By Char Weigel –
Two hundred years ago, Washington Irving published The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The title may be unfamiliar, but the book changed everything for Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. Amidst its essays and short stories is America’s first published ghost story: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Villages are gearing up to celebrate this important anniversary with a host of events.
“The Historical Society recognized that the 200th anniversary was almost upon us, and we wanted to do something ‘legendary’ to mark the milestone,” said Sara Mascia, Executive Director. “We approached both Villages who were immediately on board and it took off from there.” The Legend Turns 200 – Irving’s Immortal Tale is the theme for a Bicentennial celebration, a birthday bash to be thrown by multiple organizations from mid-2019 through December 2020.
“A lot of people know Irving as the person who wrote The Legend, but he did so much more, “ said Anthony Giaccio, Sleepy Hollow’s Village Administrator. “The celebration will educate people about Irving’s impact on American literature, culture and the entire Hudson Valley.”
One of the first Bicentennial-linked events will be the Sleepy Hollow Lit Fest. The Lit Fest will be held on May 18 as a celebration of the art of writing across genres. It will feature Ichabod Crane’s “Literary Journey” – a series of activities and readings at locations along the path of Ichabod’s frenzied ride to escape the Headless Horseman. The Lit Fest is being planned by the Hudson Valley Writers Center, Warner Library and several other local organizations. For more information, contact email@example.com.
If you haven’t read The Legend lately, or if you have and want to be a spoiler on Ichabod’s fate, the Historical Society and Warner Library are co-sponsoring “Everybody’s Reading The Legend,” an all-community read. These single session “book clubs” will be held at Warner Library, the Historical Society, the Old Dutch Church, Christ Episcopal Church, Patriots Park, local restaurants, senior centers and many other locations around the Villages. Groups can also sign up to request a facilitator or download a self-facilitation guide. There is no cost and participants will be able to pick up a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in English or Spanish. Sessions will be scheduled from June 2019 through December 2020. For more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sleepy Hollow Film Festival is being planned for the Tarrytown Music Hall and other venues around the Villages from October 10-13. Giaccio said the event will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Disney’s classic “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and the 20th anniversary of Tim Burton’s somewhat different take on Irving’s story – the movie “Sleepy Hollow.” Information will be posted at http://www.sleepyhollowfilmfest.com/ .
Irving’s impact was felt far beyond the rivertowns. “Irving introduced America and Americans to a larger world,” said Lynn Moffat, Historical Society Trustee. “His ‘Tales of the Alhambra’ are a rich tapestry of the Spanish and Islamic cultures that were unknown to most English and Dutch speakers of the time.” Musicians and artists Anna and Pablo Mayor will explore this facet of the Irving legacy by collecting untold legends from the Villages’ Hispanic/Latino community, and creating musical, dance and theatrical performances based on these newly revealed stories.
Irving’s influence is still felt in Spain. In 2009, the city of Granada unveiled a statue of Irving in honor of his role as ambassador and connector between Spain and America. Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray is reaching out to the mayor of Grenada to explore a sister city relationship as part of the Bicentennial celebration.
Academics, educators and the general public seeking a serious dose of Irving scholarship will not be left out of the fun. The Historical Society and Historic Hudson Valley will host an Academic Conference in Spring 2020. Andrew Burstein, author of The Original Knickerbocker and the Charles P. Manship Professor of History at Louisiana State University will chair the conference with presentations by noted Irving scholars. The conference will include a Friday night event open to attendees and the public, a day of roundtables and lectures on Saturday, and tours of local “Irving sites” on Sunday.
More Bicentennial-linked events are in the works. The Village of Tarrytown is planning an “Art in the Park” event with an Irving theme. To honor the fact that Irving coined the term “Knickerbocker,” the Sleepy Hollow Recreation Department is working on a trip to a Knicks game and/or enticing the team to Legend land for a practice or public event.
J.P. Doyles will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a music festival on September 7. The Village will shut down part of Beekman to toast the joint 20th and 200th anniversaries. Historic Hudson Valley will offer its full range of programs including The Blaze and Horseman’s Hollow while highlighting its “Home of the Legend” tour at Sunnyside and other special Bicentennial programming. The Jazz Forum in Tarrytown will host a number of musical and other Irving-themed events.
The Old Dutch Church, the final resting place of many who inspired Irving, will be one of the first stops for visitors seeking historical tours and insight into Irving’s influences and inspiration. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and the Historical Society will run their popular Irving-related tours with additional Bicentennial-related programs. TaSH (Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow Farmers Market) is planning Bicentennial-themed activities throughout its season.
What would Irving have thought about such a fuss? He was a man who counted both John Jacob Astor and his own shoemaker, John Forkill, as friends. Part of Irving’s charisma was that he was good listener. Being a good listener made him a great storyteller. Richard Slingerland, Tarrytown Village Administrator, acknowledged that legacy, saying “Irving means the same to me now, if not more, than he did as a child. He’s part of the fabric of communities up and down the Hudson, and we’re privileged to have him woven into the cloth that makes up our history.”