Let Battle Commence: Patriots’ Day 2011

Boston, home of Harvard, MiT and the set of Cheers, commemorates Patriots’ Day, the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord – the first skirmishes in the American Revolutionay War which ultimately led to America gaining its independence from England. Not to be confused with Patriot Day which is held in September.

Patriots’ Day is always celebrated on the third Monday in April and is steeped in more than 200 years worth of tradition. Bostonians like to commemorate the day in style with battle re-enactments, ‘Marathon Monday‘ and marches through the town to name just a few of the celebrations.

For those of you who are planning a trip to Boston Patriots’ Day 2011, promises the usual showdown of flashing uniforms, booming gunfire and an exciting touch of drama. It is perhaps Boston at it’s best so here’s our guide to help you get the most out of this historic event:

Patriots’ Day Events

Although the main event takes place on the Monday, which is in fact a public holiday for the states of Maine and Massachusetts, there is plenty going on throughout the month of April too. Patriots’ Day weekend in Boston is the build-up and particularly lively.

Saturday 16 April

Things kick off at 8:30am with a Reenactment of the Battle at the Old North Bridge. Here, on the dot, the normally subdued and peaceful surrounds of the Concord countryside will be pierced by the sound of musket fire and marching men as re-enactors relive the first shots of the War of Independence.

Hang about for events at Minute Man National Park which will be celebrating the opening battle of the American Revolution with a number of exciting and lively re-enactments and historic activities.

At the Hartwell Tavern in Lincoln, which stood and witnessed the events of 19th April 1775, you’ll see a variety of 18th century activities like drill and musket demonstrations performed by re-enactors in full 18th century attire. You’ll also get the opportunity to speak to a number of the park rangers and people taking part in the demonstrations. For kids Patriots’ Day means crafts, games and fancy dress.

At 11am and 4pm there’s a Bloody Angle Tactical Demonstration involving hundreds of British and Colonial Re-enactors at both Lincoln Hartwell Tavern (11am) and Tower Park (4pm). If you do manage to fight your way through the crowds that form along the half mile stretch of the original Battle Road, you’ll be treated to a running tactical weapons demonstration that will blow you away (hopefully not literally!)

To get the inside story on Paul Revere, local historian David Connor will be playing the role himself. Quiz him in the courtyard outside the Paul Revere House Museum on his 16-strong offspring, his midnight ride or political activities of the time.

Sunday 17 April

You can have a lie-in on Sunday; Patriots’ Day events only kick off at 1:45pm with a concert of 18th century folk music at Pierce Park, Lincoln.

Then at 2:30pm the Patriots’ Day Parade will run along Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington with bands, fire engines and general hullabaloo. The evening activities begin with the Lantern Lighting Service at the Old North Church at 7pm or for something with a bit more oomph, head to the White Church on Bedford Road where the Lincoln Minute Men will, at 7pm, reenact the events that lead up to midnight on 19th April 1775. That means a grand old rallying of Captain WIlliam Smith who strode on horseback to ring the church bell to warn that the British were on their way.

A number of accounts were documented by people who experienced the events of the 17th and 19th April and these will be read aloud by candlelight at the Pilgrim Congregational Church at 8pm.

Monday 18 April

In Massachusetts and Maine it’s a public holiday Patriots’ Day. But there’s no dilly dallying, events start well before the crack of dawn at 3:45am where the march begins at the Wayland Centre, an area previously known as Sudbury. The group arrives at the Old North Bridge in Concord at 10:30am – perhaps a more leisurely hour at which to join in the Patriots’ Day activities.

Meanwhile, at 4:45am the Stow Minute Men begin their march from Stow Lower Common beating their drums as they go to awaken the townsfolk. They join the parade in Concord at 9am.

The first few skirmishes of the British Regulars are re-enacted in the Battle on Lexington Green at 5:30am. At 9am, the communities converge at the Concord Centre for Concord’s Patriots’ Day Parade before heading back in to town. At 10am a member of the National Lancers will portray Paul Revere, who left on horseback to warn Samuel Adams that the British troops were advancing. En route he stops at Charleston City Square (10:20am), Somerville Foss Park (10:50am and Gaffery’s Funeral Home on Route 60 in Medford. The ride ends at Lexington Green at around 1pm.

Finally the Lexington Patriots’ Day Parade begins at East Lexington and makes its way to the town centre.

Where to Watch

In fact to get yourself a good vantage point you’ll actually have to get there as crowds tend to gather around Lexington Green long before 5am. Many spend the night there to guarantee their ring side seat. The atmosphere is fantastic in the build up to the battle and if you do get there early enough you’ll hear the redcoats marching along Battle Road as they approach the green.

Alternatively, you can head to the North Bridge in Concord for the Dawn Salute which takes place at 6am. Here the Concord Minute Men and the Concord Independent Battery mark the opening battle of the American Revolutionary War with a stunning 21 gun musket and cannon salute.

If the prospect of getting up at the crack of dawn isn’t your cup of tea then stick to the Patriots’ Day events in nearby Concord.

Another great spot to watch the race is at Wellesley College around the half way point. This is where all the college students turn out on mass to cheer on the runners and generate such a noise that it has earned itself the nickname of the ‘scream tunnel.’

If you’re after a slightly quieter setting to watch the marathon away from the huge crowds that congregate at Wellesely College and Copley Square near the finish, head for the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Here you’ll feel like you’re in the country and can have a picnic as the runners jog by.

Marathon Monday

Thousands of runners will also be descending on the city for the Boston Marathon 2011. The marathon is one of the Five World Marathon Majors including London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. The Boston Marathon is one of the longest-running marathons in the world and also considered one of the toughest of the five. Read more about Marathon Monday and the best viewing spots.

Patriots’ Day Game

It’s also a tradition for the Boston Red Sox to play a home game on Patriots’ Day. The baseball game starts at 11:05am at the Boston Fenway Park stadium so that the end of the game coincides with the runners entering the final mile of Boston’s other Patriots’ Day tradition- the Boston Marathon.

If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket to the game then you’re in for a real treat at the end; rather than file off home the crowds gather in the throng of streets around the stadium to cheer on the marathon runners as they enter the final stages. The noise levels and atmosphere generated are phenomenal and many fans stay until the last runner has come through.

Boston Hostels

Patriots’ Day in Boston is a popular time to visit, especially if you are looking for cheap hostels Boston properties usually hike up their prices! Try Hi – Boston Downtown which offers a free breakfast, free city tour, games room and lots of activities if you are looking to meet fellow travellers. Shared rooms from €22 per person per night.

Thanks to marada, Roshan V, Jeanette Ruyon & Keith Allison for the Flickr images.

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