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Port Royal celebrates with a colonial twist



Port Royal, the historic little town about 20 miles down river from Fredericksburg, will celebrate America’s 1776 independence from England on Saturday instead of on the federal holiday itself on Sunday.

“We are switching to Saturday so as not to interfere with Sunday’s worship services at St. Peter’s Church,” said Cleo Coleman, president of Historic Port Royal.

HPR uses the church lawn at 823 Water St., a short stroll from the Rappahannock River, to commemorate the nation’s birth with a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence and other displays of patriotism.

As usual, townspeople, some in Colonial attire, will be greeting each other and visitors as well in the holiday gathering at the church. They can look forward to the thrill of two bands marching down the street to the church.

“We are beginning at 10 a.m.,” an hour earlier than usual, Coleman said. “The reason is not only are we having the St. Andrews Legion Pipes and Drums, but also the U. S. Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.”

Saturday’s patriotic festivities will mark Port Royal’s 11th annual celebration of Independence Day. The event wraps up at 2 p.m.

For the Richmond-based St. Andrew’s Legion Pipes and Drums, Saturday’s march to the church lawn will be a return engagement in Port Royal, in its heyday in the 1700s a bustling port of trade with England.

The pipers and drummers were a big hit last year, when about 200 people came to Port Royal to hear them and take in the other holiday attractions.

Their uniform is reminiscent of the Highland Regiments of Scotland, and they are likely to perform “Amazing Grace,” which was a crowd-pleaser last year.

The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is the only unit of its kind in the nation’s armed forces, and is a part of the 3rd U. S. Infantry Regiment. The corps’ musicians, stationed at Fort Myer, wear uniforms patterned after those worn by soldiers in Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army.

The Corps performs at the White House for visiting heads of state, and has marched in every presidential inaugural parade since President John F. Kennedy’s in 1961.

A new highlight of the holiday festivities in Port Royal will be a 1 p.m. reception and grand opening at Town Hall, 419 King St., of a portrait gallery of the 14 most-famous people in Caroline County’s history.

Herb Collins, a Caroline historian and a retired curator for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington paid for the oil portraits and made them a gift to Historic Port Royal Inc.

One of the dramatic displays of patriotism will unfold on the steps of St. Peter’s when “Colonist” Michael Newman will read a copy of Thomas Jefferson’s enduring words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Other planned activities include a concert of patriotic music inside St. Peter’s, 18th- century dancing by the Rappahannock Colonial Heritage Society and free surrey rides around the historic town, where streets remain the same as when they were laid out in the 1700s and where residents have preserved their original Colonial homes and cottages.

The Caroline County Department of Economic Development and Tourism joins Historic Port Royal Inc. in sponsoring the town’s annual patriotic celebration of the spirit of 1776.

Admission is free, and picnic-style food–including hot dogs and hamburgers–and beverages will be sold on the church grounds.

Jim Mason is a freelance writer who lives in Caroline County.

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