Chestertown Tea Party Festival marks 40th year
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.
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.
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.