By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – As dusk fell over Corinth, almost 300 volunteers and National Park Service employees began the lighting of 12,000 luminaries around town.
Saturday’s festivities marked the final event for Corinth’s 2012 commemoration of the 150th anniversary of its Civil War battle and the 5th annual Grand Illumination.
Each luminary lit downtown, at the battlefield and at the Contraband Camp represented one of the 12,000 people killed, wounded or missing in both the siege and battle of Corinth in 1862.
Ashley E. Berry, supervisory park ranger at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, said the National Park Service has seen a large increase in visitors to the Shiloh and Corinth locations during this 150th anniversary year.
“We’ve had a fantastic year this year with the number of visitors coming into town,” she said. “Our bookstore has seen an enormous increase in sales this year.”
As far as the Grand Illumination is concerned, she said she couldn’t tell if the number of visitors should be credited to 150th anniversary tourists or people who observe the event each year.
Doug Baum, of Waco, Texas, participates in the living history camp at the Corinth CivilWar Interpretive Center each year during the illumination, bringing camels to represent the 43rd Mississippi Infantry’s mascot, Old Douglas the camel.
The camel has become a destination for families with young children each year.
“This is our third year to bring the kids out and do the carriage ride and then come up here and let them see the camels and some of the living history,” said Danny Job of Corinth.
Old Douglas made Civil War appearances in Corinth and Iuka before being shot by a Union sharpshooter in Vicksburg. Baum said the camel was tasked with carrying the regimental band’s instruments.
Steve Icardi said he has also visited the camels each year for the past four years. He said it is usually the highlight of the illumination for him but this year he and his wife were especially excited about acclaimed musician Bobby Horton, who played Civil War era songs Saturday night at the interpretive center.
Corinth Tourism Director Kristy White was among the hundreds of volunteers setting out and lighting luminaries Saturday evening and said the turnout this year has been great.
“The shops seem to be pretty brisk today and the interpretive center has a good crowd,” she said. “It’s hard to tell how many visitors but we’ll look at the numbers from the interpretive center and the shops. We have a traffic counter by the interpretive center and had over 10,000 counts last year.”
Living history events continue today at the interpretive center.