New Year’s Day marks start of 400th anniversary

January 3, 2009 at 1:27 am Leave a comment

The new year brings big anniversary celebrations to New York state, which is planning a yearlong series of events to commemorate 400 years of history on the Hudson River, New York Harbor and Lake Champlain.

The Empire State’s plans to mark the anniversaries of the 1609 explorations by Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain include the Knickerbocker Ice Festival at Rockland Lake State Park, a panel discussion at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, and a relay flotilla of boats tracing Hudson’s path to Albany.

At the same time, the state will note the 200th _ or more accurately, 202nd _ anniversary of Robert Fulton’s maiden steamboat journey up the Hudson River in 1807, which showed the world the possibilities of steam navigation.

Gov. David Paterson’s wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, is honorary chair of the “Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration.”
Tara Sullivan, executive director of the state’s quadricentennial commission, said the tricentennial celebration in 1909 featured the themes of light and flight, with Thomas Edison installing electric lights in the Hudson Valley and the Wright Brothers flying over New York Harbor.

This time, Sullivan said, “we’re marking the anniversary with a single-minded focus on a sustainable economic and environmental future.”

Projects that tie into that theme include the transformation of the Poughkeepsie-Highland railroad bridge into the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, which will be a tourism draw as well as a way for people to get a dramatic view and greater appreciation of the Hudson River valley, Sullivan said.

The bridge, set to open in September, is 212 feet above the river and 1 1/4 miles long, and will connect to 27 miles of existing or planned rail trails and riverfront parks in Ulster and Dutchess Counties.

In addition, the state is installing “eco docks” along the river to increase access for boating and fishing.

Another major event this year will be “River Day” on June 6, which will become an annual event to be held on the first Saturday in June.

“For decades, people who have a close relationship with the river _ the boaters, the fishermen _ have wanted to have an ‘Opening Day’ that marks the start of the boating season and brings waterfront communities together in celebration,” Sullivan said. “Opening Day in Seattle and Fort Lauderdale have become a huge focus for community celebrations.”

River Day will become the Hudson Valley’s Opening Day, she said.

In this year’s event, a flotilla of boats will travel up the river following Henry Hudson’s path from New York Harbor to Albany. Flagships will include the Onrust, a reproduction of a historic Dutch yacht; the Sloop Clearwater, a sailboat modeled on Dutch schooners that hosts environmental programs; and the Half Moon, a reproduction of Henry Hudson’s ship.

Along the way, events will be hosted by communities, yacht clubs, cultural institutions and museums.

Of the $4 million set aside for New York’s Hudson-Fulton-Champlain commemoration, some $1.5 million will be split among 15 counties and 18 municipalities for their local events. Numerous other sources of funding are also committed, including $8 million from the Dutch government.

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands plans to visit New York during the events.


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Entry filed under: Get Wet, Maritime, Region.

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