The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is chartering two buses on December 5, 2009, for the 21st Annual Memorial Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield. One hundred tickets will be sold for the guided bus tour of the event.
"The Antietam Illumination is awe-inspiring. It is a popular event with visitors and residents alike," said CVB President Tom Riford. "We are excited about chartering buses and offering special guided tours of the event. This should be a great trip, and one of the best parts is the opportunity to avoid having to wait in the long line of traffic to get into the battlefield." Riford added. The specially-chartered buses are brought to the front of the staging area, according to organizers of the Illumination.
Charissa Stanton , the CVB's Public Relations Specialist, and Betsy De Vore, Director of Sales for the CVB, will be the tour guides for the evening. They will share a collection of quotes from soldiers and civilians about the Battle of Antietam, as well as an overview of the battle.
In 2007 the CVB offered guided bus tours of the illumination. Initial plans were to charter one bus to see if there was any interest from the public. The CVB ended up chartering a second bus because of the popularity.
“Both buses were filled to capacity and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves immensely,” said De Vore. “It quickly became clear that this was something we should offer every year.”
The American Bus Association (ABA) designated the Antietam Illumination as one of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2008 by an elite tourism industry selection committee. Inclusion in the Top 100 list, published as a supplement to the September/October issue of Destinations Magazine, indicates that the Annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination offers excellent entertainment value to both tour groups and individual travelers from around the world.
"The Illumination is a must-see event at Antietam," Stanton said. "It is absolutely breathtaking and the large windows on the charter allow you to see in every direction."
Since 1989 an annual remembrance of the battle of Antietam has been held the first Saturday in December. It is signified by 23,110 luminaries, one placed every 15 feet along a 5 mile route, throughout the fields, and around monuments. Volunteers systematically set up the luminaries throughout the day, and candles are lit starting at 3 p.m. Last year, the National Park Service announced that more than 20,000 people experience the Illumination, from 6 p.m. until midnight.
The annual event is sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Antietam National Battlefield, in cooperation with the American Business Women's Association, annually hosts the Annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination in honor of those soldiers who fell during the Battle of Antietam. The event is also known as the largest volunteer single-day event in Western Maryland, with more than 1,200 volunteers setting out the luminaries. The event has been called the largest memorial illumination in North America.
Tickets for the CVB charter buses will be available from the Visitor Welcome Center at 6 North Potomac Street in downtown Hagerstown starting Monday November 2. The cost is $20 for adults and $15 for children under the age of 10. On the night of December 5, refreshments will be served at the Welcome Center starting at 5:15 p.m. and the bus will depart promptly at 6:00 p.m. In case of inclement weather, refunds will be issued. For more information call 301-791-3246 ext. 10.
To find out more about Hagerstown-Washington County , go to www.marylandmemories.com. For more information about the Annual Memorial Illumination, visit www.nps.gov/anti/planyourvisit/luminary.htm. Washington County is part of the Maryland state-certified Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area (www.heartofthecivilwar.org), and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area (http://hallowedground.org). Washington County is also part of the Quad-State Tourism Coalition, a four-state tourism group along I-81. For more information, see: www.quadstate81.com.