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Jamestown Commemoration 1607

Jamestown Commemoration Marks Events of 1607, 2007, and Everything In Between
By Suzanne Owen Flippo

March 1, 2004

Greeting card makers are always looking for special events to boost sales, but Virginia is getting ready to host one that might leave card marketers scratching their heads.

Consider the unusual characteristics of the Jamestown 2007 Commemoration:

It only happens once every 50 years.

It will last more than a year and a half.

It will bring the world spotlight to communities throughout Virginia.

It commemorates the events of 1607, the events of 2007, and everything in between.

The card makers have their work cut out for them. Jamestown 2007 promises to be bigger than Hurricane Isabel, and certainly a lot more fun. It will bring the international spotlight to Virginia, increase business opportunities throughout the state, and provide educational opportunities for students here and around the country.

Most people know the basic story of Jamestown: three small ships land on the banks of the James River, bringing settlers who established the first English colony in the Americas. The settlement was the site of tragedy and triumph, the place where the melding of cultures began to produce the uniquely American society we know today.

Few events in history can truly be called world changing, but the settlement of Jamestown certainly qualifies. In addition to producing a culture influenced by practically every other culture on the planet, both free enterprise and representative government in the New World – the dominant business and political forces in the world today – can trace their roots directly to Jamestown.

Accordingly, Virginians have observed Jamestown anniversaries every 50 years in a spectacular manner. The 1907 Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition featured speeches by Theodore Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington and Mark Twain. The "Great White Fleet" - the entire U.S. North Atlantic Fleet – gathered on the Chesapeake Bay before sailing the world in a show of U.S. might. The exposition – held on what is now the Norfolk Naval Base – was a magnificent world’s fair that drew more than 1.2 million visitors.

In 1957 more than a million visitors came to Virginia as the state focused on historical preservation and education. The spectacular Colonial Parkway, one of the state’s most scenic drives, was completed. Educational programs around the state emphasized Virginia’s unique role in world history. Jamestown Festival Park, now operating as Jamestown Settlement, brought history to life with re-creations of the ships, the fort and an Indian village. Perhaps the most memorable moment, however, came when Queen Elizabeth II addressed thousands of people at Jamestown during her first official trip to the U.S. as monarch.

The bar is set high, but the ambitious slate of programs and events now in development might make this one the most memorable of all. Among the 13 "signature events" now in development are:

A sail of the Godspeed to major ports along the Eastern Seaboard in the summer of 2006. The ship would be accompanied by live shows, history lectures and displays promoting Virginia’s businesses and vacation destinations.

A military extravaganza to observe the 225th anniversary of the battle of Yorktown, the pivotal event in winning American independence.

A national "Teach-In," which would allow nationally known educators to stand on the Jamestown sites and broadcast lessons to more than 90,000 schools across the nation.

An African-American forum featuring national leaders and focusing on the contributions of African-Americans throughout American history.

A national weekend of commemoration in May 2007 observing the establishment of Jamestown. This event might include a nationally televised event involving America’s first family and possibly the Royal Family of Great Britain.

In 2007 the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall in Washington, D.C. will focus on the lives of people throughout Virginia.

Throughout 2007, Virginia may host an international forum on democracy that would bring leaders and students from around the world to discuss the future of representative government.

People throughout Virginia are working hard to make these events happen, but some of the most important work is taking place in your backyard. From Pulaski to Portsmouth, citizens are using the Virginia 2007 Community Program to improve a neighborhood or benefit an entire region. The program, launched by Gov. Mark Warner last summer, provides a rallying point for Virginians, and offers a way for everyone to participate in this important anniversary. Current projects in development range from building new walking trails to documenting local histories to establishing new museums. We’re talking with more interested groups all the time to help them identify opportunities best suited to their communities.

It’s coming Virginia. Whether you’re a life-long resident or a recent transplant, your Commonwealth needs you now. The cast of this two-year commemoration features millions of Virginians on the world stage, and the success of this production depends on people like you. Unfortunately, for greeting card companies, sending a card just won’t do justice to this special, twice-a-century event.

Suzanne Owen Flippo chairs the Programs and Events Sub-Committee of the Jamestown 2007 Steering Committee and serves as a member of the Federal 400th Commemoration Commission. More information about state and national events and programs being planned for the commemoration can be found at www.jamestown2007.org.

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