"Let's try something new, but it has to be done like before."
It looks like the Battle of Selma is going to make a come-back. But the question remains, will this come-back be true or just another way of delaying doom? I've written on this before with passion, and I still very much stand behind that post.
Before I go on though, I want to make a point clear. I'm not against the existence of the reenacted battle of Selma. I do use it as an example of an event that has an unsteady foundation based on non-reenactors having decision-making power over an event that should cater to reenactors first and foremost. Selma is a parable that all reenactors should take heed of.
A couple a pargraphs down, the Selma Times News-Journal article covering the reemergence of Selma says:
Key to the future of the event is the appointment of a new Battle Chairman, Chuck Yeargan of Yeargan Construction in Selma. "We are excited Chuck has agreed to serve as Battle Chairman; it is vital to success of the event for someone from the community to run the show," said Dave Neel, president of the authority,
This is what inspired my initial quote at the beginning of the post. Since I'm not in a position to cast any judgements on Mr. Yeargan, I'll avoid any direct references to his abilities. But this is the same thing that the sponsors of the event did before; having a non-reenactor try to run the show.
Yeargan brings enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to the Battle, and he is committed to coordinating efforts to promote and prepare for the event, Neel said. "When the Battle was cancelled this spring, I realized that it was an important part of Selma, and I wanted to get involved to keep it going," Yeargan said.
OK, how fresh of a perspective can he bring? Mr. Yeargen should be all ears to the reenactors if he wants to make this event something that'll bring back good reenactors, and create a good event. The problem with Selma 1.0 is that the event sponsors opened the doors wide-open to anyone who wanted to attend. Big mistake. Selma 2.0 needs to cultivate attendance with authentic groups, create factual scenarios that don't always end in a Confederate win, and use some creativity to engage the spectators more. Create an event that good reenactors want to go to.
The Authority is planning numerous changes that it hopes will promote reenactor participation and spectator attendance alike. The standing date has been moved up a week, so that conflicts with Confederate Memorial Day (the Alabama State holiday falls on the fourth Monday in April) will be avoided in the future. "This addresses a long-standing problem for many reenacting units that are committed to participation in local memorial ceremonies, and should also prevent conflicts with NASCAR races at Talladega," Neel said.
BUT are they going to be mindful of other reenacting events that'll happen within that time also? It doesn't matter if you can't attract the reenactors first and foremost. If so, moving the dates around may not be such a bad move. Again, reenactors go to the good events, so Selma needs to overcome its previous reputation to be a draw.
A major effort will also be spearheaded by Yeargan to rebuild the earthworks at the event site. The passage of almost 20 years has taken its toll on the wooden backing of the fortifications, and complete replacement, rather than continued repair, is the logical option. Campsite relocation is also contemplated to lessen the impact of rain during the event or high waters on the river in the weeks prior to the Battle.
Yeargen is a construction contractor, so that's a plus to getting the battlefield back into shape, if that is really needed. Also, good reenactors can deal with the elements. I hate rain, but I can get through and enjoy an event while it's raining.
In real terms though, it's going to take a colossal effort to get the Battle of Selma back on track, including minimizing the influence of Selma's business community to make this event a cash-cow, rather than a quality event that'll have reenactor interest and a long life. The 33rd Alabama seems like a group that's progressively minded, so hopefully they'll be able to have the main say in how the event is presented and executed.