By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
GETTSYBURG — It’s going to be a busy week for Jim Pangburn, a Lewisburg native who moved to southcentral Pennsylvania about 10 years ago to pursue his dream of being a full-time, licensed battlefield tour guide at the site of arguably the most famous Civil War battle.
This week, he’s going to share his love of Gettysburg and the Civil War with some of the hundreds of thousands of people who will converge on the small town for the 150th anniversary of the battle. Pangburn said the reality of hosting that number of people is sinking in.
“In the last few months, as the reality of the logistics of what’s going to happen become more real, it’s been sinking in,” he said. “It’s going to be really crowded.”
Pangburn said he’ll be doing about 14 hours of tours through Tuesday, then three hours of tours Wednesday.
Pangburn said he doesn’t mind giving tours during the summer, when the heat may scare off some tourists.
“It’s not too bad, especially if you’re in their vehicles, it’s just a few minutes,” you’re out in the heat, Pangburn said. “I can’t complain too much.”
While some Gettysburg residents are complaining about the crowds, Pangburn said the celebration has already brought a number of good things to the area, such as road improvements, to prepare for the heavy traffic.
“It benefits you even indirectly, no matter what you do,” he said. “People are going to patronize your business.”
One event Pangburn is looking forward to is a full-scale re-enactment of Pickett’s charge.
“They’re going to let people walk the fields,” he said. “I kind of wanted to be there for that. It seems like one of those things that you’re going to want to say you were there.”
Pangburn said there are some must-see places when visitors come to Gettysburg, including the new multi-million dollar visitors center and the Eisenhower Farm, located just off the battlefield.
However, one of the best new attractions is at the David Wills House, where Lincoln stayed the night before giving the Gettysburg Address.
“The lower floor is a museum and you can go up to second floor and actually see the bed that Lincoln slept in,” he said.
To see the battlefield, there are numerous tour options, including with Pangburn or other guides.
“You can buy a tape and put it in your car,” he said. “We’ve got Segways in town; we’ve got these little miniature go-carts.”
Most people’s favorite place on the battlefield is Little Round Top, although that can get overcrowded, Pangburn said.
“It’s crazy up there,” he said. “I was up there earlier today and that’s the only bad thing about it. The park says we’re loving Little Round Top to death because of the erosion.”
Visitors should check if there are any special themes during the weekend they are planning to visit, Pangburn said.
“There’s always something going on at Gettysburg,” he said. “There’s always some kind of ‘week.’”
Gettysburg is famous worldwide, Pangburn said. “We recently took some bus trip to other battlefields,” he said. “When you go into any bookstore (near them), there’s something in there about Gettysburg. This is the largest battle that has taken place in the Western Hemisphere, and it was a turning point. It is best marked battlefield in the world.”
People also want a place to reflect on the spirit of the nation, Pangburn said.
“People want to make a pilgrimage,” he said. “What better place to come to than a place where Americans fought Americans on American soil and it happened on the Fourth of July.”
And while many in Gettsyburg are just trying to get through the next two weeks or so, Pangburn said he’s already looking forward to November, which will mark the 150th anniversary of the delivery of the Gettysburg Address. Many in the area — including Pangburn — are hoping President Barack Obama will be the featured speaker for the annual dedication ceremony.
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg was the featured speaker in 2012, drawing about 9,000 people, Pangburn said.
“It would be really cool if the president came here and delivered the address on the 150th anniversary,” he said.