Archive Page 2

The Toledo Symphony Returns

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 2.48.59 PM“Friends of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial”, better known as the “Perry Group” is the official National Park Service registered support group for our monument and it’s mission here in Put-in-Bay.

 
Many years ago we were one of the first non-profit groups in Ohio to get a special license plate designed and issued by the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles. Every time you see a car with the Monument on the plate that person is helping us to provide support to our NPS site here in Put-in-Bay.

 
Over the past 25+ years the Perry Group helped raise funds to build the visitor center, underwrite the Dean Mosher paintings hanging there, secure artifacts, publish Gerard Altoff’s books, and even build “Perry’s Longboat” all with your help. Annually we are often asked to provide support for events, re-enactors, rentals, and music.

 
One of the most delightful parts of our summer is bringing the renowned Toledo Symphony to the island. The Toledo Symphony has recorded and performed with great musicians like Vladimir Ashkenazy, Isaac Stern, Aaron Copland, and Itzhak Perlman, and has even performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Last year during our Bicentennial Celebration scheduling precluded us from inviting the full symphony to perform so that the time and attention of historic Saturday’s events could be focused on Park Canada’s amazing “Tattoo” performance.

 
We engaged a small Toledo Symphony ensemble to play after the Tattoo as our Harbor Illumination was being set up. They delivered a beautiful performance. Our regular contact at the Toledo Symphony over the years has been Sandra Clark. Sandra had always made sure that we had the best event possible with top musicians and a great conductor making the journey to the island to play.

 
She asked that when we brought the Symphony back in 2014 that they be able to play once again on the plaza at the monument. This is a wonderful tradition that dates back well over a decade here on Historic Weekend. We have requested this for 2014. Sadly Sandra unexpectedly passed away two weeks ago without being able to return with the Symphony.So that makes this quite a special year for us at the Perry Group as we remember our friend Sandra while presenting the Toledo Symphony once again here at Perry’s Victory.

 
So come help us continue to commemorate the War of 1812. This 200th anniversary year (1814) will be remembered for the noted famous poem “The Defense of Fort McHenry” written by Francis Scott Key. Of course we now know it as “The Star Spangled Banner”.This year the symphony will perform a special concert dedicated to the writing of the poem and celebrating the remembrance of the battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore that gave us the lyrics to our most cherished anthem.

 
Join us Saturday September 6th at 6pm for the triumphant return of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and their special tribute to Francis Scott Key and the music that America loves to hear at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (or at the Niagara Center if it rains).
Get involved, you can be join the Perry Group for as little as $20 at http://www.theperrygroup.org

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Jessie Elliott, villain or victim?

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Jessie Duncan Elliott

Now that all the festivities are over, related to the Battle of Lake Erie, I wanted to take one last look at the controversy surrounding Captain Jessie Duncan Elliott, who captained the Brig Niagara during most of the Battle of Lake Erie. Born in Hagerstown Maryland in 1782, Elliot enlisted as a midshipman in 1804 at the age of 22. He rose through the ranks quickly to Lieutenant and in 1810 was given charge of building up a fleet on Lake Erie. In October of 1812, serving under Captain Nathan Towson, Elliott distinguished himself in an intense battle with the British fleet near Fort Erie. Together, Elliot and Towson captured both the HMS Caledonia and Detroit. (The Caledonia would later be an important part of Perry’s fleet.)

Jessie Elliott was decorated by congress for his actions and promoted to Commandant. Unfortunately for him, Oliver Hazard Perry had been given the same promotion only a month earlier and was given command of the Lake Erie Fleet construction effort. Elliot was then made Perry’s second in command. Upon completion of the two identical brigs, Elliot was given command of the Niagara.

On the day of the battle, Perry issued three commands to his fleet’s captains; stay in line, don’t overtake the boats ahead of you, and don’t engage with the enemy until you’re in range. The wind was light as the battle began, but increased and shifted favoring the US fleet. Perry, aboard the Lawrence led the attack, while Elliott on the Niagara brought up the rear. British artillery pummeled the Lawrence while the Niagara remained largely out of range until Perry transferred his command to the Niagara and won the day.

