CONNEAUT — D-Day Conneaut's 20th anniversary has finished and life is back to normal.
The event drew 2,100 reenactors to the city, along with vendors and thousands of visitors for its two-and-a-half day duration. There were some changes to this year's event, with the USO dance taking place at New Leaf Event Center.
There were also two movies this year, instead of the usual one, with "The Longest Day" being played on Thursday night, and "D-Day in 14 Stories" on Friday night. "The Longest Day" is a three hour long movie that focuses on telling the story of the D-Day invasion from German, English, American and French perspective.
"D-Day in 14 Stories" featured one of D-Day's two Higgins boats, landing craft that are famous for their role in various landings in World War II.
The event saw a record number of visitors, according to D-Day Conneaut's Facebook page.
D-Day officials said they expected between 30 to 40 thousand visitors at the event before it started. Based on preliminary numbers, the event hosted 50,000 visitors, D-Day board member and Museum Coordinator Kevin Meier said.
The event started in 1999, and has grown into the largest living history event in the United States, according to the D-Day Conneaut website. This year was the 20th anniversary of that original reenactment, along with the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasions themselves.
As such, D-Day Conneaut allowed repeat reenactors to register early this year, and increased the number of spots open for registration to 2,100, 300 more than the previous maximum.
On Saturday afternoon, four Higgins boats ferried Allied troops to the beach. In addition, because of the sheer number of reenactors, a number of them were lined up by the beach to attack, to cut down on the number of trips the boats had to take and speed up the invasion.
"When I went by the restaurants, they were all busy," Executive Director of the Conneaut Chamber of Commerce Wendy DuBey said. "This year, it seemed like people were sticking around a little bit more and going to the restaurants in the harbor area," she added.
Area restaurants saw the benefits of D-Day.
"D-Day was absolutely phenomenal," Shane Gelfer, co-owner of Sparky's Place, said. "We were inundated with spectators and reenactors alike."
Sparky's Place provided shuttle service between the event and their restaurant.
"There were lines two and three hours long waiting for the bus to take you back out to your car ... so our bus was able to pick you up, bring you back to the restaurant, and you could get a cold beverage and some food while you were waiting for the line to thin out a little bit, so that worked very well for us," Gelfer said. "It was an amazing event."
Mike Morgan, of Breakwall BBQ, said business was about usual for a weekend, and that regular customers were replaced by visitors from the event.
D-Day 2020 is already scheduled, planned for Aug. 21-22.