Corinth Grand Illumination may not return for 2013

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – The popular Corinth Grand Illumination, held the first weekend in November for the past five years, has become a side effect of sequestration, requiring the National Park Service to eliminate all funding for the project.
Supervising Park Ranger Ashley Berry, of the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, told the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Board on Tuesday that the primary expense of the NPS in co-sponsoring the event with the CVB was staff overtime.
In deciding areas where the Shiloh/Corinth $118,000 in cuts would be made, Berry said the Grand Illumination had to yield to keeping the interpretive center open seven days a week, eliminating staff furloughs and maintaining services in the parks throughout the summer busy season.
Named in 2011 as a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society, the Grand Illumination is an event the community cherishes, members of the board said, and they hope a coalition of interested groups and supporters will emerge to assure the event goes forward for a sixth consecutive year.
Executive Director Christy Burns said the Friends of the Siege and Battle of Corinth group has offered help, and perhaps the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Main Street Corinth and/or others will be interested in taking the lead in planning and financing the event.
In addition to organizing assembly of 12,000 luminaries that represent soldiers killed, wounded or captured during the 1862 Battle of Corinth, the event will require recruiting and supervising the hundreds of volunteers who place and light the luminaries by 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2, as well as assuring all the luminaries are extinguished at 8:30 p.m. and picked up the morning of Nov. 3, Berry said.
In addition to the expense of the luminaries, event sponsorship also has included the expense of a carriage ride provider in downtown Corinth, engaging Civil War musical entertainment at the interpretive center, and for the past three years bringing Douglas the camel to town for the living history event on the interpretive center grounds.
The executive director and board members will be discussing possibilities with community groups to try to salvage the event.
The board also approved several grant awards to the Alcorn County Fair, the Corinth Symphony Orchestra and the Crossroads Arena.
• The fair committee was awarded $7,500 to help publicize programs and a special event for the Sept. 17-21 fair.
• The symphony was awarded $2,000 to expand publicity for the annual patriotic concert, scheduled for June 29.
• The Crossroads Arena was awarded a combined $11,450 – $5,000 to upgrade the website and $6,450 to upgrade box office computers to improve ticketing efficiency.
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com