As many of you are aware, the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration has been moving full steam ahead for the past few months. The Hudson River is 400 years old! That’s cause for celebration. Below is an op-ed written by the Director of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission Tara Sullivan. Please, come out and celebrate the Hudson River this year by attending some of the fantastic events that are being held throughout the year, especially this summer and fall.
Pride in New York’s great history and a commitment to a sustainable economic and environmental future for the Hudson River Valley were in evidence among the thousands of residents and tourists who turned out to welcome the fleet of heritage ships in its stately parade from the Statue of Liberty to Albany, following the course of Henry Hudson’s voyage 400 years ago.An estimated 100,000 spectators on land and more than 1,500 boaters joined in the festivities, saluting and celebrating the flotilla during its eight-day, 120-mile nautical trip retracing that famous world-changing journey. Nearly 100 events commemorated the River Day theme, demonstrating the power of the Hudson to serve as the centerpiece of the region’s $4.5 billion tourism industry.
Could this passion and intensive nostalgia be turned into a sustainable valley event bringing along some economic sustenance and more environmental awareness? Shall we band together and follow Seattle and countless other water-connected communities who have made an annual opening day the biggest day of the year?
Starting with Gov. David Paterson’s official launch of River Day with the Blessing of the Fleet, organizations including Battery Park, Cloisters, the Hudson River Museum, Marist College, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Mills Mansion, Vanderbilt Mansion, Bard College, Scenic Hudson and Clermont Estate mobilized staff and visitors to watch the flotilla parade by. Hudson River Maritime Museum had a huge welcome celebration and West Point honored the flotilla with the 16 cannon salute.
New Jersey towns, Yonkers, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Philipse Manor, Haverstraw, Croton and Ossining, Stony Point, Peekskill, Garrison and Cold Spring, Highland Falls, Cornwall and New Hamburg, Tivoli, Coxsackie, Coeymans, Bethlehem, and Schodack – all had record numbers packed along the riverbank to cheer, ring church bells, blast cannons and sound sirens.
Nyack, Tarrytown, Piermont, Newburgh, Beacon, Poughkeepsie, Hyde Park, Rhinecliff, Kingston, Cats-kill, Athens, Hudson, Castleton and Rensselaer hosted the ships overnight, fed the crews and looked after the ships.
Private porches and balconies, yards full of spectators declaring: “This is better than TV!” Countless barbeques, picnics blankets and parties lined the riverbank.A class from Saugerties came out by boat to greet the captain of the Half Moon with a special Quadricentennial flag.
Pete Seeger sang valley ballads, Jay Unger and Molly Mason played a welcome concert, the Culinary Institute of America made a huge Quadricentennial cake, and the Half Moon cut a riverwide ribbon.
The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome joined the flotilla when weather cooperated, making formation flyovers and reminding all of us on the ground of the famous first flight over water by Wilbur Wright 100 years ago up the Hudson River.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis sailed on the Clearwater, where he and his wife once took their marriage vows. A River Day wedding happened on Day Seven, after a double rainbow (without rain) greeted the flotilla, followed by a spectacular fireworks display reflected over the water and witnessed by hundreds of boaters and park-goers.
And most of all, the backbone of the volunteer force of more than 1,000 people came from the wholehearted support of boat clubs, yacht clubs and marinas of the river valley. They coordinated a boat ballet, sending their memberships out in waves to escort the historic journey.
The leading river environmental organizations -Scenic Hudson, Clearwater and Riverkeeper – chose River Day as their backdrop to articulate their common goals for the coming Quadricentennial decade: a cleaner river and protected parklands.
The boaters say they have wanted to establish an annual opening day on the river for decades, the towns say they want to celebrate the river with their neighbors and the local historians say it is high time to have a valleywide tradition set in stone for the next 100 years.
River Day has launched the Quad events for the remainder of this auspicious year and made New York’s Quadricentennial a household word in the valley.
Perhaps more importantly, River Day has shown that at the end of 2009, we will not say goodbye to the Quad, but instead say, “See you next June at River Day!”