Looking back on the outcome of the battle, we need to remember that Perry and Elliot took quite different paths on the way to the 10th of September 1813. Of course we know Oliver Hazard Perry came from a privileged Rhode Island family with a long line of distinguished Naval service. Young Perry’s unconventional approach to command had branded him as brash, yet brave. His family’s political and financial connections assured him of command even after his fateful loss of the USS Revenge and subsequent court martial proceedings.

Meanwhile, already fighting the British here on the Great Lakes, Jessie Elliot continued to distinguish himself in a series of key battles and skirmishes. According to Wikipedia, he was transferred to Lake Ontario, and served under Commodore Isaac Chauncey on board the flagship USS Madison and took part in the Battle of York in April of 1813 and the Battle of Fort George later that May. This all led up to his assignment as second in command under Perry in July of 1813. Elliott had earned his way up through the ranks. He had extensive combat experience but was publicly critical of Perry’s decision to use Presque Isle to construct the fleet. Being second in command to OH Perry may have been a very tough pill to swallow for Elliott.

So when Perry rowed from the Lawrence to the Niagara and relieved Elliott of his command late in the Battle that September 10th, what ensued was a 30 year controversy over the exact reasons why Elliott hung back during the battle. Was it insubordination, lack of communication, or was Elliott simply following orders? We know Elliott continued to distinguish himself in service well after the Battle of Lake Erie. He was later commended, in writing, by Perry for his efforts during the battle.

In 1833 Elliott was appointed Commander of the Boston Navy Yard and then the Mediterranean Fleet in 1835. He had some issues with junior officers in 1838, (he may not have been that popular back in Washington), but in 1843 President John Tyler still thought highly enough of Jessie Elliott to appoint him Commander of the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Elliott died in December of 1845 and was buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery, near the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

In 2012 Jessie Duncan Elliott’s unmarked grave was rediscovered. Marc Burr, President of the Perry Group, and funeral director, happened onto the interesting story of Elliot’s final resting spot. According to Samuel Ricks, Graves Registrar Pennsylvania Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, he is in an unremarkable grave, part of a Naval Asylum plot in Pennsylvania.

Interestingly, the Naval Asylum Plot is a National Cemetery plot owned and “maintained” by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) inside an abandoned private cemetery, Mount Moriah.  The Naval Plot has 5 sections with approximately 1,900 Navy and Marine graves from the Revolutionary War (Continental Navy) through the Korean War.

The Naval Asylum Plot is situated in the back of an abandoned cemetery, an “oasis surrounded by jungle”.  The VA cuts the grass.  There is not even a flagpole with a US Flag flying.  Many of the grave markers are illegible.  Elliot is buried in the “Officer’s Plot,” Naval 5, Grave 1(GPS: 39.93687 N, -75.23899 W) at the Naval Asylum Plot inside the Yeadon, Delaware County side of Mount Moriah Cemetery (which spans two counties).

 

Marc Burr and the Perry Group think that regardless of what you may believe about Jessie Duncan Elliott, he deserves a proper marker for his grave. Marc has begun the process to get approval to have a new grave marker commissioned and installed at Elliott’s grave. Members of The Perry Group are making plans to visit Mount Moriah, to oversee the installation of the gravestone on the way to the Bicentennial events at Fort McHenry (Baltimore) September 12-14. If you would like to join us on this once in a lifetime trip email me at battleoflakeerie@gmail.com

 

Where’s home for Perry’s Longboat?

Over the next few years Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial is likely to see many changes. Hopefully, more renovations, updated exhibits and new expanding interpretive opportunities with Perry’s Longboat will be part of those changes. But as budgets tighten and personnel shift to support the other “year round War of 1812” site at River Raisin our efforts at the Perry Group will be doubly focused on the opportunities to support our own Monument’s Mission here on South Bass Island.

After such an incredible bicentennial year last year, I am certain this summer will seem relatively quiet. While we always seem to enjoy five very busy months every year, this year Lake Erie Shores and Islands (our regional tourism board) has produced a new promotional campaign called “Lake Erie Love”. (http://youtu.be/el_wvc3X7p4) The ads, billboards and commercials are scored with a catchy new tune sung by emerging country star Walker Hayes. The TV ads prominently feature the Monument grounds and observation deck. Mark my words, it won’t be long before you’ll be humming this tune and answering the age old question, “which way to the monument?”

