Thirteen years before the Pilgrims founded Plymouth in Massachusetts, the very essence of modern America took root on the banks of the James River in 1607, at Jamestown, Virginia. The population of England had doubled, causing tremendous strain on the home economy. Conditions across the country began to deteriorate for all but the rich; in some cases, half of a city’s population lived in poverty. Ultimately, the voyage to America was merely another move with the hope of finding a better way of life. Between 1650 and 1680, approximately 16,000 to 20,000 immigrants arrived in North America. Sound familiar? If you had a tendency to doze during American History class, you’ll now have a chance to brush up on the facts.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia, America's first permanent English settlement. The event gave rise to a new nation and changed the world. Visitors to Jamestown can celebrate throughout the year, but the Signature Event, America’s Anniversary Weekend, runs from May 11-13.
The three-day salute will include entertainment, historical attractions and special commemorative programming offered each day at Anniversary Park, Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne. Highlights of the weekend include:
—Bruce Hornsby & The Noise Makers will host an evening of rock, R&B and progressive bluegrass on Saturday, May 12. A three-time Grammy winner, Hornsby will be joined by some of his Grammy winning friends, including legendary funk and R&B artist Chaka Khan, and progressive bluegrass master Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder.
—The Virginia and Richmond Symphony Orchestras play separately and then together — for the first time ever — to premier new works written especially for the commemoration.
—Corning Hot Glass Road Show: Corning's artisans join Historic Jamestowne's glass blowers in honoring America's first business enterprise by exploring its glass making tradition.
—Crafting A Nation: An artisans' village featuring Indian flute makers, African-American basket weavers, English potters, fiber spinners and weavers — all demonstrating tools and techniques used in Colonial America and still in use today.
—NASA and America's Exploration of the Next Frontiers: Being aboard the Godspeed in 1607, and exploring America's next frontier, are similar in more ways than you might think. Interactive displays and educational opportunities will compare the voyage of 1607 to today's and tomorrow's explorations of the moon, Mars and beyond.
—Visions of Democracy: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt invoked an ideal American democracy to heal discord and unite opposing points of view. A primer on American democracy!
—The Anniversary Weekend concludes with the performance by a 400-piece Orchestra and a 1,607-Voice Choir, created especially for the commemoration and representing most of the United States.
Historic Jamestowne will also offer guided tours, re-enactments and musical programs. Saturday's commemorative ceremony features descendants of Jamestown's founders and Virginia Indian tribes.
Event scheduling was expected to continue after press time. Visitors can check for additional events and updates at www.Americas400thAnniversary.com.
Date-specific, single day tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children 6-12. Although tickets are FREE for children under age 6, organizers promise exciting and educational programming that will interest all ages, including tours of replicas of the original ships, and children’s theater presentations. Anniversary Weekend tickets include parking, shuttle transportation and admission to all three sites, and sales are limited to 30,000 guests per day to avoid overcrowding. Reserve tickets reserved by phone at 866-400-1607 or online at www.Americas400thAnniversary.com. Contact Colonial Williamsburg, 866-400-1607, for hotel information.