Luminaries event to continue in spite of re-enactment cancellation

Charles Harbaugh

In the absence of a re-enactment at the Battle of Cedar Creek this year, Middletown will continue to host its annual luminaries event, where 964 candles light Main Street in honor of the 964 people who died in the Civil War battle.

Mayor Charles Harbaugh described hosting the event as a way to preserve the festivities surrounding the anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek, even though the annual re-enactment will not take place this year.

“We’re going to make the most out of it as we can and maybe see if there’s something else we can do…to make this a special event for families and still remember that solemn occasion,” Harbaugh said.

On July 3, the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation announced that it was canceling its annual re-enactment event.

That announcement came less than a year after the foundation received a threatening letter and canceled part of its annual re-enactment because officials were informed that there was a suspicious object at the site.

In the nearly four weeks since then, the foundation has not stated the reason for the cancellation, alluding only to “the safety of our reenactors and visitors” in a statement on its website. Joe D’Arezzo, the foundation’s president, has not responded to a request for comment.

Harbaugh declined to comment on the reason for the cancellation.

It is unclear what impact, if any, the cancellation of the Battle of Cedar Creek re-enactment will have at the Belle Grove Historic Plantation. During the annual re-enactments, the plantation, which is next to the Cedar Creek Battlefield, traditionally hosts living history events.

“We have the house open, and we have costumed interpreters in different rooms talking about the civilian life,” Kristen Laise, the executive director at Belle Grove, said.

Laise said that she hopes to do something during the Cedar Creek anniversary.

“But we needed to make sure that there’s not going to be any issues of safety for either our living historians or visitors or staff,” Laise said.

An official determination from Belle Grove will not come for several weeks, Laise said.

“We have a lot of different partners to consult with,” Laise said.

That will be the fourth year that Middletown has had luminaries lighting up Main Street in honor of the Battle of Cedar Creek casualties. Harbaugh said that the event came out of a similar event in Antietam honoring the 23,000 people who were killed, wounded or missing at that battle.

“I thought that if they can do 23,000, Middletown can do 964,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh said that he plans on also inviting re-enactors into Middletown to commemorate the battle by helping people light the luminaries.