Corinth event canceled after federal support runs short

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By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

CORINTH – People planning to attend the sixth annual Grand Illumination this weekend in Corinth should make other plans.

The award-winning tourism event recognizes Civil War history through a weekend of events, including storytelling, poetry and demonstrations along with 12,000 luminaries on display. However, the annual activity fell victim to gridlock of national politics earlier this year when the National Park Service made cuts as part of the sequestration, which involved cutbacks resulting from Congress and President Barack Obama not agreeing on deficit reduction by $4 trillion.

At the Shiloh National Military Park, which includes the Corinth Battlefield Unit, park superintendent John Bundy said it faced a $118,000 reduction, resulting in cuts for events that lead to overtime for employees.

“We have to put extra staff on and bring every employee in on duty,” he said. “There’s an incredible amount of work involved.”

Along with cutting the Grand Illumination, Bundy said other cutbacks included limiting school programs, reducing maintenance staff and changing the mowing schedule.

Christy Burns, director of the Corinth Convention and Visitors Bureau, said when she and CVB board members learned about the park service backing out of the event, it was too late to find replacement partners in the community.

“We couldn’t take this on alone because it wasn’t in our budget nor did we know all of the logistics or planning that went into it,” she said.

While the downtown open house has previously been held in coordination with the illumination, the downtown event will continue this year.

“I hope people come out and enjoy downtown,” Burns said.

Congressional leaders had mixed perspectives on the local event’s cancellation. Ryan Taylor, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Wicker, said the senator thinks the National Park Service could have found savings elsewhere.

First District U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee said many worthy programs and projects exist throughout the country that can’t be sustained through federal tax dollars.

“We can’t continue to function by borrowing 40 cents on the dollar,” he said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com