The one thing I loved to do as a WW2 reenactor/collector was to display my stuff in public. This is something we don't see enough of in my neck of the woods as far as Civil War reenacting is concerned. Although the general public likes the sound of musketry, sometimes I think it's good to just display what you got and just talk about it. We all paid a pretty penny for it, so it's only right to show it off.
The value to a display is the closeness and attention the audience receives. I find that most people love to talk, and that's a great segway into an introduction to the hobby. In our WW2 displays, this was always the case. Occasionally we'd hook a vet, and the stories would be told to other people who took an interest in the displays. What a pay off! But, with Civil War, that'll never be case, but there will always be people who want to see and ask questions.
Displays are a great place to encourage and field one-on-one questions. Yes, some of those questions will not be so smart, but I find that issue to be in the vast minority of the total. I operate by the old military saying that "the only dumb question is the one left unasked." Sometimes there will be jaw-droppers, but hey, we're here to educate, right?
Though battles are fun, they do lack a one-on-one quality that really speaks to people. You see a battle from afar, and though you can talk to reenactors in camp, it isn't the same as reenactors who want to talk to you about what they do. Many times after a battle, it's hard to find someone to talk to who isn't raring to wind down from a loud, hot and grueling battle scenario. Before a battle, most reenactors are busy and can't really spend the time with an enquiring mind.
Make no mistake, the bottom line for most groups is that displays are the most powerful marketing tool that a reenactors have. When I was doing my stint with the Old Hickory Association, that's how we hooked at least three new recruits, two of which were brought in at the same display. So, instead of voting for that extra battle an hour or two away, do a little bit of "home work" and do a display instead.
A question to throw to reenactor readers of StE(R): Does your group do displays, and what kind of response do you get in your "neck of the woods"?