The Civil War commemorative events held last summer in and around Prince William County were not only reenactments of a pivotal battle but also a way for the area to garner national attention and bring in visitors to spend money.
But with receipts now tallied, the county and the city of Manassas have found that the July events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run cost more than officials predicted.
Prince William originally allocated $500,000 for the events, coordinated by the county-funded Prince William County/Manassas Convention and Visitors Bureau. But the county had to add $244,304 to that because of cost overruns and fewer ticket sales than expected. Blistering heat during two days of historic reenactments kept many visitors away.
The extra dollars were allocated because commemorative memorabilia didn’t bring in as much money as expected and the cost of running the event was higher than expected, said county spokesman Jason Grant.
For example, officials said, extra medical tents were put up because of the heat. And the insurance cost for the “battle” was also higher than the county thought it would be.
“We don’t do battle reenactments every year,” Grant said, adding that the expenses were worthwhile to keep people safe. “Yes, it cost more, but it was worth what we got out of it.”
Manassas didn’t contribute to the reenactments but spent money to host events and activities pegged to commemoration. The City Council budgeted $100,000 for Historic Manassas Inc. to hold events around the city and coordinate transportation. But the city ended up allocating $123,000 more because the heat had kept so many would-be passengers — and the revenue they would generate — away.
Despite the temperatures, the event was a success, said Mark Olsen, president of Historic Manassas. “We couldn’t have bought the positive publicity that we got.”
Manassas spent $427,135 over four days of events and preparations around the city, according to a city report.
The city and county also gained tax dollars and other revenue, with an average of more than 12,000 reenactors and visitors showing up each day. Manassas counted a 14 percent increase in its meals tax and 10 percent increase in lodging taxes over the year before.