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Thread: Is Civil War reenacting about over?

  1. #81

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    The issue here is whether reenacting is over. Yes, I believe that it has lost the enthusiasm among both the participants and the public. It's a matter of demographics. The baby-boomer generation that had so much fascination with this historical epoch in the past is getting older. The Ken Burns series and the movie "Gettysburg" spawned a renewed interest in the Civil War among many of the boomers who were also able to afford the uniform and weapon to become a participant in this endeavor. The youngsters today are as uninterested in participating as they are playing with toy trains which is why the model railroading hobby has so many old-timers in it proportionally than it did 25 years ago. This is so even with the new trains being digitally operated as state of the art to encourage younger people to enter that hobby. Let's face it: there is nothing to make the upcoming generation as potent a force as the boomers to create large-scale reenactments, just in numbers let alone enthusiasm. If 20% of the boomers were interested in reenacting, for example, that's a greater number than 20% of the millennials today. Now assuming that generation outnumbers the boomers as a demographic group at some point, you still have to engender their interest. Do you really believe that many of them have the same emotional response to history that would make them potential recruits? I don't think so. It is a different world today.

  2. #82
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Huntsville
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    751

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    The youngsters today are as uninterested in participating as they are playing with toy trains which is why the model railroading hobby has so many old-timers in it proportionally than it did 25 years ago. This is so even with the new trains being digitally operated as state of the art to encourage younger people to enter that hobby.
    Yeah, it makes me sad. I try and get my son interested in the things that I loved playing with as a kid but they are basically only interested in their ipads. I bought them a "slot car" track for Christmas where you control the cars using your ipad or iphone. Cost $100. I think it got played with for like 5 minutes. I used to love playing with tanks and army men as a kid. Spent hours and hours in a sand pile making them fight battles. Bought my son some expensive RC tanks last year - they were fun for a few weeks and now they sit on a shelf. There is so little interest in interacting with the real world.

    Steve
    Steve Sheldon

  3. #83
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Location
    Marietta, GA
    Posts
    22

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    I have a few things to say about several topics addressed by this thread, so I hope my contribution will be indulged.

    First, on the main point, my experience as a fairly new reenactor has been very positive: I've joined a company that fields an average of about 20 rifles for maybe 8-10 events a year within a couple hours' drive, most of us are under 30 years old, and our numbers have been growing for several years. I started the hobby in late 2015, just after the 150th anniversary events had run their course, so I really missed out on the big events, but the local events have still been lots of fun for the past year and some, and I'm excited to see the "5-year" anniversaries come around again so I can experience, for example, the 155th Shiloh. Everybody says the total population of reenactors is shrinking, but there are units that are young and thriving, and I don't believe the hobby as a whole is dying. Maybe I have the advantage of living near where a lot of the real major battles occurred, which I expect stimulates interest, but from my experience in my own company, I'd like to offer some advice for units trying to figure out how to replace the "retiring" graybeards, since I see a lot of things my company does very well to recruit newbies.

    First point on how to grow your unit -- it's amazing how often the veterans of the hobby don't get this -- be welcoming and hospitable. As someone said early in the thread, it's hard to win back someone's interest once you've made them feel rejected or unwanted. This means you have treat the "incorrect" impression of your newcomers as a teaching opportunity, not a reason to get rid of them.

    Second, have a stock of loaner gear ready for your newcomer, so they don't have to seem so farby in the first place. My company is blessed with a "magic trailer" full of enough spare gear to fully outfit several walk-up newcomers, and sometimes all it takes is one event where all your gear is loaned to you to get you hooked. That's what happened for me, and within a year I got off the "dole" and am now working to upgrade my impression. I wouldn't pass muster at a "hardcore campaigner" event, but I'm working towards that, and hope to get in enough shape (bellywise as well) to try one out within a year or so.

    Third, be a family-friendly unit, and advertise yourselves as such. You won't get the teenagers without the blessings of their parents, but as often as not, the teenagers bring their dads in with them, and both get hooked. We have one family in our company with two parents and seven sons, from elementary school age through early twenties. All of them are in the company, with the mom as the civilian coordinator for the battalion. Without being family friendly, we'd never have attracted them.

    Fourth, there seems to be a "critical mass" of members that tip a unit towards thriving or dissolving into nothing. It seems to be somewhere around 10 members. If your unit consists of three officers, two NCOs, and one private, y'all really need to combine with another unit or two and take some "demotions." There are waaayyy too many five-man companies around, and I suspect it's because there are too many "captains for life" who aren't willing to step down and join the ranks. Better to be a private in a strong company than a colonel over nobody but maybe your brother if he decides to come out.

    Finally, stay positive, and stop telling people the hobby is dying, because that's an outstanding way to kill the hobby. Your open pessimism is only going to dampen interest. Nobody wants to join a dying hobby, so advertising it as such only makes the problems worse.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Weaver View Post
    I find Facebook to be a very poor communication tool for this communication about a narrow and specific topic. It's like attending a party, but hearing every conversation simultaneously and at the same volume level. Even in a private and moderated group, the medium does not lend itself to thoughtful communication.
    I agree wholeheartedly about Facebook! It is a useful tool for spreading word of mouth-style news bites, but forum software like this still has a valuable role on the interwebs. Participation may seem slow here, but I assure you there are triving forums on the web for a variety of hobbies that get dozens or hundreds of posts a day. The same ethic of hospitality will help a forum's membership that helps grow your unit. I'm speaking of my past experience with two forums related to a different hobby, and the one that is thriving is the one that has always been hospitable, while the one that was cliquish and condescending to new members died quickly. (Don't take this as more than general advice, because I'm too new to this forum to have an opinion on its personality. )

