Posts Tagged 'Perry'

Boat Show Buzz

One day last fall I got a call from Ken Alvey from the Lake Erie Maritime Trade Association (LEMTA) located in Westlake, Ohio. LEMTA puts on about eight boat shows annually through out the region. Ken said they would like to “help” us and have the Battle of Lake Erie be a feature of the Cleveland Boat Show.

I figured that he meant something in their boat show guide or perhaps a small booth where we could handout information. So we went up to Westlake and met and soon realized he wanted us to “go big”. By the time it was all sorted out we had a giant 40x 60 “Pavilion” in the middle of the show and a feature in the Progressive Mid-Atlantic Boat Show magazine published by Great Lakes Publishing.

Flash forward to January 15th, one day before the show. When I arrive with a van full of boxes, and the almost finished Longboat, there in the middle of the IX center was the biggest patch of bare concrete I had ever seen. It was more real estate than my first house had. There were two risers, a folding table with some skirting to be installed later. That was it. Needless to say I was a little bit overwhelmed.

Twenty-four hours later, and with a whole lot of “Imagineering” we transformed the space into a beautiful Battle of Lake Erie pavilion. I have to say it was just short of a miracle. But with the assistance of the National Park Service, generous donations of help from LEMTA, a 15×50 banner donated by HART Advertising and Cannons, did I mention the cannons from Gillmor Ordnance; we created a beautiful space that soon became the center of attention.

We had people in costume, period music by Tom Kastle and Hoolie and several amazing talks by Captain Wes Heerssen of the Niagara and author Craig Heimbuch. But the longboat and the cannons were like nectar to a bee. Folks just kept coming by and admiring the boat, touching the cannons and posing with our re-enactors.

The volunteers were giving away posters, bumper stickers and brochures as fast as they could, people just kept coming. Five days can seem like a lifetime, but from the moment the doors to the IX Center opened we never stopped greeting and entertaining. On Saturday the number of people through our booth not only reminded us that we had a hit on our hands, but also proof that sincere interest in being a part of a once in a lifetime event was being manifested.

When you step back and look at where we have come in 100 years since Perry’s Monument corner stone was laid, you see that the United States, Canada, Great Britain and the First Nations have worked through many awkward and difficult understandings to get to where are today.

But, save for that day in 1813 this entire discussion would be moot and so would the notion that we could be celebrating two hundred years of peace. The US Navy would have not seen the moral boosting early success they needed, the west would have been settled much more slowly, and the border with Canada might very well have been militarized. Thankfully today we enjoy an open border, a meaningful discourse with the First Nation and two solid allies in Canada and Great Britain.

As we approach this summer’s event, it is clear that many, many people want to participate in the Bicentennial. They will be coming to Put-in-Bay, Amherstburg, Pelee Island, Kelley’s Island, Middle Bass Island, Port Clinton, Kingsville, Leamington and Catawba Island in greater numbers than we have seen in years, perhaps ever. So make your plans now, because the Boat Show Buzz is on and spreading. Next stop the Detroit Boat Show February 16-24th.

“No time to rest”

By the end of November 1812, as the war with the British staggered on, our 4th US president, James Madison, had been re-elected. The American fleet and our militia had suffered numerous defeats to British and Canadian forces. To make matters worse several strategic ports in South Carolina and Georgia were being successfully blockaded by the British Fleet. By December of 1812 Madison’s Secretary of War, William Eustis, was forced to resign in disgrace.

Oliver Hazard Perry was still on a leave of absence after being exonerated in his 1811 court martial case for the sinking of the USS Revenge. According to Wikipedia “On May 5, 1811, he [Perry] married Elizabeth Mason of Newport, Rhode Island, whom he had met at a dance in 1807. They enjoyed an extended honeymoon touring New England.”

I am certain that news of the various American Fleet setbacks reached very patriotic Perry and motivated him to finally end his extended honeymoon and ask for a return to active duty. In March of 1813 Perry was given his new command and he was sent to Presque Isle to build a fleet to challenge the British control of Lake Erie. And as we know that important decision changed the course of US history. The summer of 2012 was the start of a three-year observance of the War of 1812 and especially the Battle of Lake Erie. For us this was a chance to create a buzz for things to come.

Here in Put-in-Bay our summer of 2012 was one of great hope and success. The National Park Service staff got things rolling here on the island in June with the “Declaration of War” observance. Shortly after that the Perry Group got underway with building Commodore Perry’s iconic “Long Boat”. The longboat, which is now fully planked, is slowly working it’s way through the final stages of its’ completion.

On August 30th beautiful weather made the excursion from Put-in-bay to Cleveland’s Navy week a huge success. The “transfer of command” from The Brig Niagara to Perry Class Frigate USS DeWert capped off the day’s festivities at the Navy’s kick off event for the Battle of Lake Erie Celebration. The summer ended with Historic Weekend hosted by Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, and included re-enactors, carronades, marching bands and parades. Historic weekend would not be complete without music and included an outstanding performance by the Toledo Symphony.

