After having to cancel last year's event due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it was a return to normalcy on the first weekend of May at the Richland County Fairgrounds in Mansfield, Ohio.
The 43rd Ohio Civil War & Artillery Show brought out the big guns, along with many dealers and collectors as well as those who just love military history.
The event had to change things up a bit due to the pandemic; tables were more spread out, masks were required, and social distancing encouraged.
"We're back at full speed," said Teresa Drushell, who now runs the annual military history event with her two brothers. "This show was started by my father Don Williams 44 years ago, and he let nothing stop it. We're so happy that after having to cancel last year, that we're back to almost normal. That has meant following the guidelines, including masks and social distancing, but we've had no problems with dealers and attendees doing what it took to make the show happen."
Apart from last year, the Ohio Civil War Show has been going strong since it first began 44 years ago with just 60 tables. As Drushell noted, nothing had previously kept it from occurring, including the passing of Don Williams. It has become a family affair and has continued to grow in size.
A Show That Continues To Grow
The show now consists of seven-hundred tables of merchandize and many impressive displays. While "Civil War" is in the name, the Ohio Civil War Show now covers all periods, from the Revolutionary War to the Second World War. In that regard, it has become an event that is much like a "Comic Con" for those who have a passion for military history and for those who prefer to learn about the exploits of real heroes rather than fictional ones in goofy costumes.
The weekend-long event now features cannon firings, re-enactors from multiple eras, live period bands, and plenty of antique arms to see and even buy – if you brought enough money. Prices were up from years past, but many dealers – who trekked from across the country – were eager to sell.
"We thought after canceling last year that it could be the end," said Drushell. "Instead, we're seeing a lot of younger re-enactors, and also a fair share of new dealers. That means there is new blood in the hobby."
In fact, while there were concerns the dealers might not return, the show was sold out and had a lengthy waiting list. Given the renewed interest, Drushell and her brothers Wayne and Greg Williams plan to keep the show going for the foreseeable future.
Combating PC Culture
It wasn't the pandemic that could be the biggest threat to the show, however. In many ways, it could be argued the nation is in a "different place" than it was when the show began, or even how things were just a couple of years ago. Those comic book heroes are more popular than real history, and many kids would rather play video games than see an actually cannon. Likewise, there have been calls by some anti-Second Amendment protestors to ban all gun shows – including those that feature antique arms.
PC culture remains the greatest problem. It isn't just monuments to Confederate soldiers have come down in recent years, but even statues honoring American patriots like President Abraham Lincoln have been in the crosshairs of some extreme protestors. It would be wrong to think this is an event that honors those who sought to tear the nation apart, and rather is about paying respects to those who fought to preserve it.
"We thought there could be backlash," said Wayne Williams. "But nothing really transpired. This show is about history, not controversy. I was asked if we'd fly the Confederate flag at the show, and my answer was 'darn right,' because we're about the history."
Peter Suciu is a freelance writer based in Michigan. Contact him at email@example.com.