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Civil War is over in Port Gamble
PORT GAMBLE — Right now, Howard Struve thinks the best thing for him and the Washington Civil War Association is to remember the Battle for Port Gamble for what it was and move on.
The association, which has called Port Gamble home to one of its more popular reenactment venues for seven years, will not hold a Civil War reenactment in 2012. According to Struve, the association vice chairman, an increase in town rental fees forced the cancellation. The cost fluctuates each year, but the expenses this year were too much to handle.
“The reaction from [the association] was glum,” Struve said. “There were a lot of people not happy.”
According to a letter sent out to association members by Struve, it cost between $1,500 and $5,000 to rent land in Port Gamble. Struve said as the town increased its presence as a destination location, the rates rose and certain parts of town became off limits to the reenactment. For 2012, the land rental fee increased to $10,000. Struve said Port Gamble administration was willing to lower the cost to $8,000.
Port Gamble events coordinator Julie MacAfee said a flat fee is charged to rent land for the event. That fee has increased, but she would not disclose the amount the Civil War Association was charged in the past. She said she felt the reenactment wasn’t returning because the association was not being provided ample space for the event.
According to the letter sent by Struve, the $10,000 is based off the possible income Olympic Property Group, Port Gamble’s owner, can make when hosting weddings, parties, etc. during busy summer weekends (May through September).
The association hosts about 45 events each year. It runs on a budget between $50,000 and $60,000. Expenses include renting property, portable toilets, security and liability insurance.
Struve said with the increased fee, Port Gamble would be the most expensive place to hold a reenactment.
Aside from Country Christmas, the festivals held in Port Gamble are not coordinated by Olympic Property Group, which manages the town. MacAfee said festivals are a way to create exposure and feed businesses, but are not revenue generators. The town does not receive tax revenue from the county. The income it does generate is by leasing buildings and renting homes. Weddings and parties also generate revenue, as the property group leases St. Paul’s Church and the newer pavilion, which is booked the majority of the weekends during summer months, according to www.portgambleweddings.com.
“We are booked for weddings pretty much year-round,” MacAfee said.
The association was offered another plot of land outside of town; the same plot on which remote-controlled airplanes are flown just outside of town. Struve said the price was reasonable ($500, according to his letter), “but it’s not conducive to what we do,” he said.
If the event was held this year, Struve said the increased cost to rent Port Gamble would go directly to the spectator. On average, the association charges $8-10 for adult tickets, $5 for children; children 6 and younger get in free. Discount family prices are also offered.
In 2011, the association broke even on costs. Struve said it would have been a definite loss this year.
“That was a risk we weren’t willing to take,” he said.
Depending on the weather, estimates of how many spectators the reenactment brought in ranged from 1,500 to more than 3,000. Between 500 and 600 people participated in the reenactment.
“We loved to have them here,” MacAfee said, adding she hopes the association finds another location it is pleased with.
Struve said the Civil War reenactment could return if Port Gamble lowers its land rental fees.