CONNEAUT, Ohio — The world's largest World War II re-enactment will be returning to Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie.
D-Day Chief Executive Officer Betsy Bashore said more than 1,300 re-enactors have signed up for the event set for Aug. 18-20.
"We expect we'll have about 1,100 people arrive on site," Bashore said. "That doesn't necessarily include the people who are our volunteers, who also dress up. And we generally have about 100 of those."
The event will have a nearly identical schedule all three days, Bashore said.
"The only difference is that, on Thursday and Friday, we will be having two airborne battles, one in the morning and one in the afternoon," she said. "And the one in the morning is going to be a British airborne battle."
Free tickets are required. They can be found via the event's Facebook page, on D-Day Conneaut's website, www.ddayohio.us, or through the Eventbrite website.
This year, as part of the event's authenticity regulations, organizers have requested that only re-enactors wearing German regular army uniforms be on the beach. More highly trained troops were elsewhere, not at Normandy, Bashore said.
There is always a debate about what the public sees and notices.
"I really think it's incumbent on us to make sure that we give people the best experience, not the most convenient for us," Bashore said.
Organizers learned last year that doing the landing every day makes it a lot easier for re-enactors, because they know what they are doing and they know what to expect, Bashore said.
D-Day Chief Operations Officer Lori McLauglin said things are going well. Her job duties include organizing volunteers.
After taking a year off due to COVID-19, organizers were unsure of how 2021 and 2022 would go.
"Our challenge was to bring it back together, and we kept (attendance) low, and of course some people were still fearful of being out in public," McLaughlin said. "It was a scaled down version."
This year's numbers show the event is back in full force, McLaughlin said.
She said she would like to see schools volunteer to participate in the event, even if it's just in set-up.
"I know it's hard in the summer, it's very difficult in the summer, to get kids together," McLauglin said. "But right now in Conneaut, the band is already getting together for band practice, the football team has workouts, the soccer team's already doing workouts. So they are starting to form their teams already and get together."
The event could always use more volunteers, McLaughlin said.
"Some of the volunteer areas are no skill needed, some are it helps to have computer skills, some, if you have electronics skills needed," she said. "For every volunteer, it helps to have a happy attitude, a good personality, because you're dealing with people, but not all of them.
"We need people in the PX to fold t-shirts, we need runners, we need people who can bring a box to this area and come back," McLaughlin said.
Re-enactors who participate in the event are always thinking and always improving, McLaughlin said.
"They're always trying to do their best, and they always want to put on the show," she said. "Our biggest hit last year was to do the beach invasion all three days, and it went well. So we're going to continue that."
In previous years, everyone attended the event on Saturday to see the invasion.
"If you're trying to avoid that big crush of crowds, come on Thursday, come on Friday," McLaughlin said.
The event will be expanding its veterans programming this year, including plans to show video of interviews of World War II veterans from the National Archives.
"Thursday, we're making Veterans Day at the park," McLaughlin said. "So we're making a special effort to honor our veterans on that day."