Musket fire echoed just blocks away from a beer festival

The sound of Civil War-era musket fire echoed in downtown Macon on Saturday just blocks away from a beer festival and the annual Pan African Festival.

Confederate re-enactors dressed in period uniforms fired a volley as part of the Macon chapter of Military Order of Stars and Bars’ annual Confederate Memorial Day event.

Asked why he dons a wool uniform on a hot Georgia afternoon, Frank Groce said it’s for “Southern heritage” and to make the past come to life.

When people can see the uniforms and muskets, and touch them … it makes it not so far in the past,” he said.

Another re-enactor, J.R. Hardman said it’s important to remember history so it doesn’t happen again. “We can all remember what unites us and makes us the same and makes us free,” Hardman said.

Gathering in front of the Confederate monument in the triangle park bordered by Cotton Avenue, Second Street and Mulberry Street Lane, a small group listened to 1860s-era music and participated in a memorial service.

Martin Bell, commander of the local Military Order of Stars and Bars group, said he thinks former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis’s Friday news conference with the NAACP opposing the Just Tap’d craft beer festival being held in Rosa Parks Square may have impacted attendance at the memorial event.

“I think the controversy going on up the street hurt us greatly this year,” Bell said. “I think people were afraid something was going to happen and it didn’t.”

Last year, about 60 people attended the memorial. This year, there were only a few attendees not involved in the program.

A couple blocks away, Jeff Kressin, owner of Just Tap’d and the Ocmulgee Brew Pub, said attendance at the beer festival was larger than last year with a couple thousand people showing up by midafternoon.

“We are ecstatic,” he said. “Sales are up. Attendance is up.”

The Confederate statue that faces the intersection of Cotton Avenue and Second Street was defaced by graffiti April 21 during the NewTown Macon Pop-Up Plaza event, Bell said.

He said the graffiti was discovered early the following morning and was cleaned by volunteers.

It appeared four different people had scrawled in chalk on the monument’s base. On one side, someone wrote “This Statue Sucks,” Bell said.

During the memorial program, author Joe Byrd talked about his book chronicling a confederate sharpshooter and his concerns that the story of the American South has been told in a way that maligns his ancestors.

In a time when the country is talking about fake news, he said he’s concerned about “fake history.”

“Our Confederate ancestors deserve honor and respect for what they endured, represented and in most cases sincerely believed,” Byrd said. “I encourage us all to make an effort to keep the flame burning for truth and not give in to fake history and political correctness.”

Amy Leigh Womack: 478-744-4398, @awomackmacon