I am hoping that this exciting campaign will keep visitation strong during this transitional year. And 2015 looks to be another very busy summer with the 100th Anniversary of the Perry’s Monument Opening in 1915, perhaps a Tallship or two as part of the final observances of the War of 1812, but when 2015 is over the Monument will enter a new phase of its mission.

With no major anniversary events to plan for in the near future after 2015 we will need to sharpen the focus on the important story of International Peace. Last year we stimulated lots of interest about the history of the island, Commodore Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie and we need to keep that message visible and accessible. But to keep the park vital and growing The Perry Group hopes to work along with other interested civic groups to design, site and construct a new multifunctional building on the parks grounds.

We have been told that in this new very fiscally tight congressional era, where every dollar spent needs to be justified, and seasonal parks like Perry’s Victory will be challenged to maintain their existing services and personnel. Our mission is to not only design a building that adds to the scope of the monuments mission, but plays a vital role in its future and most importantly will be sustainable.

Sustainability is the critical part of this project. The original idea was born out of a discussion to find a dry covered place for the Perry’s Longboat to be on display during the season. What seemed like a simple idea to “build a garage” has become far broader in scope, perhaps also housing the Carronade, archives, and providing offices for personnel currently located in the older deteriorating former homes that remain on park grounds.

Designing a building that augments the interpretive opportunities and archive accessibility is our dream. Imagine being able to have the longboat and carronade accessible to the public regardless of weather through the entire season. Maybe we could create an environment/library for historical research and perhaps even a small museum for some of the amazing artifacts that remain out of view to the public. The potential is huge, but the challenges to seeing this happen are many. One thing is certain in this new era Perry’s Victory will change and grow if we work together to make it a valuable part of a changing National Park Service priority.

Changes at the monument

Changes at the monument

The Golden Rule, America’s First Peace Boat

Veterans For Peace Golden Rule Project

Veterans For Peace Golden Rule Project

“Thinking outside the box” is an often written and spoken accolade applied to Oliver Hazard Perry for defeating the British in the Battle of Lake Erie. He did not follow the “engagement” conventions of the day. Inspired, his men continued to fight until the Lawrence was just too damaged to continue. Perry refused to give up, transferred his command from Lawrence to the Niagara and won the day. We still marvel at his tenacity, bravery and strategy. The 1958 efforts of the four sailors aboard the 30-foot ketch “Golden Rule” known as America’s First Peace Boat, shares a very similar, albeit less known, result of challenging and defeating powerful opponents in an unconventional way.

 

It was the summer of 1958 and the world was caught up in the tensions of the cold war. According to the “Golden Rule” web site (http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-golden-rule ) “Horrified by the ongoing, open-air nuclear bomb tests and the threat of nuclear war, the four-man crew of the “Golden Rule” sailed from California toward the Marshall Islands. Their intention, publicized around the world, was to nonviolently place their bodies in the way of planned nuclear bomb blasts.”

 

These four brave men sailed aboard the “Golden Rule” from Honolulu harbor towards the testing area. They were stopped and arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard before they could get to the test site. However, the publicity surrounding their arrest, trial and imprisonment helped ignite public outrage against aboveground nuclear weapons testing and their efforts alerted the world to the health hazards of nuclear testing fallout.

 

Thanks in part to the “Golden Rule”, in 1963; the Partial Test Ban Treaty was enacted, banning above-ground nuclear testing by the two Superpowers. Several years later the voyage of the “Golden Rule” and her crew inspired a similar anti-nuclear voyage by another bold group that would eventually become known as Greenpeace.

 

After the Battle of Lake Erie, the Niagara and Lawrence found themselves useless relics of war. They were both left neglected and finally scuttled. Like the Brig Niagara, the “Golden Rule” (which was passed on from owner to owner for many years) became neglected and finally sank in Humboldt Bay, near Eureka California. Left for salvage, boat yard owner Leroy Zerlang realized it was something to save and pulled it up on shore. He stabilized the hull and donated it the local Veterans for Peace group.

 

I would never have known anything about the “Golden Rule” if it had not been for friend, Sandusky Maritime volunteer and Perry’s Longboat rower AJ “Skip” Oliver of Sandusky. Skip, who is a Viet Nam War veteran, member of Veterans For Peace, sailor, and retired Heidelberg University professor, followed his convictions to Eureka California to help reconstruct the infamous anti-nuclear peace boat “Golden Rule” back in 2011.

