Dorchester County will celebrate its 350th Anniversary on Sept. 22 during the annual Dorchester Arts Showcase with reenactments spotlighting Dorchester heritage, historical displays, art and essay contest awards and the opening of a 50-year-old time capsule.
The activities and programming will be centered in a “heritage village” on and around the lawn at the Dorchester County Courthouse. The village will include Harriet Tubman and Annie Oakley reenactors, as well as a Native American interpretive presentation by Daniel Firehawk Abbott. The Chesapeake Independent Blues will provide a period interpretive display of the Dorchester citizen-soldiers who served in the local militia companies during the War of 1812. In addition to these presentations, a curator from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab will exhibit a selection of artifacts from Dorchester County.
The heritage village also will include displays and representatives from historical sites and organizations throughout Dorchester County, including the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians, Bucktown Village Store, the Skipjack Nathan (which will also be offering free skipjack rides at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm; first come, first served), Handsell Historic House and Chicone Village, Spocott Windmill, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center, the Dorchester Historical Society, the South Dorchester Folk Museum, Eastern Shore Network for Change, the Richardson Maritime Museum and the Dorchester Public Library.
The celebration will take place from noon until 5 p.m. A 350th Anniversary Showcase Program will begin 2 p.m. and include a blessing of Dorchester; recognition of attending mayors and elected officials, including Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford; music; and the cutting of an anniversary cake. The highlight of the event will be the opening of the 50-year-old time capsule that was sealed during the county’s 300th anniversary celebration in 1969. The items are enclosed inside a 3-foot tall metal cabinet. Plans are underway for a new time capsule to be sealed for another 50 years.
“This commemoration will showcase all aspects of Dorchester’s unique history and culture,” said Julie Gilberto-Brady, manager of the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area. “We wanted to coordinate a celebration that celebrates our rich heritage while bringing together a diverse cross section of the community.
“One of the ways that we have been able to engage the community is through the art and essay contest that we sponsored for kindergarten through 12 grade students. We asked participants, ‘If you had a time machine and could travel anywhere in Dorchester County’s history, when and where would you go? Why did you choose to travel to that period of history?’ We have received such creative, engaging and inspiring responses. It will be exciting to have them on display at the event.”
Entertainment during the celebration program will include a performance by Phil Feldman, who wrote a song commemorating Dorchester County’s Tercentenary when he was in high school 50 years ago. He will perform the same song, the Ballad of Dorchester County, and the Dorchester Chorus also will perform.
Throughout the county, towns and historical sites are planning complementary events for the commemoration. The Dorchester Skipjack Committee also will be celebrating the county’s history as it hosts the 23rd Annual Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race on Sept. 21, the day before the anniversary event. The race will include about a dozen participants, a parade of boats and a Skipjack Festival.
In East New Market, businesses and private citizens are opening their doors on Oct 5 to share local history and historic buildings.
Historic Handsell in Vienna also is joining in the celebration. The annual Nanticoke River Jamboree on Oct. 12, a living history event, will feature a wide range of interpretation, including the native people, African American enslaved and sharecroppers and colonial settlement. Through historic craftspeople, docents in period dress, cooking, native life skills and the history of the water of the Eastern Shore, visitors will be able to immerse themselves in more than 300 years of history.