The Examiner

Mayer Announces State Efforts to Plan 250th Anniversary Events

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Revolutionary Westchester 250 President Constance Kehoe, at podium, with state Sen. Shelley Mayer and other dignitaries, announced that a state commission and the dedication of state funding will help locales around New York, including Westchester, celebrate the 250th anniversary of the nation’s founding. Martin Wilbur photo

State Sen. Shelley Mayer announced last week the formation of a 21-member state commission that will help plan a series of special events for the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026.

Joined by Revolutionary War re-enactors and other dignitaries at Kings Point in Verplanck overlooking the Hudson River last Thursday, Mayer said the Feb. 24 signing of the 250th Commemoration Act by Gov. Kathy Hochul will also provide state money to help fund some of the celebrations that will take place.

“It’s a unique opportunity to educate and inspire New Yorkers about our state’s leading role in the American Revolution, subsequent civil rights struggles and the state and nation’s complex history,” Mayer said. “But New York played an immense role in the lead-up and execution of the American Revolution during the period of 1774 to 1783 and was the site of several important battles.”

The commission that will be formed will include a wide range of stakeholders from throughout the state.

The first $50,000 toward the effort was secured in the 2021-22 state budget that will be set aside in a fund that would be used toward paying for various commemorations, Mayer said. That fund can also accept and hold federal money, private donations and grants.

Revolutionary Westchester 250 President Constance Kehoe, whose organization will work with local and state organizations in scheduling special events over the next four years, said she has been pleased to see that there is a growing level of interest in Westchester County’s role in the American Revolution and the founding of the nation.

On July 9, 1776, for example, five days after the colonies declared their independence, representatives of the Fourth Provincial Congress of New York met in White Plains to receive and approve the Declaration of Independence, Kehoe said. That vote in White Plains resulted in the Declaration of Independence being unanimously approved by all 13 colonies.

Westchester was home to the Battle of White Plains, which started the last week of October in 1776. The site of last week’s press conference at King’s Point is where patriots and French troops crossed the Hudson River.

“I’m sometimes overwhelmed by how much people are so hungry for this history,” Kehoe said. “It’s an amazing history.”

One focus of the celebrations for the semiquincentennial will be the crucial role that the French played in assisting the Americans win their independence. Janet Lee Burnet, president of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historical Trail Association, said the assistance received from the French is a critical chapter that is often overlooked and will be brought to life during the celebrations.

The historic route, which started in Massachusetts, cut through Westchester on its way to Yorktown, Va.

“Without the help of our friends, the French, we believe we might not have won this wonderful victory for our independence throughout the world and become the icon of democracy,” Burnet said.

Since Congress enacted legislation to create a federal semiquincentennial commission in 2016, many other states have adopted similar programs.

Officials in Westchester are hopeful the 250th year commemoration will spark local and widespread interest in the events in the county during the Revolution and lead to increased tourism interest that will also highlight lesser-known stories of women, African Americans and Native Americans who did not immediately benefit from the country’s independence.  

Celebrations by local municipalities are also expected to be scheduled. About two weeks ago, the North Castle Historical Society announced it hopes to partner with the town and county and state groups to highlight historic Revolutionary War events that occurred within its borders.

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