Putnam’s War of 1812 re-enactment sets off animal activists


Jul 12, 2012

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SOUTHEAST — Half a dozen War of 1812 re-enactors will bring history to life this Saturday at Tilly Foster Farm complete with a 700-pound light artillery cannon and muskets firing throughout the afternoon.

Too much reality and gunsmoke, say some who contend the noise and smoke will disturb the animals living at the 199-acre preserve.

“A 700-pound artillery cannon? Are you serious?” Carmel resident Raymond Mainiero wrote to the Putnam County Board of Legislators, which oversees the county-owned farm museum.

While acknowledging he isn’t an “expert on animal psychology,” the retired Carmel High School biology teacher said by phone that animals get scared when fireworks go off and louder explosions would be even more frightening to them.

“Any fool knows that horses are very skittish animals,” Mainiero said.

County officials said in deference to the complaints the animals will be temporarily moved.

Meredith Whipple, executive director of Tilly Foster Farm, is proud of the livestock and the farm which has become a centerpiece of Putnam tourism and open space. She said the safety of visitors and the animals has been carefully reviewed.

Re-enacting the War of 1812 fits in with the county’s year-long bicentennial celebration, she said, explaining that in that year the newly-formed Putnam County took one of its first votes agreeing to participate in the fight against England over trade restrictions and forcing American sailors into the British Navy.

“A lot of people are thrilled. It should be a good learning experience,” Whipple said of the re-enactment.

Historically animals, especially horses, have been near firearms and at battlefields, said County Legislator Richard Othmer, R-Kent, former Kent Town historian.

“No animals will be hurt. They will not be shooting the cannons at the animals,” he said, adding, “They do this every day in Colonial Williamsburg and regularly at Gettysburg and plenty of other historic places.”

Ken Ross, chief of the Putnam County SPCA Humane Law Enforcement Department, said despite the concerns, there isn’t a state law to prohibit this event. He said organizers told him they had consulted with veterinarians and agreed to secure the animals elsewhere.

The event will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with canon firings every hour on the half hour starting at 10:30 a.m. and black powder musket firings throughout the day. There will be craftspeople including blacksmith, spinners and weavers in period clothing. Admission is free with an optional $5 donation. Charges apply for food and pony rides.

The farm is home to some rare and endangered Early American farm animals, including a Jackstock donkey named Nat and an American Cream Draft Horse named Sophie; along with cows, American Sheep, guinea hogs and American blue rabbits.

County Legislator Sam Oliverio, D-Putnam Valley, has received dozens of complaints and had hoped the event would move to Veterans Memorial Park in Kent where there are no animals.

“I knew that they were doing a re-enactment. I was not aware it would involve such a huge armament,” he said. “The animals themselves are part of the treasure of Tilly Foster and to subject them and the neighbors doesn’t make good sense.”

Othmer said the squabble boils down to politics.

“I am pro-tourism for Putnam County. It is in-fighting and they are wrong,” he said, referring to a dispute between Ann Fanizzi of Southeast who wants the foundation created by Meredith Whipple and her brother George Whipple to show the financial records of the farm.

“If Mr. Othmer wants to characterize the residents of Putnam County and the concerns of people about the animals and what is going on at Tilly Foster as reactionary, then so be it,” said Fanizzi. “These concerns (about the animals) came from people who saw the ads for this program.”

Suzannah Glidden, chairwoman of Hands Across the Border, an environmental group, saw the ads touting “smoke and noise will fill the the air” and said she became concerned.

“This whole thing is misguided,” she said. “And it is symbolic, emblematic, of our nation and the violent mindset we have reached.”

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