National Parks in Boston Ready to Celebrate 100 Years

By Seth Daniel

The National Park Service (NPS) is about to turn 100 years old this summer, and the Boston Parks are planning a major celebration on Aug. 25- 27 in and around the three major Boston parks – including a huge celebration on Aug. 25 in Christopher Columbus Park.

The Boston National Historic Park’s three sites include the African American National Historic Site on Beacon Hill, the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park and the Charlestown Navy Yard/Monument – not to mention the Freedom Trail’s lengthy trek – have put together a three-day celebration this month to mark the special occasion.

August 25 will represent Founder’s Day nationwide for the NPS – the day when legislation was signed in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson to create the NPS – and in Boston it will mean a celebration at Christopher Columbus Park, which is right next to the ferries taking passengers to the Harbor Islands.

“We’ll kick off the three days with a Founder’s Day celebration at Christopher Columbus Park in the North End where ferries leave for the Islands,” said Sean Hennessey of the NPS Boston. “We’re going to have a full day of fun activities and have entertainment at the Park.

Partners in the celebration include the City of Boston, Boston Parks and Recreation, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), among others.

“We’re celebrating the Spirit of Revolution,” said NPS Boston Supt. Michael Creasey. “Obviously you have political revolution in the American Revolution. You also have social revolution in the abolitionist movement and the struggle for civil rights in the African American National Historic Site and you have an environmental revolution at the Islands where the Boston Harbor cleanup enabled the Islands to become the crown jewel of our Park in Boston.”

The Aug. 25 celebration will include an 11 a.m. concert for all ages with Josh and the Jam Tones. The Berklee College of Music will also be performing music with various ensembles all day long. There will also be tents set up with special programming, including entries from the New England Aquarium and the MWRA. Organizers also said there would be free Zumba and other exercise and fitness activities at Christopher Columbus.

The activities will include ferry trips to George’s Island and Spectacle Island, where special activities will be taking place.

A speaking program with the cutting of a special Centennial birthday cake is scheduled also during the day, with Congressman Michael Capuano to appear and Mayor Martin Walsh expected to appear.

WBZ-TV Meteorologist Eric Fisher, is a North End resident, will emcee the event.

Throughout the weekend, the Boston African American Site on Joy Street in Beacon Hill will be featuring tours of the Black Heritage Trail on Beacon Hill – a piece of social revolution that is often overshadowed by the American Revolution.

A new exhibit that just went up on Frederick Douglass will also be promoted in the Joy Street museum, as well as a presentation on John Brown’s Boston.

On Saturday, Aug. 26, the celebration shifts to the Charlestown Navy Yard – where the history of the Navy Yard’s role in World War II will be a focus. That will also include a major program on the ‘Rosie the Riveter’ workforce, which included women working in the Yard during the war. About 20 percent of the workforce was made up of ‘Rosie’s’ during the war, and that experience spawned a social change where a generation of women set out after the war to educate themselves and to enter the general workforce in greater numbers.

A small group of former ‘Rosie’s’ will return to the Navy Yard on Aug. 26 and 27 to give first-person accounts of their experiences working during the war in a program called ‘Rosie’s Invade the Navy Yard.’

On Saturday, Aug. 26, there will a highly touted concert of the US Air Force Band ‘Rhythm and Blue’ in the Navy Yard.

“They are going to present a fantastic program of jazz and blues,” said Hennessey. “They’re very well known and have their own following. We are very fortunate to have them join us for the celebration.”

Saturday will also feature a screening on the Pier of the Hollywood movie classic ‘On the Town.’

A cartoonist from Syracuse’s State University of New York (SUNY) will be on hand to discuss the history of political cartoons during the war. There will also be a presentation on Victory Gardens, the largest of which still exists in Boston’s Fenway area.

Sunday, Aug. 27, will feature more of the Rosie’s and a special presentation of the history of the USS Cassin Young in the Navy Yard. On the pier, there will be free swing dance lessons and a Lindy Hop canteen dance as well.

Creasey said the celebration of the Centennial will also be a time when they can look forward to the next 100 years, particularly concentrating on the NPS’s new ‘Urban Agenda’ – with Boston being one of 10 model cities for this new emphasis.

“That’s a big part of this,” said Creasey. “When you look at how we are celebrating the Spirit of Revolution, it’s our way of making sure the National Park Service of Boston engages with the community…If we’re going to remain relevant another 100 years, it can’t just be for tourists. It has to relate to a national and international audience, but we need to connect to the communities we live and work in.

“People want to compare us to the Golden Gate in San Francisco and that’s a high standard, but I really think we have a lot of potential and the potential of making this a National Park city. It’s a new way of thinking about Boston. If you look at the Spirit of Revolution around politics, social change and environment, that’s a pretty high standard we ought to emphasize.”

A sampling of additional events is available on the National Park Service website, and many more can be found at FindYourPark.com and EncuentraTuParque.com.

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