    Quote Originally Posted by Bytherightflank View Post
    The issue here is whether reenacting is over. Yes, I believe that it has lost the enthusiasm among both the participants and the public. ... Let's face it: there is nothing to make the upcoming generation as potent a force as the boomers to create large-scale reenactments, just in numbers let alone enthusiasm. If 20% of the boomers were interested in reenacting, for example, that's a greater number than 20% of the millennials today. Now assuming that generation outnumbers the boomers as a demographic group at some point, you still have to engender their interest. Do you really believe that many of them have the same emotional response to history that would make them potential recruits? I don't think so. It is a different world today.
    You may be right about the world being different, but the boomers are not any larger in population than the millenials are. The number of births per year in this country hasn't ever really dropped off, except maybe in the mid-1970s when I was born. Kids these days face different challenges than the boomers, and the boomers enjoyed a number of advantages that younger generations haven't, but the raw numbers of kids coming of age hasn't really declined for 50 years. The challenge is to get the outdoorsy ones and the history buffs interested in our hobby. I assure you, they are out there, maybe not so much in downtown Chicago as in rural Kentucky, but they are there. They just need to see how good the hobby can be.

  4. #84
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Near Gettysburg PA
    Posts
    126

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    I believe a big part of the problem is lack of communication. With large numbers of reenactors and living history folks, the numbers seem to make up for poor communication. In my opinion it is extremely difficult to get information about local events around here. One event that is about one month away, still has not made registration forms available, and other events consistently have made it difficult to know enough details to plan where to go, and what arrangements to make for participation. ..... On one occasion I tried talking to an organizer who had his feet propped up, smoking a cigar, looking away, and not answering me. On another occasion I volunteered ahead of time to help out at the "historic" shop at a museum hosting a reenactment and the other smith already there pretended that I was invisible until I physically corned him between buildings and asked him if he even wanted me there. ..... Then there is the politics and infighting between organizers.

    So, in my opinion some credit for lower attendance can be assigned to both the inability of organizers to communicate, and participants being tired of dealing with the frustrations of dealing with poor organizing events and poor attitude on the part of the organizers. If the events were easier and more pleasant to attend, my expectation would be that more people would continue to attend.
    David Einhorn, Author of the book titled, "Civil War Blacksmithing" available from Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Civil-War-Blac...+blacksmithing

  5. #85
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    New Mexico
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    85

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    As someone new to reenacting (but with an old somewhat-farby uniform from SUVCW activities), I cannot say whether or not that it is slowing down or ending. As a resident of New Mexico, the events I attend tend to have a lower turnout overall compared to back east, because of the greater distances and lower population density: when I lived in Georgia a few years ago, I went to the Resaca event and saw hundreds on both sides, but the number of people who attended the Valverde/Socorro battle demonstrations this year was very minimal. On the other hand, I am a millennial, and the groups that I joined out here (the local NPS volunteer group, and an artillery reenacting/living history group in Albuquerque) regularly attend living history events at parks that are very popular with people of my age. Those events tend to have families and young couples, interested in learning about the past while surrounded by the past, while giving their children an educational and entertaining experience.

    Then again, I have noticed that the NPS volunteer group mostly consists of people around my age, who borrow muskets and leather accoutrements from the NPS unit for events. The artillery group is approximately an even mixture of people who have been in the hobby for decades, and younger people who are interested in Civil War history but do not necessarily have the cash for a musket. The youngest member is going to graduate high school this spring.

    As a millennial, I do wonder if the thing that could be slowing fellow millennial participation is that big elephant in the room, the heavy involvement of the institution of slavery in the Civil War.

  6. #86
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    158

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    Quote Originally Posted by NMVolunteer View Post
    As a millennial, I do wonder if the thing that could be slowing fellow millennial participation is that big elephant in the room, the heavy involvement of the institution of slavery in the Civil War.
    In my long experience as a reenactor, I don't think any practicing reenactor gives a darn about being politically correct on the slavery aspect. I hear as many lost-cause southerners and self-righteous unionists in the camps as I ever have. Most of them cherry-pick only those period sources that back their views. Pretty lazy research, but this is after all a hobby. In any event, I've never heard anyone say they left the hobby because they are "uncomfortable" about the slavery connection of the war. Anyone else?

  7. #87
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    Feb 2006
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    Byron, can't say that I have known anyone to have left due to being 'uncomfortable' about the slavery connection of the war.

    I can say that I have known folks who have left the hobby due to finding themselves to be associated with modern political racists. I get that.

    I just found better friends to run with. I put a hella miles on a reenacting vehicle.
    Terre Hood Biederman
    Yassir, I used to go by Mrs. Lawson
    Weaver, Spinster, Strong Fast Dyes
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  8. #88
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    Feb 2006
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    Cincinnati, Ohio
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    Threads about the hobby dying are killing the hobby.
    Eric Tipton
    AC Owner
    Member - Mess No. 1
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    www.mess1.homestead.com

  9. #89
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    Feb 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Tipton View Post
    Threads about the hobby dying are killing the hobby.

    This. I see a bunch of tired old men behind keyboards talking about a dead hobby. Whining because they want to reenact a reenactment.


    I see a bunch of vital young men in the field. Doing interesting stuff.


    Oh Look! A Lock!

    The weather is breaking. Put on your gear and put some miles on your brogans
    Terre Hood Biederman
    Yassir, I used to go by Mrs. Lawson
    Weaver, Spinster, Strong Fast Dyes
    Knitted Goods and yarns available thlawson@bellsouth.net




    Moderator, When I remember. We got Rules here!

    Did your sales post disappear? Try again. But read the rules first.
    Here they are: http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/sh...Classified-Ads



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