400 Years in the Making
2020 will bring tourists and locals alike to Plymouth to connect with this pivotal narrative and realize its extensive legacy. The town is expecting a visitor count in the millions, roughly three times its usual traffic. Plymouth 400, Inc. has been working for eight years to connect with businesses and Mayflower and Wampanoag descendants to best memorialize this anniversary. “To be a part of this is very exciting because we are looking back 400 years to commemorate history. However, I feel that through planning and working with a variety of groups and organizations, we are also making history in the process of commemorating it. That to me really brings it alive,” says Brian Logan, Communications Manager for Plymouth 400, Inc. With events scheduled throughout the calendar year, those visiting Plymouth on any given day will find some way to engage, discover, and remember.
Seven Signature Events of national significance will be held from April to November, recognizing all four nations involved in the Pilgrim legacy: England, the Netherlands, the Wampanoag Nation, and the United States. At the core of Plymouth 400’s mission is emphasizing the themes of “exploration, innovation, self-governance, religious expression, and thanksgiving” across these carefully constructed events. In addition to the Signature Events, various exhibits will be open to the public year-long, including displays of Wampanoag and Pilgrim culture in Boston, the women founders of Plymouth Colony at the Pilgrim Hall Museum, and much more.
Kicking off the Signature Events on April 24th, the Plymouth 400 Commemoration Opening Ceremony will launch with a procession through downtown, culminating in a gathering in Memorial Hall with performances and speeches. For those not attending the Memorial Hall ceremony, various local businesses and restaurants will host live watch parties, engaging all of Plymouth in the festivities. From June 27 to 28th, the Official Maritime Salute to the 400th Anniversary will gather various vessels at Plymouth’s waterfront, symbolizing the Mayflower’s voyage.
A homecoming not to be missed, the Mayflower II will return to Plymouth harbor after a three-year restoration managed by Plimoth Plantation. The homecoming is scheduled for May 21st and the ship opens for public tours two days later. To immerse yourself in the voyage, tickets to climb aboard the vessel are on sale now through Plimoth Plantation. A visit to Plimoth Plantation and Pilgrim Hall museum are additional worthy stops during your time in Plymouth for tangible historical experiences.
The Wampanoag Ancestors Walk and the Indigenous History Conference and Powwow will both shed a light on the Wampanoag’s critical historical role as well as their current story. The walk, scheduled for August 1st in Plymouth, will commemorate Wampanoag ancestors. From October 29th to November 1st, the History Conference will dive into life before and after colonization and finish with a public powwow at Bridgewater State University.
In Boston, the State House will salute both the Plymouth Colony founders and the Wampanoag tribes on September 14th, with descendants from both groups present. To celebrate the cultures of the Wampanoag people, Pilgrims, and American immigrants, the Embarkation Festival will honor all groups at Plymouth’s waterfront on September 19th. Wrapping up the Signature Events in November 2020, Illuminate Thanksgiving will take place during the five days prior to Thanksgiving and be centered around fostering gratitude.
Celebrating the 400th Anniversary is bound to inspire questions of personal ancestry, envisioning yesterday’s catalysts and how one’s own roots could be connected to the past. To start the story of your own history or witness that of the Mayflower descendants, the Plymouth 400 Official Tour begins at the New England Historic Genealogy Society, the oldest genealogy society in the country. This four-day historical tour by Tour Trends has dates for individuals and groups throughout the year. “These sites, from Boston, Duxbury, Plymouth, to Provincetown, had never been linked together before. It really does pull together not only the lead up to the Pilgrims landing, but it links together pieces of this story that have never been connected before,” Logan describes.
The 400th Anniversary is a chance to be a part of history right in our backyard. While commemorating, one ought to enjoy the plethora of restaurants, culture, and beloved natural landscape that Massachusetts has to offer. These year-long events are monumental, remembering the past while simultaneously writing today’s story.
For more information on the 400th Anniversary, visit Plymouth400inc.org!
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