘Certainly,’ while the soldiers have a pint, I guess.”

Back at the Italian Touch, Palmer said they’re opening another section of the restaurant to accommodate the large crowds.

He said workers from other Italian Touch locations will help out at the Middletown restaurant.

“It’s not your typical Thursday night or Friday weekend, it’s a little more than that,” Palmer said. “This is the day on the calendar that nobody gets off.”

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com