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Battle brings big bucks to the 'Burg
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg was a boon for downtown businesses.

 Niles Clark (left), portraying Gen. George Pickett, and Hank Van Lew as Gen. Henry Heth visit Goolrick's.
NORM SHAFER for THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 12/12/2012

BY CATHY JETT

The Battle of Fredericksburg, which decimated the downtown business district 150 years ago, proved a bonanza for it last weekend.

Re-enactors and visitors attending sesquicentennial events filled area hotels, jammed restaurants and kept merchants' cash registers ringing.

"It was a very good and busy weekend," said Karen Hedelt, the city's director of economic development and tourism.

Since Fredericksburg isn't a corporate-run attraction like Disney World, there's no way to tell exactly how much money was spent in the area due to the 150th-anniversary commemoration, the annual Candlelight Tour or normal holiday shopping, she said. But hotel occupancy is a good indicator.

"We know our hotel occupancy was high, not just in the city of Fredericksburg but throughout the region," Hedelt said.

The Courtyard by Marriott at 620 Caroline St., for example, was fully booked weeks in advance of the 150th-anniversary commemoration, said Sharon Blanchard, sales manager.

Several re-enactors portraying officers involved in the battle stayed there, and a number of their uniformed "soldiers" stopped in at its bistro for a bite to eat. Members of the Irish Brigade, which suffered its most severe casualties during the Battle of Fredericksburg, even gave an impromptu presentation in the hotel's library for other guests.

"It was a different experience for us and real enjoyable for not only the staff but the guests," Blanchard said. "[The Brigade] is very proud of what they do. It sort of gets you involved in knowing your history. We love things like this happening."

The Fredericksburg Hospitality House in Central Park also was busy last weekend, both for the commemoration and for Christmas parties, said Bonnie Martin, director of sales and catering.

It also has more Civil War-related business this week. A Civil War tour group is arriving today, and the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust will be holding a banquet, she said.

Colonial Tavern, which bills itself as "Home to the Irish Brigade," had its busiest weekend other than on a St. Patrick's Day since it opened, said Terri Hubbell, an owner of the Irish restaurant and pub at 406 Lafayette Blvd.

"It was just a great event for the city," she said. "We couldn't even handle as many people as would have liked to have eaten and drank here because there wasn't enough room."


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