Chestertown Tea Party Fes­ti­val marks 40th year

Record Observer - - Arts & Entertainment - By DO­RIAN MITCHELL dmitchell@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CHESTERTOWN — The Tea Party Fes­ti­val, a cel­e­bra­tion of Chestertown’s his­tor y that draws peo­ple from all over, is turn­ing 40 this year.

The event is based on a story that in 1774, lo­cal pa­tri­ots boarded the mer­chant ship Geddes and threw its cargo of tea into the Ch­ester River, protest­ing Bri­tish taxes and op­pres­sion.

Set for Fri­day, May 27 to Sun­day, May 29, this year’s fes­ti­val has a schedule chock-full of events for any and all ages.

In a May 10 tele­phone in­ter­view, Mayor Chris Cerino said the fes­ti­val al­lows Chestertown to “put its best foot for­ward.”

“We get to cel­e­brate our unique her­itage and his­tory while stim­u­lat­ing a lot of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity,” he said.

A free street party of­fi­cially kicks off the fes­ti­val from 6 to 9 p.m. Fri­day, at the foot of High Street. It fea­tures food truck ven­dors, mu­sic by DJ Lon­nie Butcher, chil­dren’s ac­tiv­i­ties, a Colo­nial photo booth and an all-ages magic show by Ian Flynn.

The an­nual Tea Party Clas­sic Run starts off Satur­day, be­gin­ning at 8 a.m. in Wilmer Park. At the same time, shut­tle buses from des­ig­nated park­ing ar­eas will be avail­able for fes­ti­val at­ten­dees.

The fes­ti­val be­gins in earnest at 9 a.m., with down­town — be­tween Maple Av­enue and Can­non Street, from Mill and Spring streets to the wa­ter­front — closed to traf­fic.

It starts with the Colo­nial Pa­rade, tak­ing place at 10 a.m. down High Street. March­ing units, his­toric re-en­ac­tors, floats and more will be judged by a panel and re­ceive awards.

“I’m a big fan of the pa­rade,” Cerino said. “I think it’s one of the best ones around.”

This year’s pa­rade grand mar­shal is Kent County Clerk of the Cir­cuit Court Mark Mum­ford.

The day also fea­tures walk­ing tours, live en­ter­tain­ment, ven­dors, pub­lic sails on the schooner Sul­tana, an­i­mal shows, Dover English Coun­try Dancers, arts and crafts and more.

The Colo­nial Vil­lage, lo­cated on the side of the Kent County Court­house, holds at­trac­tions such as a work­ing black­smith shop and demon­stra­tions of Colo­nial cook­ing.

It all builds up to the Tea Party reen­act­ment, which starts at 2 p.m. on High Street. There, Colo­nial reen­ac­tors as­sem­ble to protest Bri­tish tyranny on Amer­i­can free­doms and march down the street to the wa­ter­front.

They then row out to the schooner Sul­tana on the Ch­ester River, where a brief scuf­fle be­tween the Colonists and Bri­tish Red­coats takes place. Af­ter win­ning, the colonists throw bales of “tea” over­board, along with a dummy rep­re­sent­ing King Ge­orge III.

The fun con­tin­ues af­ter the re-en­act­ment un­til 5 p.m. New this year is a se­ries of talks spon­sored by the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety of Kent County. Tak­ing place all week­end, they fo­cus on the events lead­ing up to the end of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion.

Per­formed by the Treaty of Paris Cen­ter in An­napo­lis, each talk comes with cos­tumed re-en­ac­tors, such as John Adams, John Jay and Ben­jamin Franklin. Satur­day’s pre­sen­ta­tion will be held at 5 p.m. in town hall, and fea­ture a framed copy of the Treaty of Paris.

Sun­day’s high­lights of the day in­clude a craft beer and wine tast­ing at Wilmer Park, a va­ri­ety of mu­si­cal acts — like Philip Dut­ton and the Al­li­ga­tors — and the an­nual raft race at the wa­ter­front.

Start­ing at 2 p.m., home­made ships and boats race for dif­fer­ent prizes on the Ch­ester River. Ev­ery­one who par­tic­i­pates is en­thu­si­as­tic and the themes for the rafts are any­thing but or­di­nary.

Cerino said the raft race is among his fa­vorite Tea Party Fes­ti­val events. He said he has par­tic­i­pated many times in the past, and will be a judge this year.

“It’s been a fun evo­lu­tion,” he said.

For a com­plete schedule of the 40th Chestertown Tea Party Fes­ti­val, visit www.chester­town­tea­party. org.

PHOTO BY LENA ELLWANGER

The crew mem­bers of Ch­ester River Rapids ap­pear to be in a bit of trou­ble, but they man­aged to suc­cess­fully fin­ish last year’s Tea Party Fes­ti­val’s raft race.

PHOTO BY DANIEL DIVILIO

Bri­tish troops fire a vol­ley at the Colo­nial mili­tia dur­ing the Chestertown Tea Party re-en­act­ment last year. This year’s Tea Party Fes­ti­val is set for Fri­day, May 27, to Sun­day, May 29.

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