How to have a historical Fourth at Old Sturbridge Village

Parades are only part of the Fourth of July activities at Old Sturbridge Village.

First will come the flag: 26 stars and 13 stripes. Next, the military men with muskets. Then the fifers and the drummers, the bonneted women in dresses, the livestock-drawn carriages large enough for a country picnic.

Costumed men in tall hats will fire a cannon. An orator will declare independence. And, by 5 p.m., another Fourth of July will have been celebrated at Old Sturbridge Village, the living museum where early American history comes to life.

“It’s a moving, historical Fourth of July,’’ said Jim O’Brien, the museum’s public events coordinator. “It packs 200 years of Fourth of July into one day.’’


That day starts at 9:30 a.m. and features a panoply of opportunities to celebrate, from the family fun to the historically indulgent: a flag raising and lowering, a replica cannon demonstration by the graveyard, dance lessons in the local barn, bouts of tug of war, an old-school baseball game on the village common. Throughout the day, visitors can sign their name on a giant “declaration of independence’’ outside Center Meetinghouse, learn to make a tri-corner hat at the visitor center, see women churning butter in homes and men working the fields. (A full schedule will be posted on closer to the holiday.)

A highlight of the day’s festivities is a live citizenship naturalization ceremony, held on the common. While village singers perform patriotic songs, around 100 candidates will be presented by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to a district court judge, who will ask the candidates to pledge the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

The citizens parade through the village begins at 2 p.m. and lasts around half an hour, O’Brien said. It will end with a full-reading of the Declaration of Independence by Stephen Brewer, who represented the Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Middlesex district in the state Senate from 1997 until 2015.


This year organizers expect a couple thousand of attendees from all over the world. Some 73 nations were represented at last year’s naturalization ceremony, O’Brien said.

Twice on the Fourth, six reenactors will read aloud the text of the Declaration of Independence. At more than 1,300 words, the full document — adopted by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 — takes about 10 minutes to recite. The costumed historians will make the recitation interactive, breaking down the declaration line-by-line, asking the audience interpretive questions, and offering analysis relevant to the present.

Old Sturbridge Village has been a historic living museum since its opening in 1946. Visitors can explore historical homes, schools, stores, banks, meetinghouses, farms, and mills, complete with costumed actors and live animals. Daytime admission starts at $28 for adults, and $14 for children ages 4 to 17. Children 3 and under get in free.

“It’s quieter, simpler, and something families can enjoy together,’’ said Tom Kelleher, historian and curator at the museum. “People get a better understanding of the world we live in today when they see where we come from.’’


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