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Can Manassas lure visitors with Civil War event?

Monday - 7/18/2011, 2:58pm  ET

Hank Silverberg,

MANASSAS, Va -- It was July, 1861. Thousands of troops, blue and gray, converged on a railroad junction in Manassas for what became the first major battle of the Civil War. In two weeks, blue and gray will meet there again, but how many people will be there to watch?

From July 21 to 24, 150,000 visitors are predicted in and around Manassas for the 150-year commemoration, which includes a battle re-enactment.

"We don't expect that many in the city. We don't expect that many at the re-enactment, but if you put it all together, I think you'll get to that number," says Mark Olsen from Historic Manassas.

So far, only 10,000 tickets have been sold, but Olsen says lots of people may make the decision to come at the last minute.

City Manager Larry Hughes says they are still hoping the events will boost city revenue.

"We never have been able to achieve that kind of a tourism destination as Gettysburg has," he says. "Our objective is to try capitalize on that."

The city has laid out $400,000 to help pay for the event and is getting help from surrounding communities on traffic control. Hughes says they won't know if it all pays off until they count sales taxes at the end of the fiscal year.

Olsen says there is some indication of an economic boost already with visitors at the Manassas visitors center up about 25 percent so far this year.

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