2007-08-09 / Front Page

Islanders celebrate 350 years

By Adrienne Downing

A few members of the committee that planned Jamestown's 350th Celebration gathered Tuesday. From left are Rosemary Enright, Jim Rugh, Charlie Petit, Heather Minto, Jason Hamel, and Bill Hamel. The 350th Celebration gets underway this Saturday. Photo by Jeff McDonough A few members of the committee that planned Jamestown's 350th Celebration gathered Tuesday. From left are Rosemary Enright, Jim Rugh, Charlie Petit, Heather Minto, Jason Hamel, and Bill Hamel. The 350th Celebration gets underway this Saturday. Photo by Jeff McDonough Celebrating an anniversary is always a good thing, but honoring 350 years requires something special, which is why Jamestown is hosting a weeklong event worthy of the island's rich history.

The nine-day celebration officially kicks off on Saturday with Night for the Light, the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce's fund-raiser for the preservation of the Dutch Island Lighthouse.

Although the chamber hosts a fund-raising event every year for a non-profit organization, it is fitting that this year's event is centered around Dutch Island. The island was first used by the West India Trading Company in 1630, around the time the first settlers started leasing land on Conanicut Island to graze sheep and cattle.

"It does tie in with the 350 theme in that the event is held at Fox Hill Farm, one of the earliest farms on Jamestown," John McCauley said. "People will have fantastic views of the west passage, a view that has probably changed very little in 350 years, except for the addition of the lighthouse in 1826."

When the idea of having a 350th week was first proposed in January, a parade was one of the first things on the calendar of events. While parades on Conanicut Island may not date back 350 years, they are certainly a hometown tradition and no Jamestown celebration would be complete without one.

Coordinator Charlie Petit was a little secretive about a few of the surprises planned for the parade, but he did say he was pleased with the number of people and organizations that have volunteered to take part.

Participants will gather in the Lawn Avenue School parking lot at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, and the parade will step off at 1 p.m. It will stop at the new town hall for the dedication ceremony and tree planting and then proceed down Narragansett Avenue to East Ferry.

Everyone will be invited back to view the interior of the town hall and have refreshments at the conclusion of the parade.

Town Council President David Long said the events surrounding the 350 week, and the town hall dedication in particular, strike a chord with him.

"This whole thing is remarkable and notable to me from the fact that I am a Jamestowner and I have a share in the heritage of this island," Long said. "It has always been a special place."

Long said it will be a pleasure to be on the first council to hold a meeting in the new town hall. "The town hall is a nod to the heritage of the island, with the character of the past in the old building, and it captures the essence of the town in an important way," he said.

Before cross-island highways and bridges dotted the landscape, visitors came to the island by boat and BankNewport will bring back those shoreline images of yesteryear with four, two-hour sunset cruises around Jamestown's shoreline on Monday through Thursday evenings. Historical sites can be taken in while relaxing aboard boats that will depart from East Ferry at 6 p.m. each evening.

A good old family-style picnic, complete with a pie eating contest, sack races, face painting and music can be found on Aug. 13, from 2 to 7 p.m. at Fort Wetherill.

"The teens really wanted to make a contribution to the whole celebration, so we came up with the picnic idea," Melissa Minto, teen coordinator, said. "They will be running the games and everyone can just come out and have a great time."

There would not be an anniversary celebration if the settlers had not been interested in Conanicut Island from an agricultural standpoint, and Don Minto will be presenting an "Agricultural history of Jamestown" tour on Aug. 14 on Watson Farm at 4 p.m.

Don Minto is going to focus on the continuum of agriculture from pre-settlement to current efforts to preserve Jamestown's remaining farmland.

History will come alive starting on Aug. 15 with the "Our History: Quest and Questions" island hunt. The search will take people to different historical sites around the island, where participants will look for answers to questions involving some well-known and some little-known island history facts.

"We really wanted to make it a fun learning experience that anyone can do," Rosemary Enright, president of the Jamestown Historical Society, said. "It is something families can do together and people will be surprised about the things they didn't know about right in their own backyard."

Teens from the teen center did the investigative work, visiting sites and coming up with questions, and then they collaborated with the historical society to format them in a fun, fact-filled booklet.

"It is something everyone can do on their own time. They don't have to do it all in one day and there will be prizes at the end," Melissa Minto said.

Be sure to look in next week's Press for information about the fi- nal four days of the 350th week.

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