Our view: Why Perry 200 should make us proud

The Erie Times-News.

May 6, 2012

People in Put-in-Bay are pumped up. So are the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake. From Ohio to Ontario, those who live along our shores are ready for a two-year commemoration of the War of 1812 and the pivotal Battle of Lake Erie, on Sept. 10, 1813.


With booming cannons, clanging church bells and flag-raising ceremonies, our own Perry 200 bicentennial commemoration officially began Monday.


Over the next 17 months, we’ll learn about the first war that our young country fought after independence. We’ll find out that Americans take it for granted that the U.S. won the war, while Canadians say that the war preserved their independence by holding back a U.S. invasion. Both countries, rightly, will celebrate the fact that we’ve lived in peace for two centuries.


It’s not just the Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces that will be marking the War of 1812 and honoring the war dead. According to www.visit1812.com, which is billed as “The Official War of 1812 Bicentennial Website,” events will take place in nine states and Washington, D.C.; at 19 historic forts and museums in Canada; and at the National Army Museum and Windsor Castle in Great Britain.


You could explore the Star Spangled Banner Flag House in Baltimore, where Mary Pickersgill made the flag that flew over Fort Henry, Md., and inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem. Or you might want to see the restored Star Spangled Banner itself, on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Perhaps you’d like to travel to Boston to see the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” which defeated four British ships during the War of 1812.


Better yet, we hope that Erie residents seize this opportunity to learn more about how our community spurred Oliver Hazard Perry to victory in the Battle of Lake Erie. Our story is about workers who labored under deadline pressure, in harsh conditions, to build the fleet that sailed to Put-in-Bay and defeated the British. It’s a story about how Perry’s battle motto, “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” has come to symbolize the can-do spirit of generations of Erieites, who know how to rally when the chips are down.


Perry 200 is a chance for local residents to learn about Perry landmarks, and for schoolchildren to study the War 1812, the Battle of Lake Erie and what Erie was like in that era. It’s a chance to pay tribute to community leaders and ordinary citizens who have worked so hard over the years to preserve our flagship, the U.S. Brig Niagara.


With leaders from the Jefferson Educational Society at the helm, Perry 200 will offer more than 30 events, including concerts, fireworks, lectures, historical tours, picnics, a pageant, a parade and the Niagara League’s Tall Ships Festival II. Learn more at www.Perry200.com.


“This is our time to celebrate. This is our time to remember. This is our time to learn about a great point in Erie history that changed the world,” says Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott. Get onboard with Perry 200. Don’t let this ship sail without you.

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