You might wonder why so many people celebrated their independence on the wrong date. Wasn’t the Declaration of Independence signed on the 4th of July? Yes, but in 1776 George Washington unfortunately didn’t have a Gmail account, so instead he had to send the news by horse to inform the ¨Americans¨ that the U.S. had left the British empire.
Luckily it took more than a week to reach the small town of Exeter. Since the news arrived later, the celebrations take place two weeks later as well. For 27 years the people have celebrated this event with a huge festival with a battle reenactment.
It is one of the biggest events in Exeter. Nice for the colonists. Not so nice for His Majesty’s loyalists. Thousands of people attended the festival with great enthusiasm. ¨I think it’s an excellent event, ¨ said the volunteer Ray Barret. ¨I think you are celebrating history and at the same time you are having a good time.”
Furthermore, many people spend many days and hours to prepare the costumes they wore to reenact the Redcoats, the Americans and the crafts workers of the 18th century. ¨It takes hours and hours, ¨ said Kathrin Rutkoski who has participated in the festival for 3 years, ¨different pieces in different times to prepare the costumes.”
Local food and crafts from all around New Hampshire gave the festival a unique atmosphere. A funny moment for many Summer Exeter students was taking a picture with the cardboard Donald Trump statue that was brought by the Republican Party to their stand.
The festivals start at 10 a.m., when horses arrive in town, to imitate the arrival of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago. Subsequently several speeches are made and the Declaration of Independence is read aloud to the audience.
Many people think that this was the high point of the event, because during the reading of the Declaration “the British yell, and we all [the Americans] yell back at them, and they say God save the king, and all this stuff,” said Niamh Dolan who has participated in the festival for the past 12 years.
In the afternoon, the celebrations continued with the reenactment of Revolutionary battles, even though there never were such battles in Exeter. On one side, the British were fighting in their bright red coats and on the other the Americans, who unfortunately for the King won the battle and who tried to kill their opponents.
Small children held American flags and everybody cheered when the Americans vanquished the Redcoats. Now when the United States is divided by political views, such an event has a big patriotic impact on the visitors. Niamh Dolan, who has attended the reenactment for 12 years, said she fears that ¨a lot of people are patriotic, but maybe not as many as in the past years.”
Independence Day is celebrated differently inside the U.S. For instance, Francisco Silva, an Upper School student from California said: ¨In Los Angeles there is no big celebration, everyone just has barbecues and throws fireworks. In a small town, all the festivals are close together.”
At the same time, many foreigners were not familiar with such an event. ¨We don’t have such festivals in Venezuela,” said 16-year old Ainhoa Calvo, an Upper School student.
The festival lasted the entire day and ended with colorful fireworks. At 9 p.m. an excited crowd gathered around the lake and enjoyed the festive evening. For over half an hour the dark sky was dyed in many bright colors.
All in all, it was a great fun festival that embodied American culture. Everybody was reminded by the festival of the roots of the American values and the strong patriotic spirit that is still alive. For the Redcoats, not so much.