It's no secret that the brief Civil War skirmish that Hernando County celebrates each January was little more than a minor historic footnote that hardly earned a mention in history books.
But none of that really matters to the 1,500 folks who suit up every year to charge across the battlefield of the mock-battle known as the Brooksville Raid Re-enactment. The thunder of huge cannons and crackle of muzzle-loaded rifles offer a spectacle that has given the event a worthy reputation as the mother of all Florida Civil War re-enactments.
Festival director Joan Casey, who has been involved with the 32-year-old event for more than 20 years, said she has come to understand why.
"Re-enactors tell us they love it because there is so much space and very few hassles to deal with," she said. "Having them want to be part of our show every year is something we're very proud of."
And if the festival's growing attendance the past few years is any indication, it's still a big draw with the public as well.
"Being the unique kind of event that it is has helped to keep that interest alive, even in spite of the economy," Casey said. "People know there isn't anything else like it in Florida."
Through the years, the festival has gained a reputation for being one of the most varied re-enactment events in the Southeast. Although the battle re-enactments are no doubt the single largest draw, organizers have always included activities to showcase other aspects of 19th century life, ranging from sports to social functions.
Throughout the weekend, visitors are welcome to tour the camps, where many of the re-enactors pride themselves on replicating the experiences of Civil War-era soldiers by cooking supper over open fires and practicing drills during their free time.
Another popular attraction is Sutlers Row, where more than 50 merchants are set up to offer wares, souvenirs and even authentic period clothing and accessories.
The battle re-enactments will take place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]