Despite a cold evening, over 300 people attended the third recreation of FDR’s historic torchlight parade on the evening of October 12th. The National Park Service, in partnership with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, offers this special event every four years to correspond with the Presidential election year.
At the conclusion of political campaigns, Roosevelt would return to his Hyde Park home to vote with his neighbors. As the precincts closed and votes were counted, his friends would march up the road to his home, showing their support under the dramatic illumination of torchlight. Unlike the partisan torchlight parades of the Roosevelt-era, the NPS recreations occur before Election Day and are focused on encouraging people to do their duty as Americans and vote, a sentiment that the Roosevelts encouraged.
Historically, the torchlight parades in Hyde Park began in the center of the town, but the National Park Service’s recreation began in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center. This year’s torchlight parade was set in the year of 1940 when Roosevelt publicly affirmed his love of his community, stating, “My heart has always been here, it always will be.” It is also the year that Eleanor Roosevelt stated in her famous speech to the Democratic National Convention that “these are no ordinary times”. This year’s program attendees introduced the national and world events of 1940 stepped out into the open, lit their torches, and marched to the Roosevelt home.
Visitors were transported back in time as the Franklin D. Roosevelt High School band played the period classic “Happy Days Are Here Again” and led the torch bearers to the Roosevelt Home. Standing on the porch of this historic home, which was the stage for the evening, John Golden shared reminiscences of the torchlight parades he remembered from his childhood in Hyde Park. FDR’s grandson, David Roosevelt, gave an inspirational presentation about the importance of looking at both sides of a political race, and voting based on an informed decision.
The Beckers, of the Hudson Valley Folksingers Guild, played songs of the 1940s. The program also included a speech that Roosevelt gave to a national radio audience in Poughkeepsie on election night. But the grand finale to the evening was when “FDR” emerged from the house with his family and presenting the speech he gave to the crowd in 1940.
This historic reenactment has assured that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s impact on the community he came from will be remembered for years to come.