Historic St. Mary’s Hosts Annual Celebration

On Saturday, March 26, Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) hosted the annual Maryland Day celebration.  Each year, the state recognizes March 25, the day marking the anniversary of the founding of Maryland, as Maryland Day.  This year the Museum decided to celebrate Maryland Day on Saturday with the hopes of bringing more people to the events that were schedule throughout the day.

The crowning event of the day was the ceremony on Chapel Field.  The program began with the procession of the old militia followed by the honored guests of the event including St. Mary’s President Joseph Urgo, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and Regina Faden, the Executive Director of HSMC.  Following the invocation by Father Bill George, S.J., St. Mary’s Professor Jeffrey Silberschlag played a rendition of “Maryland, My Maryland” on the trumpet.

After the first half of the ceremony, comments were made by Congressman Hoyer and Israel Patoka, the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and the Governor’s representative at both Maryland Day and the Inauguration of President Urgo.  During this time, Patoka read out loud a Proclamation from the Governor that “proclaimed March 25, 2011 as Maryland Day.” Patoka then presented this Proclamation to Faden and John McAllister, the Chairman of the HSMC Commission.

The keynote speaker was Dr. James A. Tuck, Professor Emeritus from Memorial University in Newfoundland.  After bringing greetings from the Governor of Newfoundland, Tuck delivered a speech about Lord Baltimore’s first colony of Avalon, located on the coast of Newfoundland.  The city was built in the early 1620s, about a decade before the founding of Maryland, and was the temporary home of the Calvert family.  The colony seemed to work well until the first winter.  The Calvert family did not enjoy the fact that winter in eastern Canada began in October and did not truly end until late April.  By the end of the winter, the family decided to pack up and sail back to England where Lord Baltimore began his plans for a new colony.

However, Avalon was not a total waste of time and effort, according to Tuck. “The colony proved that religious tolerations could work” Tuck said. He further explained that the political advancement that would define St. Mary’s was in practice for a short time at Avalon.  The Colony also demonstrated that the new colony needed to be farther south, farther away from the “fish industry.” As it turned out, the Calverts found the fishermen of Avalon to be rude and disrespectful towards the family’s status as nobility.  The failure at Avalon would lead the Calverts to look for a new home, which they found in the Chesapeake region just north of the new colony of Virginia.

Near the end of the program, the Cross Bottony Award was awarded to HSMC Volunteer Pete Himmelheber. The Cross Bottony Award was created to recognize the important contributions of an individual to the preservation of HSMC and the interpretation of Maryland’s history. Notable recipients of this award have been Congressman Steny Hoyer, Former Governors Parris Glendening and William D. Schaefer, and SMCM College President Dr. Jane Margaret “Maggie” O’Brien.

The Ceremony of the Flags followed Himmelheber’s acceptance speech as 4th graders representing each county and Baltimore City entered the tent waving their respective flag.  The flags enter in reverse order, beginning with Garrett County and ending with St. Mary’s. Lastly, the First Missionary Baptist Church Youth Choir graced the audience with several pieces of music including “God Bless America.”  The event ended with the dedication of a bench in memory of docent Joe Poe, the opening of the new Chapel Pavilion, and the laying of a wreath honoring Maryland’s founders.