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Historic Rivertowns

Westchester Plans For America’s 250th Birthday Bash

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September 29, 2023

By Barrett Seaman–

The spacious second floor auditorium at the County Center was nearly full to capacity on Wednesday, September 27. Elected officials from County Executive George Latimer and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins to mayors and trustees from villages across Westchester mixed with planning professionals, historical society board members and Revolutionary War reenactors in full regalia to launch the final push to make the county the centerpiece of the nation’s semiquincentennial (250th) birthday celebration on July 4, 2026.

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As Connie Kehoe, former deputy mayor of Irvington and the driving force behind RevolutionaryWestchester250, stressed to more than 200 attendees, Westchester really was the focal point of the colonial rebellion in its early days. Her organization has identified 50 locations in the county where history was made, including Washington’s headquarters in White Plains and Patriots Park in Tarrytown, where colonial militiamen captured British spy John Andre with papers revealing the treachery of Benedict Arnold. For the past six years, Kehoe has worked tirelessly to identify and celebrate the “events, places, ideas and people” that shaped the revolution.

Connie Kehoe, president of RevolutionaryWestchester250, addresses the conference

A pair of panels fleshed out details of what has been done and what remains to be done between now and 2026. For example, plans are afoot for an extravagant re-enactment of the Battle of White Plains, a dark moment for the army of General George Washington before the tide of war turned in the colonists’ favor.  The year 2026 is going to be momentous,” said Natasha Caputo, the county’s Tourism & Film’s Director who chaired the first panel, “and Westchester County will be ready.”

One of the highlights of the 1976 Bicentennial celebration was the parade of “tall ships” through New York Harbor. The plan for 2026 is to bring back as many as 30 of these majestic sailing vessels, according to Chris O’Brien, Executive Director of Operation Sail, Inc., which organized that spectacular flotilla as well as several other tall ship events over the years. The hope is that the parade of these magnificent ships can be extended up the Hudson River, perhaps as far as Albany, and perhaps accompanied by naval ships from the U.S. and other allies. Organizers envision viewing parties up and down the Hudson as a highlight of the nation’s birthday celebration.

Patriot reenactors confer at the conference

Much has to be done between now and July 4, 2026 during a period that may well be as tumultuous for America as were the events of 1776. As County Executive George Latimer pointed out in his opening remarks, Westchester then was “deeply divided” between supporters of the nascent rebellion and those who remained loyal to the British crown—“much as we are deeply divided today.” The Revolutionary War that began in 1776 resulted in the creation of a democracy that brought unity to the colonies. Whether American unity can be restored in the next two years remains an open question.

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