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Concord ceremony honoring Revolution canceled amid federal shutdown fears

Posted by Leslie Anderson  April 8, 2011 05:20 PM

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File photo courtesy of Minute Man National Historical Park
The full-scale reenactment on Saturday, April 16, of the fighting at North Bridge in Concord could be canceled if the federal government shuts down.

In a shot that may be heard 'round the nation, Concord officials canceled tomorrow’s kickoff Patriots Day event marking the dawn of the American Revolution because of the looming threat of a federal government shutdown.

At Meriam’s Corner, members of the Concord Independent Battery planned to fire their cannon at 1 p.m. tomorrow while the area’s Minute Man companies marked the fighting that pushed the British regulars back to Boston on April 19, 1775.

But the exercise — which kicks off a raft of Patriots Day events this month — was called off because it would have taken place at the Minute Man National Historical Park, which will close if a federal shutdown takes place at midnight tonight.

‘‘We hated to do this, but we really felt we had no choice,’’ said Joel Bohy, co-chairman of Concord’s Public Ceremonies and Celebrations Committee, which canceled the event after meeting with park, police and fire officials. ‘‘We had to make a decision and notify people.’’

Police details in Concord also figured into the discussion, since US Senator Scott Brown is slated for a book signing at the Colonial Inn tomorrow afternoon, Bohy said. The book signing is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. on the front porch, according to the Colonial Inn.

Should Congress fail to strike a deal to keep the federal government running, nonessential workers, including the park’s rangers, would be furloughed and the parks shut down. The park’s chief planner said he was preparing for the likelihood he will have to chain shut the parking lots and cancel numerous events meant to commemorate Patriot’s Day.

‘‘It’s a shame. I just had a phone call from someone in Ohio saying they were planning to fly in for Patriot’s Day weekend. I had to tell them to keep watching TV. We might be closed,’’ said Lou Sideris, chief of planning and communications at the park encompassing the historical battlegrounds in Lincoln and Concord where colonists battled British troops on the first day of the Revolution.

But like the colonists who fought back and eventually routed the British 236 years ago, the history buffs who prepare annually for the region’s Patriots Day activities were already mobilizing to outflank the quarreling members of Congress.

In Lincoln, Captain Stephen McCarthy of the Lincoln Minute Men said the group would play their commemoration of the capture of Paul Revere by ear tomorrow afternoon. If the park is open, the 3 p.m. event will go off as scheduled at the site along Route 2A where his famed ride ended.

‘‘We are not canceling. We are reconfiguring. If the park is closed, we will direct people to Lincoln Town Center, to Bemis Hall,’’ McCarthy said. ‘‘There is a cemetery across the street there with Revolutionary War soldiers buried in it. It really isn’t that far away, just a 10 minute drive.’’

If necessary, Concord officials will re-route the April 18 Patriot’s Day parade around a highwater route that sticks to roadways rather than crossing the Minute Man Park and old North Bridge.

The traditional April 19 Dawn Salute on the hillside overlooking old North Bridge to commemorate the arrival of Samuel Prescott, the only alarm rider to reach Concord ahead of the advancing corps of regulars intent on seizing arms stashed in the town, would be relocated across the street to the Old Manse.

‘‘We decided to cancel the Meriam’s Corner event, but we have Plan Bs for other events if there is a government shut down,’’ said Bohy.

Nor would a shutdown affect the reenactment of the Battle on Lexington Green, scheduled for 5:30 a.m. on April 18.

‘‘It won’t have any effect at all on the battle,’’ said William Mix, Captain Commanding of the Lexington Minute Men. ‘‘The Lexington Battle Green is run by the town.’’

But a lengthy federal shutdown could scuttle plans on National Park property for battle reenactments and ceremonies leading up to Patriot’s Day.

The full-scale reenactment on Saturday, April 16, of the fighting at North Bridge and up Battle Road could be canceled if the federal government shuts down. The event is expected to draw thousands of spectators as more than 300 British regulars and colonial Minute Men trade volleys from the famous ambush at Bloody Angle eastward toward Hartwell Tavern about a half-mile away.

An April 14 naturalization ceremony to swear-in 50 new US citizens from 29 countries on the hillside overlooking the North Bridge also would have to be rescheduled if not relocated.

An evening reenactment of the capture of Revere by British soldiers on Friday, April 15 at Bloody Angle would be canceled, Sideris said.

“We’ve given everyone a heads up. I think a really big effect if we are closed, starting next week, will be all the school groups,” Sideris said. “This is the time of year we do a lot of ranger programs with schools, with interactive education. They come in, they meet a British soldier or a Minute Man. They would all have to be canceled.”

Sideris said the now-canceled Meriam’s Corner Exercise is an important part of the annual festivities.

“The Meriam’s Corner event really is the kickoff for our Patriots Day observances,” Sideris said. “We have done an awful lot of restoration around the Battle Road, which refers to the path the British had to follow as they fought all the way back to Boston Harbor – 16 miles and all along the way the colonists were firing on them.”

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