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Civil War Weekend cancellation a bust for small business

MANASSAS — The annual Civil War Weekend in Downtown Manassas is canceled.

The three-day event that had been planned for Aug. 25, 26, and 27 draws hundreds to the city each August, where period re-enactors flock to the city museum lawn to show how Civil War soldiers lived. Live bands and a period dance were also planned as part of the event.

The cancellation comes after the recent white nationalist’s rally and counter protests in Charlottesville where one woman was killed, and two Virginia State Police troopers died when the helicopter they were flying to monitor the protests crashed.

“Recent events have ignited passions in this country surrounding the Civil War and the symbols representing it. The City of Manassas is saddened by these events and abhors the violence happening around the country. The city does not wish to further exacerbate the situation.” said Manassas spokeswoman Patty Prince.

The decision to cancel the event was made following a string of meetings about the event held Tuesday at city hall. Prince said no permit application had been filed by protesters, and that there is no credible threat to the city. She added the city does not have enough police manpower to guarantee public safety should one arise.

“As Chief of Police, my concerns are and will always focus on the safety of our community – residents, and visitors. There is a balancing act with providing a safe environment and ensuring constitutional rights are protected,” said Manassas Police Chief Douglas Keen.

The city will save between $10,000 and $15,000 by canceling the event. It won’t have to pay a band, provide food to reenactors, or pay police overtime to patrol the event.

For small business owners who rely on events like this to draw people downtown, it’s a loss.

“Aside from the fact that we’ve been preparing for it by adding extra stock, it’s a shame that people can’t go to local events like this because of the climate we live in,” said Calico Jacks owner Kristy Murphy.

Her shop sells Virginia peanuts, as well as locally-made candles, coffee, and tea. She could lose as much as $1,000 in anticipated revenue, which may not seem like a lot of money to a larger business, for Murphy, “that’s rent,” she said.

This week, the nation has been embroiled in a debate over whether or not to remove Confederate statues from public spaces. On the Manassas National Battlefield in Prince William County, a statue of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson will stay.

However, the names of two county schools — Stonewall Middle, and Stonewall Jackson Senior High School — are in question.

The Battle of 1st Manassas in 1861 was one of the first battles of the war, where Stonewall Jackson earned his nickname. Two major battles were fought here.

 Tourists from all over the country flock to the region to walk the battlefield, and then tour the shops in Manassas, which served as a major railroad junction during the war.

Photo: Manassas City

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