 

Skip was one of our first Longboat volunteers and rowers. Last spring he jumped right in and started sanding and painting the longboat as we worked feverishly to get it ready for the summers events. His countless hours of time and effort to help finish our Perry Longboat underscored his dedication to boating history. He challenged us all to think about the connections between Perry’s actions in war and the ultimate peace we enjoy as part of the legacy of that bloody battle of 1813. I don’t know if his work on “Golden Rule” propelled Skip’s interest in boat building and restoration but we want to return the favor on his “Golden Rule” project.

 

Skip’s efforts to raise money and awareness about the “Golden Rule” is proof that our efforts do matter, that the time we spend centered on our convictions is what we today call “the purpose driven life” not so very dissimilar to the convictions of young OH Perry in the War of 1812. Unlike Perry and the Niagara, the “Golden Rule” never physically fired a shot, but it did strike a major blow and won a victory we still honor today.

 

Courtesy of the Albert Bigelow Papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Courtesy of the Albert Bigelow Papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection

The longboat is a visual icon of Perry’s bravery. We all enjoyed being apart of the longboat project and the peace it continues to symbolize. The “Golden Rule” is also an icon of peace. There is an opportunity to once again be a part of history. Help Veterans for Peace launch the “Golden Rule’ again. If your interested help us to restore the “Golden Rule”.  Please visit the Indiegogo website http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-golden-rule and make a donation today.

The HMS Detroit Reborn

This is the story of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, Rhode Island’s First Tall Ship. In August of 2008 after a 25 year long struggle to build a 19th century tall ship to promote local tourism, our sister city of Amherstburg Ontario finally had to let go of its tightly held dream of completing construction on a full scale replica of the 19th century ship HMS Detroit. A ship originally built at the Royal Navy Yard in Amherstburg in 1812.

In the final years of the Canadian project, the city of Amherstburg and some local businessmen had provided sizable loans and grants to keep the project moving forward. The hull had cost nearly $1.2 million (Canadian) to build but the organizers were unable to secure commitments for the additional $4-5 million to complete the project.

ImageSo it sat languishing in a local shipyard for three years. Eventually the project’s board of directors disbanded leaving businessman Ryan Deslippe to salvage or sell the steel hull.

Then as luck would have it a group from Newport Rhode Island heard about the stalled project and came to take a look. They liked what they saw, made an offer and purchased the Detroit for $339,000. Deslippe felt that this was the best chance to see the efforts of his community to build a new tall ship realized. The completed hull was towed from its LaSalle berth at Dean Construction north of Amherstburg to a shipyard in northern Rhode Island. Was it irony or providence?

When Oliver Hazard Perry defeated Commodore Robert Barclay and the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie September 10th 1813, the captured HMS Detroit was so badly damaged that it was never able to be used again. It sat in Put-in-Bay’s harbor for the winter and was eventually towed to Erie, PA. It was re-commissioned the USS Detroit but was ultimately sold for scrap in 1825, according to a well-footnoted reference article in Wikipedia.

Canadians might look at the second loss of the HMS Detroit as blow to their maritime heritage and proud defense of Canada during the War of 1812. But 2008 was a difficult time not only in the States, but also across North America as our nation and Canada were sinking into an economic recession we have yet to fully recover from.Image

The group from Newport, The Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island Organization, had a vision for building a ship with a mission of sea education. Of course the present day costs for such an undertaking are astronomical, but if any place had a chance to pull this off it had to be OH Perry’s home state of Rhode Island and the City of Newport.

So with the help of the State of Rhode Island they pushed forward. The Canadian HMS Detroit hull was a wonderful opportunity to move their efforts forward in dramatic fashion. Newport Rhode Island, the future home of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, rallied to get this project done. Their current stated mission:

Oliver Hazard Perry is the Rhode Island built Tall Ship providing our state and nation with a 200-foot long, three-masted Sailing School Vessel that joins the select fleet of Class-A size Tall Ships hosted by the world’s maritime nations. With this extraordinary ship we provide education and adventure at sea programs to youth and all ages while proudly advancing our Ocean State’s rich nautical heritage. www.ohpri.org

 

Here in Ohio, we had all secretly hoped that the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry would have been able to join us for the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Labor Day weekend. The ship was commissioned in a ceremony last July, but still needed much work to go to sea. This summer the OH Perry will embark on its stated mission with middle and high school aged children now able to sign up for a week long program aboard the ship in August.

