SPRING HILL — With nearly 1,500 Civil War re-enactors descending on the Sand Hill Scout Reservation this weekend, the director of the 34th annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment will tell you that the event isn't all about staging the battle.
The torrid exchange of musket and cannon fire is just part of the draw to thousands of visitors who want to see what life and American culture were like during the mid 1800s.
"If you're a history buff, this is the place to be," Joan Casey said. "We provide a lot to do and see in between the battles. It's always a fun event to be part of."
Casey, who has been involved with the raid re-enactment for more than three decades and has been its director for five years, said the festival has gained a reputation for various activities that bring spectators closer to the action.
Away from battlefield, visitors can find plenty to do, including Civil War period music from the "7 lbs. of Bacon Mess Band," a formal ladies tea and an anvil shoot demonstration. They can tour the camps and see for themselves how soldiers of that day lived.
"We've always been focused on being a family-oriented event," Casey said. "It's a wonderful place to bring kids because everything is new and exciting to them."
This year's event marks the 150th anniversary of the original skirmish that began just off Hernando County's coast near Bayport when a small battalion of Union soldiers arrived on a mission to destroy crops, salt works and cattle ranches that were supporting the Confederate war effort.
Long considered the largest Civil War re-enactment in Florida, the raid got its start in 1980 on a 90-acre site owned by former Hernando County Commissioner Murray Grubbs. It moved to its current site 10 years later.
Casey said the event, which draws about 4,000 spectators each year, has undergone some subtle changes through the years but remains essentially unchanged. And that's what keeps people coming back.
"People like the thrill and noise of the big battles," Casey said. "And for our county, which has so much history surrounding it, the raid fits in perfectly. I imagine it will still be going on 30 years from now."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.