|Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013|
“We have met the enemy and they are ours.” So wrote Oliver Hazard Perry to General William Henry Harrison following the American naval victory over a British fleet on September 10, 1813. Today, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial stands in commemoration of this important victory in the often forgotten War of 1812. It also stands as a beacon for the future, celebrating the enduring friendship between the United States, Canada and Great Britain.
To commemorate the bicentennial of this pivotal moment in our nation’s history, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial hosted twelve days of events from August 30th to September 10th. Events, made possible through strong partnerships, drew more than 50,000 visitors to South Bass Island to participate in the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie commemorative events. Events included:
- A regional tall ship festival, featuring the reconstructed U.S. Brig Niagara, which was the second American flagship during the Battle of Lake Erie
- A Regency-era Ball, providing guests with a sense of civilian life during the War of 1812
- Concert events including performances by the United States Navy Band–Great Lakes, the Royal Newfoundland Regimental Band, and the Ohio State Marching Band
- A series of lectures focusing on many perspectives of the War of 1812 presented by leading scholars, historians, and staff of the National Park Service and Parks Canada
- A Military Tattoo featuring a blend of music, musket and cannon demonstrations, and interpretive monologue featuring stories of the War of 1812.
- A Harbor Illumination, using hundreds of flares to highlight the South Bass Island shoreline as a symbol of peace
- A reenactment of the Battle of Lake Erie by a fleet of tall ships
- A reunion of descendants of Oliver Hazard Perry
- A Boy Scout Camporee hosting 1300 boy scouts
- An inter-generational education day, bringing students and seniors from diverse backgrounds to Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial to explore the War of 1812 and their heritage
- A “First Day” postage stamp release of a Battle of Lake Erie “Forever” stamp by the United States Postal Service
- A wreath laying at the battle site to honor those who valiantly fought for their country during the Battle of Lake Erie
The keynote of the commemoration was a formal program on September 10th featuring State of Ohio Governor John Kasich, United States Navy Rear Admiral Joseph Horn, Canadian Consul General Roy Norton, and Regional Director Michael Reynolds. Remarks honored the men who fought and died in defense of their countries, encouraged a continued sense of international peace and cooperation, and stressed the critical importance of preserving our nation’s past and becoming stewards of the stories that have shaped our collective heritage. A Peace Concert concluded the bicentennial events, featuring the Royal Newfoundland Regimental Band and a brass ensemble from the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.
A tone of international peace served as a constant theme throughout the bicentennial events. Parks Canada, especially Sister Park Signal Hill National Historic Site in Newfoundland and the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site in Nova Scotia, served as partners to ensure an event that included multiple perspectives as well as a deeper understanding of peaceful relationships between neighboring countries. Parks Canada was joined by the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, a modern day Canadian military unit which traces its roots to the War of 1812 and whose men served valiantly in the Battle of Lake Erie. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment sent its officers and regimental band on an emotional mission to pay tribute to Lt. James Garden, one of their own who was killed in the Battle of Lake Erie. Today he is one of the six officers – three American and three British – who rest below the rotunda of the Memorial Column.
“It was truly an honor for us to be part of this important commemorative event. We had amazing partners who worked tirelessly to help us achieve more than what we thought possible. It was truly a labor of love for all involved and one of the highlights of my NPS career,” said Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial Superintendent Blanca Alvarez Stransky.
The Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial was a product of strong partnerships and support from the National Park Service family. A strong Perry’s Victory staff was bolstered with assistance from Cuyahoga Valley, James A. Garfield, Fort Necessity, Fort McHenry, and Jean Lafitte. Local partnerships with the Put-in-Bay community, the Perry Group (Friends of Perry’s Victory), the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce, and the Lake Erie Heritage Foundation created a local sense of stewardship of these important stories. A partnership with U.S. Naval Sea Cadets continued to grow.
“I was inspired by the breadth of partnership and collaboration that I saw at Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial's bicentennial commemoration,” said April Antonellis, NPS Coordinator for the War of 1812 Bicentennial. “Every aspect of the event was executed with community support, truly embracing the spirit of international peace and cooperation for which the memorial column stands.”