ImageFor many the next most important part of this story will be the presence of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry in Baltimore for the “Star Spangled Spectacular”, The War of 1812 Battle of Baltimore observance September 6th-16th  at Fort McHenry.  Plans are being made to have the Oliver Hazard Perry in the Great Lakes as part of the Tall Ships America Challenge in 2016. I think it can be argued that despite the irony of the ships name change, we can all be proud of the Canadian efforts to build such a beautiful hull that will be underway thanks to Rhode Island as a sailing tall ship in 2014. Let’s welcome her home in 2016.

For more information on the sea education program aboard the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry contact Jess Wurzbacher at 401.841.0080, or at jess@ohpri.org

Row, Row, Row Our Boat

www.putinbaystudios.com

Photo by Susan Byrnes

As I sit here looking out my window, drifting snow, plows and frigid air make warm weather rowing races a distant ambition. One of my regrets from last year’s bicentennial celebration was not having the 100th anniversary running of the “Commodore Perry Cup”, a ”whaleboat” rowing race championship. You might remember that an alert reader, Paul Polk from Virginia, contacted me last year about the rowing races in 1913 that were part of the bicentennial. He wrote asking for information about the story behind the black and white photograph of his grandfather Manley Smelzer Sullivan standing in his Naval Militia uniform next to three large trophies he had won in rowing championships. He explained to me that his grand father had been on the team from South Carolina that had come to “Put-in Island” to compete in the “Commodore Perry Cup”.

In 1913 the US Naval Militia sponsored 4,6 and 10 man rowing races as part of Bicentennial celebrations. Regional competitions were held and nine championship crews came to South Bass to race. One hundred years after the Battle of Lake Erie, rowing was still one of the most important skills for sailors. We know Perry’s famous transfer from the Brig Lawrence to the Brig Niagara might never have been completed if his men weren’t great rowers.

Last year ten intrepid men and two women volunteered to learn how to row the longboat. We had spent much time getting the boat built and painted, but only a few short practice days learning to row before we had the christening on Father’s Day in Sandusky,

Thankfully, Wesley Heerssen, Captain of the Brig Niagara offered to give us “crash” rowing lessons in early June. Unlike a small dinghy or kayak, rowing a longboat takes coordination, rules, directional commands and ultimately someone to understand and broadcast the commands effectively. (That person is called a cox or coxswain). Today rowing is a great form of exercise, a way to get on the water and for our longboat crew a “re-enactors” chance to perform a skill and be part of a living history team.

Many small maritime groups around the country have set up open or invitational rowing competitions. One Museum in Massachusetts sponsors a signature-rowing race called the “Snow Row” that happens the second week in March. Their race has five boat categories: workboats, livery boats, coxed boats, ocean kayaks, and ocean shells

It covers a 3 3/4 mile triangular course starting from a gravel beach. Huge crowds gather on the beach to watch a LeMans-style start and one-of-a-kind gathering of boats and athletes. A high-speed ferry follows the racecourse, giving spectators a front row seat view of the event. It is a rare opportunity to see rowers of all ages and a wide ranging array of wooden pulling boats — peapods, dories, wherries, whitehalls, ocean shells, kayaks, pilot gigs, captain’s gigs, and Irish currachs all in one place.

Paul emailed me again that he has the trophy cleaned up. He is hoping that there might be a chance to come next summer and see a re-dux of the “oared whaleboat race” for the Naval Militia US Championship” also known as the  “Commodore Perry Cup”. And so do I. It would be wonderful to invite rowing teams from across the region, heck from across the country to come back to Put-in-Bay.  We have a boat to race, now all we need is a race to enter and a crew. If rowing and being part of a team sounds like fun, let me know. The time has come that we pursue this dream and challenge the world.

PS Next month (Saturday March 1) I will be giving a talk about the longboat we built at the Sandusky Maritime Museum. I am hoping to entice a few audience members to try rowing, come join us.

