Friday, February 17, 2006

97: “Take A Ride Into The Future”

Fast forward if you will, to the July 4th weekend, 2008. Independence Day is on Friday.

It is the 145th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The reenactment, which is 50% larger than the 135th anniversary reenactment, which created gridlock on the roads surrounding Gettysburg, and on the Battlefield itself, has attracted almost 100,000 visitors to the area. There are no rooms to be had in Adams County.

The interchange at routes 30 and 15 is now fully developed. On the south side of US 30, on one side of 15 is the Adams Commerce Center, complete with Convention Center, hotels, movie theaters, and restaurants, and of course, a car dealership, a bank headquarters, a motorcycle dealership, and a window manufacturing plant. At the very corner will be a gas station with a bank of ATM machines.

On the west side of 15, a new housing development stretching from the Hanover Street exit north to US 30, with its own bridge over US 15 to connect it to an access road running between Pella Windows, and the Adams County Bank Building, and emerging onto Cavalry Field Road. It is the required second access to the development.

On the north side of US 30, another commercial complex, stretching perhaps two miles north along US 15. It contains Gettysburg’s new mall, complete with a Borders, a Boscovs, a Sears and a Penneys. There will also be a Lowes located at one end.

Across 15 on the northeast side of the interchange, will be the brand new Crossroads Gaming Resort and Spa, glittering with enough neon to dim the stars overhead for miles around.

North on 15, at the next exit up, 250 acres have been paved over, and a new complex has been constructed there, a hotel, a restaurant (a Lone Star?), and a campground, all to revolve around a new equestrian center (read: rodeo arena), comprised of two indoor and one outdoor arena/exhibition area, and 1,500 horse stalls.

South of 30, along Route 15, at the Hanover Street exit, green still exists – in the form of an expanded Drummer Boy Campground. It is filled to overflow capacity with 40 cabins and over 500 campsites filled up by about 2500 persons, using almost 600 cars, busses and RVs.

Traffic on US 30 east of Gettysburg has been backed up all the way to New Oxford since mid-evening Thursday. People pull their cars off to the side of the road to sleep. In town, nothing is moving east on York Street from its intersection with equally clogged Hanover Street all the way to the new malls. The line to exit from US 15 north onto US 30 stretches all the way back to the Maryland Line, while the southbound side coming from Harrisburg is backed up almost to the Heidlersburg exit. PA 116 west of town, the Fairfield Road, is bumper to bumper all the way through Fairfield, to the intersection with PA 16 near the Maryland line. Nothing is moving on the side roads north of town because of the reenactment. Nothing is moving on the roads south of town because of the memorabilia shows at the Eisenhower Convention Center on Emmitsburg Road.

The Battlefield, and the town, are gridlocked. Emergency services personnel are sent to scenes by bicycle and when possible by motorcycle. Babies are born at home, in cars, and in stores and churches, and some of them do not survive. Heart attack victims, already stressed by the heat, are unable to reach a treatment facility in time, and their death toll climbs throughout the weekend. Accidents and heat take their toll at the reenactment, too, where some 1,500 Re-enactors, and about 650 spectators are treated for injuries and heat related problems. Fortunately, pre-arranged medical teams and facilities were present, but even they were overwhelmed. A water main break somewhere east of town has cut off running water to the borough and its immediate surrounding areas. None of the facilities along 15 have running water. Police look the other way as stranded motorists relieve themselves along the road. The police are also unable to stop the violent outbursts of frustrated motorists unable to get to their destinations, many of which have been paid for. These outbursts include beatings and assaults, rape, and four murders.

By the end of the weekend, some 28 people are dead, over 300 are either hospitalized, or in temporary holding areas awaiting transport to a hospital.

The casino, the hotels, the movie theaters and restaurants within walking distance of US 30 and/or 15, the Equestrian Complex, the re-enactment, the campgrounds, and roadside convenience stores and fast food places and the new mall, all report very high profits for the weekend, in some cases, record profits.

Happy 145th Anniversary, Gettysburg!


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