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Plymouth 400 INC.: Reason for Celebration

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PLYMOUTH – The 2020 celebration is part of her job description, but some people might be surprised to know that the new executive director of Plymouth 400 Inc. is ready to celebrate now.
For Michele Pecoraro, there is good cause for the nonprofit to pop a few corks and make a few toasts. After years of kicking the tires, revving the engines and going for a few tentative spins around the block, Pecoraro says the organization responsible for planning Plymouth’s biggest party in 100 years is ready to roll – and on a roll as well.
That was one of the reasons cited Monday for holding what was billed as its first annual meeting, and doing so in style. It was the first organizational meeting held at the posh new Mirbeau Inn & Spa at The Pinehills.
It wasn’t actually Plymouth 400’s first annual meeting. In one form or another the committee has been in existence for years. But, Pecoraro told board members, staff and supporters gathered at the spa, the board has now been enhanced, the staff has been augmented and the organization has moved beyond planning its seven signature events and has put into action a series of lead-up events and special exhibits that will both promote the 400th anniversary celebration and be an integral part of the year-long celebration in 2020.
“I am calling this the Year of Definition,” board member Paul Cripps said prior to Pecoraro’s presentation. “This is the year when the vision has been clarified.”
Cripps said Plymouth 400 now has the staff it needs to turn that vision into action and that Pecoraro’s selection as executive director has galvanized the organization.
Galvanize means to spur, stimulate, electrify or fire up. Pecoraro might prefer to say she has empowered a talented staff and Board of Directors, but her overview of the past year revealed an organizational philosophy that puts imagination in the driver’s seat.
“Anybody can see what is there. Anybody can go where a map will take him. Seeing what isn’t there, however, traveling without a map, is what make’s life interesting,” Pecoraro said in her opening remarks, quoting the organization’s inspiring first leader, the Rev. Peter J. Gomes.
The organization’s efforts are now being chronicled daily on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google Plus (thanks in large part, Pecoraro said, to new hire Sheila Fey.)
Internally, Plymouth 400 Inc. is communicating with stakeholders, donors, sponsors and event attendees through a new blog, weekly updates and, coming soon, a stakeholder newsletter.
The group has also begun regular advertising online, on the radio and in print and is nearing the magic number (1,500) of paid reservations for 400th anniversary commemorative license plates (thanks, Pecoraro noted, to the tireless lobbying of staff member Cheryl Soares).
The lead-up events and exhibitions now include the Bass & Blue Fishing Tournament (which this year – its third – raised more than $40,000), the Forefather’s Family Fun Day (run by Soares), the Plymouth Rock Midnight Masquerade (the first to be held this coming New Year’s Eve), and the traveling exhibit “Plymouth 1620-2020,” which will promote the anniversary as it moves from museum to museum across the country.
Pecoraro also announced Plymouth 400’s endorsement of a brand new exhibit: “Captured 1614: The true story of the Patuxet Wampanoag.” Set to premiere at the Plymouth Library in three months, “Captured 1614” is a key piece in the committee’s efforts to, as Pecoraro recently told National Public Radio, let the Wampanoag’s voice be heard.
“We really want the Wampanoag people to be able to use this anniversary to tell their own story,” Pecoraro told WCAI Reporter Alexandra Morrow. “This 400th is, I think, a really great opportunity for us all to have all the stories told, including the Wampanoag story, told by the Wampanoag people and not by somebody else.”
The committee is also intent on hearing from Plymouth’s distant relations. As part of the Plymouth 400 committee’s collaboration with our sister city, Plymouth, England, it is planning “1,000 Candles” – with 1,000 people in Plymouths on both sides of the Atlantic coming together through Skype and social media to celebrate the voyage that helped to permanently bind our communities and countries together.
At this point in her presentation to those gathered at Mirbeau, Pecoraro paused to catch her breath before explaining that the committee has not forgotten the Old Colony, Plymouth Colony, defining that loosely as the richly historic New England that grew up around the original settlement here.
In May, Pecoraro noted, Plymouth 400 “had a place at the table” during Plimoth Plantation’s Discover New England Summit. Collaborating with the Plymouth County Development Council, Destination Plymouth and Plimoth Plantation, Pecoraro said, the 400 has already benefitted from more than a dozen advertising campaigns. And looking across the state, it is sharing state funding to put together a regional 400th commemoration and a special collaboration with Provincetown, assisted by Provincetown Museum Director John McDonagh and Provincetown’s director of tourism, Tony Fuccillo, who was recently appointed to the Plymouth 400 Board of Directors.
“I feel like we are traveling without a map,” Pecoraro said, paraphrasing Gomes. “But with a good dose of imagination we can approach this opportunity with openness, courage, trust, determination and vision for the future. Then 2020 won’t just be a bookmark in our nation’s history, but a legacy for the next 100 years.”

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