July 1, 2015

Fireworks, Flintlocks, Benjamin Franklin as Princeton Celebrates


Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year and there will be enough history-inspired events to fill the entire day, not to mention a few that take place on the run up to the event.

This year’s traditional fireworks display, courtesy of the Spirit of Princeton, will take place on Thursday, July 2, at 9 p.m.

The community is invited to come early and enjoy their own picnics on the fields next to the Princeton University Stadium, along Western Way. The site will open at 7 p.m. so that everyone can settle in for the 16th Annual Independence Day Fireworks, which will take place rain or shine. Only lightning will cancel the spectacle in red, white and blue.

Visitors are asked to follow the rules that exclude alcoholic beverages and, because of the newly-installed artificial turf, they are asked not to smoke.

The event is free and open to all, with parking at University Lot 21 below the fields adjacent to Faculty Road. Parking is also available on streets nearby and in the University parking garage on Prospect Street.

The non-profit Spirit of Princeton not only sponsors the free July 4 fireworks but also the Memorial Day Parade as well as the Flag Day celebration, and Veteran’s Day ceremony. For more information, visit www.spiritofprinceton.org.

So much for the fireworks, now for the flintlocks, which will feature, appropriately enough, on Princeton Battlefield Park, at 500 Mercer Road (Princeton Pike) when numerous re-enactors will mark Independence Day on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also free, this event seems to draw more and more visitors to Princeton each year. Many bring a picnic lunch and enjoy not only the park and the hiking trails of the adjacent Institute Woods but the period demonstrations that are intended to bring history to life.

The use of flintlock muskets as well as artillery drill will be demonstrated by soldiers of the Revolutionary War period from Mott’s 6th Company of the new 2nd Continental Regiment of Artillery. Named for Gershom Mott, who was born in Middletown, New Jersey in 1743, “Mott’s Artillery” was involved throughout the war, in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and then as far South as Virginia.

At the Thomas Clarke House, which will be open for tours and a small exhibition of Revolutionary arms, visitors will be treated to demonstrations of domestic skills of the era and there will be period games for children.

At noon, there will be a talk on the Battle of Princeton, followed at 1 p.m. by a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

If you’d like to sign the Declaration for yourself, head over to Morven Museum and Garden on Stockton Street, where a July 4 Jubilee will be in full swing, having started at noon. This is where you are likely to spot Benjamin Franklin (as portrayed by history enthusiast B. David Emerson) taking his afternoon constitutional.

Morven’s Independence Day Jubilee is also free and it will run, weather permitting, until 3 p.m.  What better place to mark the day, since the museum is the former home of another Declaration-signer, Richard Stockton.

Besides the historic house itself, which will be open and includes an exhibition of 19th-century chair making in New Jersey, “Of the Best Materials and Good Workmanship,” as well as yesteryear demonstrations on how ice-cream, bread, paper and guns were made, there will be live bluegrass music on the front porch from the Ocean Country Band. Plenty of barbecue will be for sale from the Oink & Moo BBQ food truck.

Arts Council of Princeton instructor Libby Ramage will be on hand to help visitors draw inspiration from the exhibition and create their own chalk or oil pastel rendering of a chair. And  historical interpreter Stacy Flora Roth will share the importance of tea in the early days of America with “Revolutionary Tea!” Why was it so important that fashion-conscious families posed for portraits with their tea sets? Did Great Britain lose its American Colonies over “the cup that cheers”? Ms. Roth is the one to enlighten you along with a fund tea lore, history, songs and poetry.

Visitors to the Morven Museum & Garden event, at 55 Stockton Street, should park in the Princeton Theological Seminary lot opposite or in the Monument Hall parking lots, as there will be no parking at Morven because of the many children expected to be on the grounds. The event will be cancelled if there is prolonged rain.

For more information on Ms. Roth and Mr. Emerson, visit their shared website:  http://historyonthehoof.com/. For more on Morven and the event, call (609) 924-8144 or visit: www.morven.org.