Battle of St. Michaels Bicentennial edges closer

The Star Democrat

Friday, August 2, 2013

By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@stardem.com

ST. MICHAELS — After nearly a year of anticipation and planning, the Battle of St. Michaels Bicentennial celebration is right around the corner.

Come Saturday, Aug. 10, the town of St. Michaels will bring the War of 1812’s history to life during the town-wide celebration.

“There’s something in this for everybody, the adults as well as the youngsters, and I think people will appreciate the history of the whole day,” town Commissioner Ann Borders, who headed the committee for the celebration, said.

The town’s waterfront and historic district will transform to a time 200 years ago.

The events are free and open to the public with food, beverages and boat and horse-drawn carriage rides available for purchase.

For Borders, the event is more about the town celebrating its history, rather than a tourist-driven celebration, she said.

The town has a history of celebrating the Battle of St. Michaels every 50 years since the centennial in 1913. Borders said she got into the idea of having a bicentennial when she was going through things she inherited from her aunt and found agendas and brochures from the celebration in 1963.

“To me, it’s exciting for the town,” Borders said. “It was a town responsibility, not necessarily another organization’s responsibility, and so we did, and it’s going to be fun.”

Cassandra Vanhooser, director of the Talbot County Office of Tourism, echoed how fun the event will be.

“It’s a great story and it’s a wonderful celebration of their history,” Vanhooser said.

Vanhooser and Borders both said the town is expecting around 3,000 people to attend the celebration.

On Saturday, visitors will learn about “The Town That Fooled the British” and delve into the stories of St. Michaels’ residents and militia once under siege from the British in 1813.

“There’s stuff going on all day long,” Vanhooser said.

The celebration begins at 10 a.m. with a parade down Talbot Street led by the Fort McHenry Guard in full regimental dress, along with the Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the Eastern Shore Militia, Veteran Volunteers, Ship’s Company: War of 1812, the Royal Marines 1st Company, 2nd Battalion and The Living History Troupe.

Vanhooser said the Fort McHenry re-enactors will even come on Friday and camp in St. Mary’s Square before the celebration.

British and American encampments invite visitors to explore the dress and daily living conditions of the early 1800s, while discussing what life was like during that period of time.

People will also get a chance to see the Chesapeake Bay’s iconic skipjacks dockside, with skipjack cruises, boat rides and other on-the-water opportunities offered along St. Michaels harbor throughout the festivities.

Guided walking tours, military drills, cannon firings and the ceremonial unfolding of a historic 30- by 40-foot War of 1812 flag will be among the activities for visitors to enjoy throughout the day.

The St. Michaels Museum at St. Mary’s Square, in conjunction with the Talbot County Historical Society, will host re-enactors, teaching the art of candle dipping, exhibiting a diorama of the battle, demonstrating period dances, as well as providing historic walking tours of St. Michaels.

Robert Forloney, director of the Kerr Center for Chesapeake Studies at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, will lead a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s “Navigating Freedom: The War of 1812 on the Chesapeake” exhibit, which opened in May.

Sponsored by the Maryland Humanities Council, author Ralph Eshelman will speak at the Christ Church Parish Hall about his book, “In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake.”

Vanhooser said the day will also feature activities for kids. The schedule includes a tug of war between the Americans and the British, model boat building, candle dipping, face painting and period games, plus a chance to explore the Chesapeake aboard the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center’s Fishmobile.

Local restaurants and churches are getting in on the celebration, too. Both will offer food and drinks reminiscent of the time period, while town merchants offer sweet treats and more. There will also be pit beef, barbecued chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers available around town.

The St. Michaels Art League’s “Celebrating St. Michaels” banners will be on display throughout town and feature images of local artist’s interpretations of the War of 1812 in St. Michaels. The banners and original artwork will be on display at the Woman’s Club located on St. Michaels Square and will be available for purchase from the artists.

Closing ceremonies will take place at St. Michaels’ waterfront Muskrat Park, including a Navy Brass Quintet concert and the final firing of the cannons, culminating in a lighting of the lanterns ceremony, celebrating the legend of the townspeople who saved St. Michaels from the British in 1813.

Vanhooser said that in a lucky turn of events, the Talbot County Watermen’s Association will host its fourth annual Watermen’s Appreciation Day and Crab Feast at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum on Sunday, Aug. 11, extending the celebration an extra day.

From 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., festival-goers will enjoy hot crabs, cold beer, a boat docking contest and live music beginning at noon with Bird Dog and the Road Kings.

Also, Vanhooser said reality television stars Edgar Hansen and Nick Mavar, from the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” and Liz and Jessica Cavalier, of the History Channel’s “Swamp People,” will make an appearance at the festival.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $16 for kids ages 6 to 17. For Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum members and licensed watermen and their families, tickets are $15 for adults and $6 for kids. Kids under 6 years old are admitted free.

Admission includes the crab feast, one free hamburger or hot dog per person, corn, soda and water.

Admission will be collected at the gate on Sunday.

For more information about the Saturday, Aug. 10 Battle of St. Michaels celebration and a full schedule with times, visit www.townofstmichaels.com, www.stmichaelsmd.org, or call 410-745-9535.

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