A Star Spangled Year Ahead

A wonderful story about the winter after the Battle of Lake Erie came my way the other day from Captain Glenn Cooper, who by the way will be honored by the Surface Navy Association in Washington DC this January for his coordination efforts with Navy officials for the 2012-13 BOLE events. Congratulations Glenn and thank you for all your hard work to make our celebration truly memorable. Glenn’s story about Put-in-Bay after the battle came from a recent visit to the Erie Maritime Museum.

Seems that over the winter of 1813-14 snuggled in our harbor here at Put-in-Bay were the HMS Detroit and Queen Charlotte. The two ships became frozen in and were defended by a cadre of Perry’s men; for fear that the British might retake them. The two ships had suffered considerable damage to their standing rigging during the battle and when a storm hit the islands just after the battle it further damaged their weakened rigs. In fact the hulls of the two boats banged against each other until finally the unstable masts were knocked down. With General Harrison ready to retake Detroit there was not enough time for the Americans to even consider re-rigging the ships for future service.

The two ships remained here in the Put-in-Bay harbor until the following spring. The Queen Charlotte and the Detroit were eventually laid up in Erie, Pennsylvania. In 1825, the Queen Charlotte was sold to George Brown and was converted to a merchant vessel before being decommissioned years later. The HMS Detroit, which had only been put into service a few months before the Battle of Lake Erie, was so badly damaged that it never saw service again and was eventually sold for scrap.

Meanwhile the war slogged on and Perry worked under the command of Harrison to retake Detroit. After the Americans won the Battle of Thames in October, and William Henry Harrison had secured the American Northwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan) the need for an active Navy fleet here in the Western basin of Lake Erie was all but eliminated.

Perry was promoted to Captain and given the Congressional Gold medal in January of 1814. In July 1814, Captain Perry was offered command of the USS Java, a 44-gun frigate being built in Baltimore. While overseeing the outfitting of the Java, Perry participated in the defenses of Baltimore and Washington, DC during the British invasion of the Chesapeake Bay.

This coming summer the focus on War of 1812 events will shift to Baltimore and the siege of Fort McHenry. This fort withstood an all out attack by British forces. It was the key stronghold held by the American troops that defended Baltimore and Washington from further attack. When we think about the lost lives and the important events that shaped our young country the Battle of Lake Erie and the defense of Fort McHenry rank very high.

I am certain that what we will most remember the upcoming summer for are these words from the first paragraph of “The Defense of Fort McHenry” by Francis Scott Key.

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Finally the Battle of Lake Erie Photo book “Remembering Forward” with beautiful award winning photos of the past summers events is available. Only 100 of these books were printed and almost half are already sold. Purchase one soon by going to www.theperrygroup.org. Happy New Year.Image

What a year!

Thank you everyone for helping to make this past year memorable. We had great weather, good fortune, amazing volunteers! People came from all corners of the world to be a part of this event. We took notes on things we can learn from and will be ready for the 250th in 2063! See you then! You can savor the memories with our book “Remembering Forward” The Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial at http://www.theperrygroup.org

John E. Rees First Runner Up in the Perry Group Photo Contest

John E. Rees First Runner Up in the Perry Group Photo Contest

Chasing Perry’s Victory- “I can’t sit down…yet”

Roman Sapecki photography

Roman Sapecki photography

Like the Marie and Rex Motown hit from 1959, “I can’t sit down”. I just can’t stop myself as the end of the year approaches and I still have so much to do so I’ll just put on another pot of coffee and keep working. This year has been a lot of work, but it has been really, really amazing. The pay off has been the memories we shared that will last a lifetime.

It started that cold day in April when the US Mint came and we all waited in line for those Perry quarters (well actually my wife Amy waited in line while I helped clean up, thanks dear).  Then there was Perry’s longboat christening over in Sandusky with Marcy Kaptur and the Sea Cadets on Father’s Day and both my sons were there.

We had the Masons with the corner stone re-enactment. No rainstorm that day could deter anyone from watching and enjoying their fascinating ceremony. (By the way that missing time capsule and all the contents from 1913 are still missing, but we may have uncovered some clues!)

We had Governor John Kasick, Hollywood actor Billy Campbell, national radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, and the OSU MARCHING BAND all here on our tiny island. WOW.

