On Saturday night of this week, December 5, 23,110 luminaries (candles in bags held in place by sand) will be lighted at Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland in honor of that same number of casualties from the September 1862 battle. The event has happened the first Saturday night in December since 1988.
Visitors will be asked to turn off their headlights and drive along the tour route to witness the event. Volunteers at the National Park had said for years they had not been aware of just how many twenty-three thousand casualties were until they saw the candles displayed on the fields of battle. The candles seem to go on and on and on.
Organizers say the event takes about 1,000 volunteers, from Boy Scout groups, civil war groups, local churches, and the like to put out and light the candles. Many of those groups have been participating since the beginning. Candles are places in neat rows, the same distance apart in each direction, causing a crisscross effect. Passengers on airplanes in landing patterns to Baltimore Washington International Airport have reported being able to see the spectacular site from the air.
The event is free and open from 6 p.m. and throughout the night. Donations are accepted to help pay the costs of the candles, bags and sand but otherwise the lighting is free. The event is sanctioned by the Antietam National Battlefield. Event sponsors include the American Business Women’s Association and the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Georgene and Ron Charles have ben co-chairing the event since its inception twenty seven years ago. The event will be held on Saturday, December 12, if there is extreme weather on the 5th.
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