While there will likely be Covid-19-related restrictions in place for much of 2021, there was a true return to normalcy for militaria collectors on the first weekend of May at the Richland County Fairgrounds. The 43rd Ohio Civil War Show went on as usual after last year’s show was canceled due to the pandemic.
Masks were required, and socially distancing was strongly encouraged but the show had a strong turnout, suggesting that the collectible hobby, re-enacting, and a general interest in history remains strong.
“I had been extremely nervous for the last three months,” admitted Wayne Williams, who runs the show with his two siblings.
“I really didn’t know if the dealers were willing to come out, but then by the beginning of the year, we were able to sell out the show,” Williams told Military Trader. “There has been a steady stream of calls from dealers who wanted to come out, and from the look of the gate on Saturday morning. it seems the public was ready to come as well. That was really awesome.”
Clear Skies and Good Attendance
In the heartland of America, early May can often mean rain; and long-time attendees of the show know to bring an umbrella and even boots. However, this year it was sunny skies all weekend.
“It rained when we started to set up on Thursday, but then the sun came out and it has been beautiful,” explained Greg Williams. “The ground wasn’t so soggy, so everyone was able to have a good time. Just being back made it great show.”
The sentiment was shared by Greg’s and Wayne’s sister, Teresa Drushell, who told Military Trader, “We’re back at full speed. This show was started by my father, Don Williams, 44 years ago, and he let nothing stop it. We’re so happy that after having to cancel last year, that we’re back to almost normal. That has meant following the guidelines including masks and social distancing, but we’ve had no problems with dealers and attendees doing what it took to make the show happen.”
In addition to being sold out, this year’s Ohio Civil War & Artillery Show also saw interest from many first-time dealers.
“We thought after canceling last year that it could be the end,” added Drushell. “Instead, we’re seeing a lot of younger re-enactors, and also a fair share of new dealers. That means there is new blood.”
A lot of familiar faces were still in attendance. That included James Mountain of James Mountain Antiques Historical Militaria. He was just one of several New England “Yankees” to make the long trek to the heartland.
“It is great to be back in Ohio,” Mountain told Military Trader. “It is really great to be back to talk to other dealers and collectors in person after a year of online sales. It is just really nice to be out. That was what was missing with the hobby since the start of the pandemic. We still have to adhere to social distancing and following the safety protocols, but it was just really great to see the shows picking up again.”
A Nation Divided
It wasn’t just the pandemic that has been the looming shadow over events such as the Ohio Civil War & Artillery Show. In the two years since the last show occurred, it could be argued the nation is in a “different place.” As an Amazon Associate, Military Trader / Military Vehicles earns from qualifying purchases.As monuments to Confederate soldiers have come down, even statues honoring American patriots including President Abraham Lincoln have been in the cross hairs of some extreme protestors.
Many collectible shows have had to cater to certain sentiments — barring the display of some items. Fortunately, the show the Williams family has run for nearly five decades has always just been about the history — and arguably is a “Comic Con” for those who prefer the exploits of real heroes to fictional ones in goofy costumes.
“We thought there could be backlash,” said Wayne Williams. “But nothing really transpired. This show is about history, not controversy. I was asked if we’d fly the Confederate flag at the show, and my answer was, ‘darn right.’ That’s because we’re about the history.”
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