By Frank Mand
PLYMOUTH – It was a fragile light that somehow continued to shine, and will be symbolically lit again this coming Friday.
Despite being buffeted by the winds, drenched in the autumn rains and hidden behind a hastily constructed palisade, that tiny flickering light endured and became both a fire in the hearths of the colony and, eventually, a beacon for millions.
“As one small candle may light a thousand,” Plimoth Colony’s Governor William Bradford wrote in his journal of the first decades of the settlement, “so the light here kindled has shown unto many.”
Taking Bradford’s words as inspiration, when the candles are lit (or the Illuminate 2014 app is activated) at the base of Coles Hill late Friday afternoon it will mark the official start of a weekend of activities for America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration and at the same time symbolize the increasingly strong bonds between this community and its sister city in the United Kingdom.
Both Plymouths will celebrate a 400th anniversary in 2020. In the United Kingdom it is a celebration of adventure and discovery, the voyage of the Mayflower to America. In America it is a year-long event that seeks to remind all Americans of the roots of their democracy.
Though it is still more than five years away, both communities are beginning to build toward the anniversary year in many ways. Here in Massachusetts the Plymouth 400 has already developed lead-up events, many of which have their counterparts across the ocean.
Next Friday, the day before America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration parade, the 400 has a special candle lighting ceremony planned for the waterfront. Illuminate 2014 will begin at 4 p.m. on Coles Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II, with inspirational speeches by Senate President Therese Murray and humorist Loretta LaRoche. There will also be performances by the Air Force’s touring ensemble Tops in Blue, Plymouth North High School’s a cappella group Northern Lights and others.
Then the entertainment will end and in the darkness the candles (and apps) will be lit.
After the candles are lit, Illuminate 2014 continues, just up the hill, with a street festival on Main and Court streets that will feature live art and music, special offers at shops and restaurants and more.
Attendees will be greeted by an array of local and regional visual and performing artists including an illumination of the 1820’s Courthouse, historic re-enactors – First Nations Women Warriors Color Guard, Freemen of the Sea, Jenney Museum Pilgrims, New Plimmoth Gard, and Vintage Red Stockings; music will feature Grand 27, The Sibs, The American Originals, Emily Hodges, and Willie Dinardo & the Corporates.
“We are excited to kick off our journey to the 400th anniversary of Plymouth Colony in 2020 with the first annual Illuminate event,” Michele Pecoraro, the executive director of Plymouth 400 Inc., said this week. “Illuminate 2014 will not only be an evening of family-friendly entertainment in downtown Plymouth but will also be educational and inspirational, highlighting the importance of gratitude and the spirit of giving.
“We want to inspire the community to illuminate their lives as well as the lives of others. With our local partners, America’s Hometown Thanksgiving, and our international partners in Plymouth, England, we are excited to bring this universal event to life this year in our community and beyond.”
In a sense the revelers that Friday night will be basking in the glow of candles lit a day earlier in the United Kingdom. In Plymouth, England, dignitaries from Mayflower-linked communities in Holland, the U.S. and England will have already participated in a civic ceremony on the Mayflower Steps on Nov. 20.
During that service one candle will be lit followed by a further 1,000 candles.
“Illuminate marks the first official event to start the countdown to Mayflower 2020, the 400th anniversary of the historic sailing,” Plymouth City Council Councillor Tudor Evans said recently. “This is a significant part of our history, and this is an exciting moment for our community to come together, not only to unite with our sister-city in the U.S. but to celebrate Plymouth’s part in the voyage.”
The Illuminate App
People across the United States and beyond can join Illuminate 2014 wherever they are by using the new Plymouth 400 Illuminate app to create their own Illuminate 2014 moment.
This mobile app, sponsored by PartyLite, will engage participants in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Plymouth, England, and across the globe by encouraging them to connect with others through the app’s social media photo-sharing feature.
The app will also give users the ability to light a virtual candle to illuminate their own community, wherever they may be.
The Illuminate 2014 app is available for iOS and Android devices.
By Frank Mand