What: Civil War Show and Sale
When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. today
Where: Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center, 2211 Dug Gap Battle Road, Dalton, Ga.
DALTON, Ga. - It's a museum for the hands-on learner - and most of the items are for sale.
That's how Mike Kent, owner and manager of the event, described the 19th annual Civil War Show and Sale at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center in Dalton, which continues today.
"This is a great place to come and bring a kid, because it's not like being at a museum where everything is behind glass," Kent said. "In here you can pick up and handle everything. The dealers that are behind the table can tell you all about it."
Kent said that while he runs Civil War shows around the country, this year's show in Dalton is the biggest ever, with about 475 vendors registered for tables and around 2,000 patrons expected. And because a lot of fighting occurred in the area, Dalton is one of the bigger shows for "dug relics" - artifacts that have been recovered from a battlefield.
Weapons, such as firearms and swords, make up a majority of the items for sale and on display. But it's not all weapons, Kent said. Other vendor items include uniforms, soldiers' documents and diaries, instruments and personal effects, and books written about the era.
Jim Ingram, a dealer and collector from Pennsylvania, has a table displaying lamps, Bibles, dice, dominoes, chess pieces, flasks and other personal effects that soldiers would carry with them in camp. He said he enjoys finding artifacts more than selling them.
"I am a digger, but I don't sell anything I dig," said Ingram, and added that most of the items he sells come from flea markets and antique shows.
Most tables were occupied by vendors looking to sell, but some, such as the one occupied by collectors like Dalton ophthalmologist Bill Blackman, featured relics for display only.
Blackman's table displayed several cases of Confederate belt buckles. One buckle was emblazoned with Arkansas' state sea. Only about seven such buckles are known to exist.
Finding a relic is "the biggest thrill of your life, like the biggest fish you ever caught, your first hole-in-one, winning a race," said Blackman, who began relic hunting in 1975 and dug his first buckle in Dalton in 1979.
Blackman's favorite relic is actually a pair.
In one display case he has two artifacts side by side: one a buckle that a soldier fashioned into a spoon and one a spoon modified into a buckle.Blackman said the pair illustrate how "hard-up and desperate" the times were for soldiers, lacking an Ace Hardware or Home Depot down the road to meet their needs.
"They had to get by with whatever they could do on their own," Blackman said. "That's the thing that brings the history alive to collecting things from the Civil War."
And the preservation of that history is what's most important to some.
"It's not like I own it," Ingram said. "It's like I'm just borrowing it for a period of time. It's not mine to keep forever, because when I'm gone, it goes to somebody else. I'm just preserving it right now, to pass on."
Contact staff writer Alex Harris at email@example.com or 423-757-6592.