In 1774, the brave citizens of Chestertown banded together to protest British tyranny and dumped a load of tea -- and a few British sailors who got in the way -- into the Chester River.
Saturday, the citizens of Chestertown will recall this historic tea party with a re-enactment of that fateful day.
But at the modern Chestertown Tea Party, the party is emphasized over the tea. The weekend event includes a raft race, skipjack rides, a fun run, entertainment, food and much more.
The centerpiece of this celebration is the re-enactment of the tea party at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Chestertown's party followed the more famous Boston Tea Party. There, Colonists disguised as Indians boarded British ships and dumped the tea the ships were carrying to protest a British tax on tea.
After the Boston Tea Party, the British closed the city's port, demanding the Colonists pay for the tea they destroyed. On May 23, 1774, Chestertown's citizens banded together to protest the British action. Residents resolved not to import, sell or consume British tea.
Acting immediately on their resolutions, they marched together to the brigantine Geddes. In daylight and without disguises, the rebel Colonists boarded the ship and brazenly dumped the tea over the side.
The town began re-enacting this historic moment in 1968, but there were some years that passed the festival by, so this is the 29th year for the Tea Party.
The event also includes the raft race at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. It pays homage to creativity, engineering and speed -- often with comic results. Participants compete for the "Tea Cup" in vessels that look as though they can barely float (and sometimes they don't).
Saturday's 10-mile run and 5K run/walk are over a mostly flat, looped course. Registration ($20) begins at 6:30 a.m. Both events start at 8 a.m. and end in Wilmer Park. For information, call 410-708-8595. On Sunday, kids ages 4 to 11 can enter the Sneaker Creeper footrace at Wilmer Park. For information, call 410-778-3373.
Take a ride on the Martha Lewis and get a feel for what water travel was like 200 years ago. The skipjack is the Maryland state boat. It was known for the way it sped across the water, dancing in and out of the waves. Skipjack rides are offered 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Stop by the Sultana Shipyard on Cannon Street and watch the reconstruction of Capt. John Smith's "shallop." Smith used this open river boat to explore and map the Chesapeake Bay in 1608. The reconstructed shallop is expected to be completed by 2006. After it makes the rounds of regional museums, it is planned to be used to retrace Smith's exploration of the bay. In addition to the shallop, the schooner Sultana will be open for free tours on Saturday.
Chestertown, built on the banks of its namesake Chester River, is one of the oldest towns in the state. Take a guided walking tour and learn its history. The 90-minute tours begin at appointed times from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The Historical Society of Kent County in the Geddes-Piper House (101 Church Alley) will be open over the weekend. View 18th- and 19th-century artifacts and then stop in the gift shop for some of the house-blend tea.
Music ranges from bagpipes to pan flutes and from bluegrass to sea chanteys. The shore's native Nanticoke Indians will tell stories and do authentic dances. Susquehanna Indians will give a hunting and crafts demonstration. Dance troupes include cloggers and English country dancers. The Washington College Archaeology Lab will be open for tours Saturday. The film Historic Chestertown, Yesterday and Today will be presented at the Town Hall. And lectures on tea and its importance in Colonial society are planned. Kids' activities include puppet shows (Punch and Judy and St. George and the Dragon), storytelling and a children's military muster.
The 2005 Tea Party presents more than 120 artisan and craft vendors with an emphasis on historic arts like blacksmithing, candle-making and weaving. Chestertown's historic downtown is also home to gift boutiques and specialty shops.
The food booths feature Eastern Shore crab cakes, fish and clams. There also will be hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue and other carnival fare.
Where else to eat
For a sit-down meal, try:
The Imperial Hotel and Restaurant (208 High St., 410-778-5000): The regional cuisine changes seasonally at this historic restaurant and hotel.
Kettle Drum Tea Room (117 Cross St., 410-810-1497): Stop for a "cuppa" or a heartier lunch or dinner.
The Black-Eyed Susan (601 Washington Ave., 410-778-1214): Don't miss this bistro with the great Maryland name. The menu runs from Maryland Fried Chicken and Still Pond Creek Snapper Soup (as in snapping turtle) to Gnocchi in Garlic Brie Sauce with Pine Nuts and Asparagus and Carolina Peanut Crusted Lamb.
Take Interstate 695 to Route 10 South, toward Severna Park. Turn left on Route 2 South (Ritchie Highway). Follow to Route 50/301 North across the Bay Bridge. Stay on U.S. 301 when U.S. 50 and U.S. 301 divide. Continue to Route 213 North toward Centreville. Follow for 18 miles to Chestertown. Roads will be blocked for the festival, so watch signs. There are no official parking areas. Visitors are asked to be courteous of local residents when they park (no parking in private driveways etc.). A shuttle bus stops at the intersection of Dixon Drive and High Street to take visitors to the festival.
Visit www.chestertownteaparty.com or www.baydreaming.com. For the Kent County Office of Tourism Development, call 410-778-0416.
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