Crosby, Stills and Nash to boost Erie celebration

May 6, 2012 12:20 am

Keith Srakocic
The U.S. Brig Niagara, the official flagship of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is seen in dock at the Erie Maritime Museum in Erie, Pa.
  • Crosby, Stills and Nash.
By Virginia Linn / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie has begun.

With cannon fire and flag raisings, Erie last week kicked off 18 months of concerts, lectures, community picnics, movies, historical tours, fireworks and other events to lead up to the September 2013 commemoration of the pivotal battle in the War of 1812. It honors U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s role in building ships at Presque Isle and his victory against the British Navy near Sandusky, Ohio.

If you go
CSN concert

Tickets to Crosby, Stills and Nash on June 23 are $100 apiece. Beach 11 parking opens at 4 p.m. and the group will play from 8 to 10:15 p.m. To order tickets, go to or call the Tullio Arena Box Office at 1-814-452-4857.

The big event this year in the lead-up to this great maritime observance will be “Best Summer Night,” an outdoor concert by Crosby, Stills and Nash on June 23 on Presque Isle Beach to raise money to upgrade the Perry Monument area at Misery Bay.

“Most of the big activities, including a tall ships festival, are going to occur next summer, many focused in and around the Perry Monument area,” said Steve McDermott, executive director of the Presque Isle Partnership, which is spearheading the memorial improvements. “That overlooks the bay where Commodore Perry built six of his fleet. The Perry Monument will be Ground Zero for a variety of these events.”

The partnership, founded in 1994, hopes to raise at least $150,000 that will help fund replacement of a larger picnic pavilion (estimated to cost $35,000) and installation of 30 picnic tables made of recycled aluminum (estimated at $800 apiece), to spruce up the monument area. Other improvements also are planned.

The 3,200-acre Presque Isle State Park is the most visited state park in Pennsylvania, drawing 4 million visitors a year, many from the Pittsburgh area.

Landing Crosby, Stills and Nash was a coup for the partnership, Mr. McDermott said, for a first-of-a-kind concert for 4,000 people at Beach 11 near the North Pier Trail. Tickets are $100 apiece and 3,100 have already sold. He expects a sell-out by June 1. It goes on rain or shine.

“Beach 11 is a very protected, very serene area. It’s just a beautiful place,” he said, adding that the last row of concert-goers will be a mere 70 yards from the stage. “They’ll be right on top of the action.”

The group hasn’t played in Erie for more than 20 years. Corporate sponsors also helped fund the event.

Celebrating the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie will involve the whole community, Mr. McDermott said.

“The whole purpose of the 2013 celebrations is to give people a renewed focus in this community of the historical presence, but also reinvigoration of a community spirit.”

On Sept. 10, 1813, according to the Erie Maritime Museum, nine small U.S. ships defeated a British squadron of six vessels. The U.S. victory secured the Northwest Territory, opened supply lines and lifted the nation’s morale.

The U.S. Navy built six of the nine vessels, including the Brig Niagara, in Erie. At the time, the remote community had just 500 people. The Navy recruited shipwrights, blockmakers, blacksmiths, caulkers, boat builders and laborers from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and other places. Building materials also were imported: the sails came from Philadelphia; rigging, cannon shot and anchors from Pittsburgh.

In March 1813, Perry took command of the fleet, and by late July had completed the vessels. His fleet faced the British under Commodore Robert Heriot Barclay near Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

Perry was aboard his flagship Lawrence, which took most of the enemy’s fire. It was severely damaged and most of Perry’s crew were killed or wounded. Perry transferred from the foundering Lawrence to the lightly damaged Niagara and sailed into the British battle line. The British had taken heavy casualties from the Lawrence’s fire. Broadsides from the fresh Niagara compelled Barclay’s surrender within 15 minutes of Perry’s transfer.

Perry wrote his famous report to General William Henry Harrison: “We have met the enemy and they are ours: two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.”

A reconstruction of the Brig Niagara is on display at the Erie Maritime Museum in downtown Erie.

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