Driving slowly through the park gates, visitors will be greeted by a single luminaria followed by another and another until suddenly, as far as the eye can see, rows and rows of candles will take their breath away.
Looking for something to do this weekend? Find what you need in our Weekend Entertainment Guide newsletter.
There will be 23,110 candles, to be exact — each one representing a soldier who was killed, wounded or missing at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1864.
It's a statistic easily found in history books.
But when you see that number spread out along winding roads and open fields in the form of white lights, you gain a unique perspective on the carnage that took place on the single bloodiest day of the Civil War.
"Setting out a candle for each casualty brings home in a stunningly visual and moving fashion the level of individual sacrifice entailed in the fight to create a more perfect union," said Susan Trail, superintendent of Antietam Battlefield. "We receive many comments on how powerful this event is for those who take part in it."
This year's 24th annual Antietam Memorial Illumination will be held on Saturday, Dec. 1. In the event of poor weather, the event will be held on Saturday, Dec. 8.
The five-mile driving tour, which begins at 6 p.m., is expected to draw thousands of people, many traveling from outside of the Tri-State area.
Even after all these years, "the momentum of the Illumination has not diminished," said Georgene Charles, who is the founder and general chairwoman of the event. "In fact, it continues to expand each year with attendance reaching 20,000 spectators."
Organizers believe this year's Illumination could see even more visitors as it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.
Trail said the event is a particularly fitting capstone to the commemoration.
"We have spent this past year reflecting upon and engaging the public in the significance of loss that resulted from it," she said. "Seeing the thousands of candles across the battlefield landscape brings it home in a very moving way."
Charles came up with the idea 24 years ago after witnessing an illumination at Rest Haven Cemetery on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"Charles Brown of Rest Haven was the first person to bring luminarias to Hagerstown," Charles said. "When Rest Haven presented their illumination, the thought sparked an idea to do this at Antietam."
Georgene Charles still vividly remembers that first illumination ceremony, which she said drew about 3,000 visitors and was held during below-freezing temperatures.
"It was bitter, but the volunteers had a can-do-no-matter-what attitude," she added.
Many of the individuals who volunteered 24 years ago continue to lend a hand today, Charles noted.
"This event has been privileged to have such great support," she said.
Organizers said volunteers range from youth groups to senior citizens.