MANSFIELD -- William Smith saw a news clip of Civil War reenactors in 1977. He's been hooked on it ever since.
A resident of Ellwood City, Penn., about 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Smith returned to Mansfield on Saturday for the 43rd annual Ohio Civil War And WWI & II Show at the Richland County Fairgrounds.
As the leader of the 19th Ohio Light Artillery, Smith led a group of more than 40 artillery reenactors who wowed the large crowd in attendance with a seven-canon live firing demonstration.
Smith, who said he has been coming to the local show for two decades, said he became involved in Civil War reenacting as a way to salute the soldiers who fought in the war from 1861-1865.
"It was the way they dressed and the way they maneuvered on the field. I think it's important to remember the heritage of our country and what they suffered through during that period," Smith said.
"I thought it would be a good thing to participate in to help keep that memory," he said.
Smith said the unit, most of whom live in Ohio, does five to eight reenactments around the country each year. Historical reenactments are not cheap hobbies for the participants, especially for those involved in artillery.
"It's very expensive," he said with a laugh. "You have to start with the gun and you're looking at $15,000 to $18,000 to get the gun on the field. Then you need a limber (a two-wheeled cart), which is about another $7,000.
"Then you need a trailer to haul it on and you have to have something to pull the trailer with. Then you need to buy the powder and the primers and the uniforms," Smith said.
Smith and the other artillery crews attend schools to learn how to operate the weapons safely. Individual units practice together before events and the guns undergo safety inspections.
There were two artillery demonstrations on Saturday. Two more are planned on Sunday at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.
The artillery demonstrations are just a part of the show, which was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The buildings and grounds were filled on Saturday by participants and fans of the event.
There are 380 exhibitors from 38 states participating in the show, including 700 tables of military memorabilia from 1775 through 1945 for buy, sell, trade and display.
In addition, related items such as books, images, photographs, paper goods, Civil War prints and women’s apparel are available to the public and collectors.
The show continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $7. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking is included in the cost of admission.