Saturday evening ended with the “Lights of Peace” Harbor Illumination. On Sunday morning a solemn ceremony was held at the placement of the permanent “Battle of Lake Erie” buoy by the US Coast Guard at the battle site.

The upcoming 2013 Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial celebration planning is well underway. The Perry Group and the National Park Service are preparing for a summer of memorable events here in Put-in-Bay and the Western Basin of Lake Erie from August 30th through September 10th. We have 19 tall ships scheduled to make their way to our area next August 29th. Eleven ports have signed on to be hosts, including Put-in-Bay, Middle Bass Island, Kelley’s Island, Pelee Island, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Monroe, Windsor, Leamington, Kingsville, and Amherstburg. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, The Perry Group and the eleven host ports cities will host Twelve days of activities, both on the water and on land.

But we can’t rest yet. Get out your calendars, because on Martin Luther King weekend January 17-21st, the Lake Erie Maritime Association has invited The Perry Group along with the NPS to host a weekend Battle of Lake Erie Celebration preview at the Cleveland Boat Show. We will have the newly completed Perry’s Longboat on site, re-enactors, authors and period musical performers gathered together to help raise the awareness level of our 2013 roster of summer’s event one more notch. Stay tuned!

Don’t frigate about it


Sorry to start this story off with a pun, but I really want the idea of Cleveland Navy Week to get on your calendar this summer (August 27-Sept. 4th). For years Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigatethe US Navy has had a very limited presence in the Great Lakes because of the Treaty of Ghent (Signed December 24th 1814 to end the War of 1812). I mean why would you, when the US has open borders and solid relations with our friendly northern neighbor Canada.

So it turns out the Navy is excited about coming to Lake Erie this summer to be a part of the Bicentennial Celebration. Cleveland is one of just 15 Bicentennial Cities selected across the US for Navy Week. In their press release the Navy exclaims “America’s Navy will “come home” in 2012, giving area residents an opportunity to meet Sailors and learn about the Navy’s capabilities and relevance to national security. Cleveland Navy Week will commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and The Star Spangled Banner”.

This is music to my ears. Here in Put-in-Bay where the US Navy came of age in 1813 in the Battle of Lake Erie, the Navy has had an extremely limited involvement in our Historic weekend, but not this year. Dave Zavagno, The Perry Group Bicentennial Chairman was asked to be involved in the planning of Cleveland Navy Week. He has tirelessly gone to a dozen day long planning meetings and I am here to report the results are in!

From August 27th to September 4th, in downtown Cleveland, not far from the Browns Stadium, between Docks 28 and 30, will be the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate De Wert. Built in 1982 she is 453 feet long, 45 feet wide and 124 feet tall. Pretty much the biggest Navy Vessel to sail the Great Lakes. This frigate was named for Hospitalman Richard De Wert (1931–1951). De Wert was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism while serving with the 7th Marines during the Korean War.

On the morning August 27th a small group of Battle of Lake Bicentennial supporters will get the honor of being aboard the USS De Wert as she sails from Toledo to Cleveland. Then on August 30th The Perry Group will host a special day of events at Navy Week in Cleveland.

The Brig Niagara will come in from Erie the night before and berth just across from the De Wert. There will be excitement in the air; literally, as planes from the Cleveland Air Show do practice runs overhead. Then just after lunch the Niagara will host a day sail for Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Supporters. When she returns the longboat we have been building will arrive for it’s christening run. Lowered from the side davits of the Niagara with sailors and descendents of Olive Hazard Perry aboard, the longboat will make her way to the USS De Wert for a ceremonial transfer of command.

Then aboard the De Wert a pinning ceremony will take place. The Perry Family and members of the Perry Group will give four outstanding sailors, selected by the De Wert’s commanding officer, a special Battle of Lake Erie pin. A reception will ensue on the dock from 3:30 to 8pm with the US Navy Jazz Band performing from 5-8pm. Join us for an amazing day in Cleveland to kick off our 2013 Battle of Lake Erie celebration.

But it doesn’t stop there; on Sunday September 2nd the US Navy Band will come our way to an island area venue to perform for us. Then for the first time since the Centennial in 1913 a Navy vessel, Patrol Craft USS Hurricane (PC-3) will be in our harbor for Historic Weekend and will join in the wreathe laying ceremony for the sailors out at the Battle of Lake Erie site. And the Navy promises that they will be back again in 2013 for our Battle of Lake Bicentennial Celebration. So don’t FRIGATE August 27th through September 8th as we launch the 2013 Bicentennial.

PS: Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get a couple hundred island friends to arrive aboard a ferry from Put-in-Bay that day in Cleveland August 30th?

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