Bulletin: America’s birthday has been delayed. That’s right. Here in Exeter the Fourth of July was actually celebrated July 16th, when the annual American Independence Festival celebrated the Declaration of Independence in this town.
This Festival has a very interesting and unique origin. The Declaration of Independence was signed, of course, on the 4th of July 1776, and in consequence, most of the United States celebrates Independence day then. But back in the day,– It might be hard but try to imagine it – they didn’t have phones or any way of remote communication. This meant that the news wasn’t received at the same time in all of the USA. In fact, it took 12 days for the information to be transported (by horse) to Exeter on the 16th of July. This fact explains why the American Independence Festival takes place the 16th of July instead of the 4th of July.
The people-filled festivities took place at the lawn on Water Street, behind the American Independence Museum, and went on from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.
The organizers of the events wanted to focus on immersion and really wanted to make the visitors feel like they were there in the 18th century. Reenactors were there to tell the public about the story of the war and military customs at the time while in sessions that were as informative as they were entertaining.
Artisans set up tents to show their practices, how crafts were made in the 18th century and how they still make them today — items such as ropes, pots and musical instruments.
The day began with a reenactor who, taking the role of John Taylor Gilman who was the governor of New Hampshire at the time, read the Declaration of Independence out loud to the audience.
During the day, there were multiple reenactments.
Costumed volunteers showed military drills such as how they regroup, how they shoot guns alone or in groups — and they actually shot blanks! This might be normal for some but is a first for some international students.
They showed how military life was during the Revolutionary War. What soldiers did, how they lived, and what they ate. They also showed some of the items they used in their daily life.
The last reenactment had the French’s 85th regiment of Saintonge and the British 4th King’s Own Regiment of the Foot explain how the troops participated in the Revolutionary War and what each group’s uniforms and other equipment looked like. It was fun as both regiments roasted each other during the whole presentation, trying to prove who is better.
Since this event was organized around (and in) the American Independence Museum — which was a tavern visited by George Washington himself- visitors could donate to the museum to keep it functioning.
But the fun did not end there and continued throughout the night. The Club Soda Band performed on the stage at Swasey Park with many people dancing and listening to their concert. They ended by singing God Bless America along with the public.
Right after the band’s concert, there was another performance as fireworks were shot above Squamscott River in a dance of lights to celebrate the USA’s independence.
Exeter students could go to the festival after finishing their classes — which was before noon — but sadly, not many people went to the festival.
However, there were many different ways that some celebrated the 16th of July here at Exeter. In fact, 200 students went on a trip to Canobie Park. For instance, one student named Drew Park said he went to celebrate Independence Day at Canobie Lake Park: “I waited a pretty long time to get on three rides, but it was worth it because I had a lot of fun.”
Another student, Isabelle Westford, celebrated her Independence day watching the nightly firework show with her friends: “It was strange for me, since I usually don’t celebrate the 4th of July because I’m not American, but it was fun!” she stated. “I mean, who doesn’t like to celebrate things?”
Although many students were not on campus, some students still celebrated this year’s Independence Day with their friends and had a great time. Some students didn’t celebrate this year’s Independence Day. Lea Liebisch, a girl from Dunbar Hall, mentioned how she’s “been boycotting the 4th of July for 3 years now,” and didn’t really think of the national celebration. However, she still had a really great time going out with her friends on the 16th.
Despite our differences, The 16th of July brought people at Exeter together, whether it was back in 1776 or today in the 21st century.