County receives sesquicentennial recognition

With the focus of Civil War interpretation shifting to the Reconstruction Era, the Shenandoah County Sesquicentennial Committee was recognized for its efforts by the state recently.

At a Memorial Day ceremony in Richmond, committee members were on hand to receive an award from the Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission.

Jenna French, county director of tourism and marketing, said the recognition “shows that we’ve got an amazing group of local citizens and historical organizations.”

French also noted that “most of the work was really done” by her predecessors on the committee and that her role largely came toward the end of the sesquicentennial.

The committee was formed in 2008, and received this recognition for its programming, including the “Caring for the Wounded” brochure.

Terry Heder, director of interpretation at the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation and one of the committee’s original members, said the recognition is a tribute to all of the hard work over the years.

Although talk about Civil War commemoration has centered on the end of the war lately, Heder said he does not see this as “an end to anything.”

“It’s just the next stage of how we promote visitation to our Civil War-related sites,” he added.

Heder called the sesquicentennial “a golden opportunity” for groups and counties to “catch visitors’ attention and bring new audiences to sites throughout the valley.

“Our feeling is that we have been able to … use these years to build a greater awareness for these great sites and resources.”

With this attention, Heder said the battlefield foundation is working with localities and tourism partners to “increase the ability of the Civil War story” in the Shenandoah Valley.

For example, the foundation is working on a “new driving tour for the Battle of New Market,” Heder noted.

The foundation recently announced the completion of the Strayer House on May 15, a new edition to its orientation center in New Market.

With the driving tours, Heder said the intention is to give visitors an expanded look at the larger battlefield beyond the land that is physically preserved.

“The Battle of New Market came right through the city streets … and along the Valley Turnpike, and went as far East as Smith Creek and all way to the crossing of the Shenandoah near Mount Jackson,” Heder said.

He added that the goal is to “include all of those sites and those stories and stops” in these planned driving tours.

Heder said the guided tours are one idea that the foundation and localities have for the future of Civil War interpretation in the Shenandoah Valley.

“That was always the goal,” he said, “To make sure that, with the sesquicentennial, we accomplish something permanent.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com