Heat is common enemy for Yankee, Rebel re-enactors

Precautions: Grand Review 2000 organizers took steps to ease the strain on re-enactors who were marching in heavy clothes in yesterday's heat.

Grand Review 2000

June 11, 2000|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

HARRISBURG, Pa. - They may have been on different sides 135 years ago, but Union and Confederate soldiers were united in their battle against scorching heat yesterday.

With the temperature soaring past the 90-degree mark, wool-clad Civil War re-enactors marched about a one-mile stretch in Harrisburg's Grand Review 2000 parade.

Officials shortened the parade route yesterday from about a mile and a half to help prevent heat-related problems. Marching re-enactors were bused to the start of the parade's viewing area instead of walking that point.

Scott Burkett, spokesman for the event, said such contingency plans are common in re-enactments.

"We always have to put the safety of the participants first," Burkett said. "Any time the temperature gets above 88 degrees, we have to scale back some of the events."

Burkett said re-enactors eliminated extra cannon firings and practice drills in order to rest for the scheduled events.

In addition to the shortened schedules and parade route, re-enactors kept their canteens filled with water and had access to ice throughout the parade.

Emergency medical services vehicles followed along on the parade route.

Parade viewers dressed in tank tops and shorts appeared sympathetic as soldiers in several long-sleeved layers marched past. Several onlookers winced in pity as horses gleaming in the sunlight passed them.

"Most of these guys have office jobs, and they're in air conditioning all day, so they're just not used to the heat," said Dale Powell, of Hershey, Pa.

Powell portrayed a medical steward in the field hospital, but during the parade he was commissioned to, as he described it, "provide very cold water to the troops."

The constant supply of water and ice must have worked; no one had to be treated for heat exhaustion or stroke. Re-enactors' faces were bright red and the backs of their necks sweaty, but they marched with a smile.

"I'm not going to lie, it's hot in these costumes," said Bruce Sirak, a Union soldier re-enactor.

"You just have to drink a lot of water and find shade when you can. You get used to it," Sirak said.

Some of the women re-enactors fanned themselves and stood under parasols at the side of the pa"The clothes look real hot, but they're actually not too bad," said Pat Iacone, a re-enactor from New Jersey.

"They're made from all natural material, so they breathe a lot easier than more modern clothes," Iacone said.

The Weather Channel predicts Harrisburg's temperatures will reach 95 degrees -- with a chance of isolated thunderstorms -- tomorrow, the final day of Grand Review 2000.

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