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Manassas Businesses Pin Hopes on Civil War Sesquicentennial

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The owner of the Whimsical Galerie Shop in Manassas is hoping that her investment in official sesquicentennial merchandise will pay off next week.
Jonathan Wilson
The owner of the Whimsical Galerie Shop in Manassas is hoping that her investment in official sesquicentennial merchandise will pay off next week.

Look closely at the storefronts and hotel entrances in Manassas, and you might see more than a few fresh coats of paint. Lots of businesses are pinning their hopes on next week's crowds.

Debbie Haight, executive director of Historic Manassas Incorporated, which is overseeing many of next week’s events, says the celebration should help the city build some momentum.

"Just being able to bring these people in -- or anybody in, with the hopes of them coming back -- that's really going to help this town out a lot," Haight says.

Step into the Chris Finnie's aptly-titled Whimsical Galerie Gift Shop off of Main Street, and one of the first things you'll see is a corner of the store dedicated to items emblazoned with the official logo of the sesquicentennial celebration.

"I have pillows, throws, wall hangings -- I have stainless steel water bottles," she says.

Finnie's is the only store in town that invested in the commemorative merchandise, thanks to some creative budgeting she did at the start of the year in preparation for the sesquicentennial.

She bought the store in 2008, just before the economy went precipitously south. It's been a rough three years, but she's confident Manassas is on the brink of reaching the notoriety of the most famous Civil War destination of all, Gettysburg.

"They were the end of the war, we were the beginning of the war. I fully expect this will be a catalyst to bring people here on a regular basis and put us on the map," Finnie says.

Events start Thursday morning, when Gov. Bob McDonnell will be in Manassas for the First Manassas Commemorative Ceremony.

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