Re-enactors, from left, Davey Agens of Lottsville, Pa.; Daryl Blystone of Union City, Pa., and Kathy Grant of Erie, Pa., fire a cannon during opening
Re-enactors, from left, Davey Agens of Lottsville, Pa.; Daryl Blystone of Union City, Pa., and Kathy Grant of Erie, Pa., fire a cannon during opening ceremonies of the re-enactors group the Blue Gray Alliance on Thursday. The group, representing the Cushing s/Taylor Battery, staged the firing during the ceremony at Baddick Farm outside Gettysburg. (Bill Kalina photo)

Re-enacting might seem like an old man's game, a way for adults to dress up and play with toys.

But, over and over again Thursday, men with graying hair gestured to the peach-fuzzed boys nearby.

Phil Hart had never been a re-enactor. Even as he stood in a Union uniform Thursday, the grandfather from Nebraska was obviously a little skeptical of the scene unfolding before him. But he was there for the 13-year-old grandson who'd discovered the Gettysburg anniversary re-enactments online just three weeks ago.

"I decided this is probably a lot lesser of the evils he could get into," Hart said.

Hart said a re-enactors' group quickly offered to let Damien Knight and his grandfather join.

"We came out with basically nothing, and they've given us basically all the equipment," Hart said. "Now (Damien's) really in seventh heaven because they told him he could carry a gun and fight."

Thursday's opening of the Blue-Gray Alliance re-enactment kicked off 10 days of events in Gettysburg to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, which turned the tide of the Civil War.

Men and women from all over the country were setting up camp Thursday.

The Blue-Gray Alliance is a national group hosting its first Gettysburg re-enactment at the Bushey Farm in Freedom Township. The event is open to the public Saturday and Sunday. Nearly 10,000 re-enactors - split between the Union and Confederate camps - are registered to participate.

The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, which has marked the battle anniversaries with a re-enactment for the past 18 years, will hold its own event July 4-7 at the Redding Farm, 1085 Table Rock Road.

More than 10,000 re-enactors are registered for that event as well.

"This is like the holy grail of events," Spence Jordan, a teen and Union re-enactor from Florida, said Thursday. "I don't even know what to say. It's awesome."

Riding the shuttle from the parking lot to Union camp, John Might said he's looking forward to the promised authenticity of the Blue-Gray Alliance re-enactment.

The New York man said he and his 16-year-old son participate in more than a dozen re-enactments every year. This is their first time for Gettysburg.

"I get to spend time with my son," Might, 50, said. "And I get to show the young guys that I'm not so old."

Harry Bailey, a retired Marine, said he got into re-enacting by accident.

The Missouri man said his son, Garrett, got interested in Civil War history about four years ago and wanted to see a re-enactment.

"We were just going to watch," Bailey, 43, said.

But after a few phone calls to see where the family could camp, Bailey said he heard from the captain of the Missouri Irish Brigade. He offered to let the father and son join.

Garrett could play a drum, the captain said. But, when they got there, the man said he couldn't fit the drum in his car.

"He said, 'So, I packed an extra musket. Think he'll mind?'" Bailey said. "To this day, that remains the greatest day in my son's life."

Blue Gray Alliance 150th Gettysburg Re-enactment: Thursday, June 27 to Sunday, June 30 at the Bushey Farm, 1845 Pumping Station Road. For adults, tickets cost $10 per day. Admission is free to children under 12. For more information, email 150thgettysburg@longstreetscorps.com.

The re-enactment battle schedule:

Saturday, June 29: 10 a.m., Hanover Cavalry Battle; and 2 p.m., Battles of Devil's Den, Little Round Top, Wheatfield, Peach Orchard

Sunday, June 30: 10 a.m., East Cavalry Field Cavalry Battle; and 12:30 p.m., Pickett's Charge

- Erin James can also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.