And let’s talk about fashion, from the sewing seminar at town hall to the ballroom dance we shared, Regency clothing was the “in look” for the summer. Pirates, re-enactors and regular folks all sported that distinctive Regency look. Let’s hope this 1812 fashion statement becomes the rage across the country in Baltimore and Washington D.C. this coming summer as they continue the War of 1812 observance and celebrate that fateful night at Fort McHenry in 1814 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words of our national anthem.

Beyond fashion is the legacy we hope will survive another 100 years, Perry’s Longboat. For me bringing the Longboat to the island was the culmination of two years of hard work. We researched, fundraised, built, painted and ultimately learned to row this beautiful boat.

“Learning” being the operative word here. So this coming year we are going to practice how to row. If you are interested in being a rower, want some unique exercise and like to wear period clothes, give me a call. We have many miles to row and the opportunity to allow this boat to communicate our islands BOLE history with every stroke.

So I can’t begin to thank everyone (but I am trying) that contributed in some way to the success of the summer’s events. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a comment about this past summer. Thank you, each and everyone. It wasn’t just the organizational folks, sponsors, board members and the fundraisers. Not only the ship captains and crew, and the NPS rangers and staff, it was all the volunteers, business owners, frontline clerks and servers, our police and fire departments, the DeRivera Park Trustees, town and township officials and more.

Thank you one and all, you made it a success. We got the PBS documentary done and now we have one more item to share. We’re working to complete, the “Battle of Lake Erie-Remembering Forward” photo book. We received some amazing photos sent in by some very talented folks that will be part of the “Remembering Forward” book. The book was created from the juried photos sent in to the Perry Group website. They were taken between August 24-Sept 10th so that the subject matter is focused on the BOLE 2013 Bicentennial. It is a beautiful mix of graceful tall ships, re-enactors and other wonderful BOLE events including fireworks, the Navy Band, Longboat launch, Harbor Illumination, OSU marching band and more. I am hoping this will help provide a printed document of this “once in a life time event” that you helped to create.

We just sent it off to the printer and with a little luck it will be done by Christmas. Enjoy the holidays and happy memories of a wonderful year we shared.

“Pay it Forward”

There is no question, the reports are in, and the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Celebration was a huge success. From Kelleys to Pelee, Port Clinton to Put-in-Bay visitation was through the roof, retail set new records, restaurants and hotels enjoyed great patronage and a good time was had by almost everyone.

 
If there was a hangover, it was the best kind. A huge party that was enjoyed and remembered by a broad base of tourists that came and liked what they saw. Our visitors included history lovers, grand parents, boaters, families and re-enactors. They came in large numbers, many for the first time, and we want them back….

 
I hear people taking about this summer almost daily. The overall reaction about the importance and success of this summer’s events that is repeated over and over from all involved is “lets do it again”. So it is important to start thinking about this now. Lets use the cache that we developed and “Pay it forward”.We have a great volunteer base, many varied and excited community based organizations that stepped up to organize the details this past year and willing sponsors that took a chance and saw that there was a opportunity to make this idea work.

 

We can never duplicate the magnitude of this past summers events, but perhaps we can promote and produce a scaled down version of BOLE 2013 that will generate the interest, opportunity and fun, with a little “pure spectacle’ thrown in, of a repeatable port festival. We can target the same audience and give them many of the same type shore based events they enjoyed so much this past summer.
It won’t be easy, it took people with vision and determination like Dave Zavagno, The Perry Group, and The National Park Service. BOLE 2103 needed sponsors with vision like The Miller Boat Line, Block Communications, and the Andersons, and generous partners like Lake Erie Shores and Islands, Flagship Niagara, Tall Ships America, LEMTA, Great Lakes Publishing, PORTS and Middle Bass Yacht Club.

 
It took nearly three years of hard work. There were countless hours of volunteer efforts, endless fund raising, the servicers of skilled promotions companies like Draw Events and Green Door Media, and dozens of awareness generating events to make The Battle Of Lake Erie Bicentennial a success.

 
History can never be repeated, but we can re-capture the essence of this past summers activities and reap some of the good will and interest generated from the many new visitors that discovered us, many who will come again if we invite them, by starting to plan now for another event in 2015 or 2016. We don’t need to worry about the ne’er do wells and feet draggers, because they have seen the light and want to become involved this time around. So let the planning begin.
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