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The Sagamore Hill Celebration for TR’s 150th Birthday was by all accounts a rousing success, with more than 3,000 people visiting the site over two days.
On Saturday, October 25, Sagamore Hill participated in the 150th Commemorative Parade presented by the Theodore Roosevelt Association in the Town of Oyster Bay. Our detachment of NPS staff and volunteers was joined by members of the Long Island Refuge staff of the US Fish & Wildlife Service. In spite of the threatening weather, the parade made its way from the Theodore Roosevelt Statue at the entrance to Oyster Bay down through town, ending at the Bandstand in the Town Square. More than 100 units, including marching bands, fire and police units, and pipe and drum corps exuberantly celebrated the 150th anniversary of Oyster Bay’s and Long Island’s most famous resident with a parade that lasted for more than an hour.
On Sunday, after severe rain storms had knocked out power for most of central Long Island, including Cove Neck, the location of Sagamore Hill NHS, the day dawned clear and beautiful. Weather in the 60’s held all day for a truly memorable Family Festival presented on the grounds.
A large tent with stage provided the location for four musical ensembles including the Sagamore Hill Band, under the direction of Bandmaster, Steve Walker. Their program concluded as always, with the Sagamore Hill March, originally composed by Donald Luckinbill for the opening of the site to the public, on June 14, 1953.
But, if entertainment was not your cup of tea there were plenty of other activities for everyone. Writers Natalie Naylor, John Staudt, Stacey Cordery and Kathleen Dalton presented talks in the Author’s Tent. The Environmental Tent had exhibitors from the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center whose Birds of Prey demonstration drew some 300 people. Also present were the Fish & Wildlife Service, and Fire Island National Seashore. Touch-tanks from the Oyster Bay WaterFront Center and Friends of the Bay drew many inquisitive children as well.
On the grounds, the Long Island Horseless Carriage Club exhibited cars from the days of TR’s presidency and the Paumonok Driving Club exhibited several horse-drawn carriages. Several Rough-Rider re-enactors were present for the delight of all. Pony-cart rides were enjoyed by many children who later did crafts and competed for prizes in Sack Races, Pumpkin Rolls and a climactic Tug of War in which each side eventually drew the other over the line so that all the kids were winners!!
Monday, October 27, the actual birthday, began with the Gilder-Lehrman High School Study Institute Lecture by visiting historian Kathleen Dalton who addressed 250 students from local schools on Long Island. Dalton, a Roosevelt scholar, is best known for her book, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life, published by Alfred Knopf in 2002.
Following the lecture every one proceeded to the porch of Sagamore Hill to find the Northeast Navy Band under Chief Musician Jeff Griffen. The musical ensemble provided a wonderful prelude of period music that led up to the flag ceremony. Park rangers aided by several dozen students took down our 50 star flag while the band played the Stars & Stripes Forever. Great grandson of TR, Tweed Roosevelt, aided by Associate Regional Director Maryanne Gerbauckas presented a special 32 star flag to the park rangers who hoisted up the 15 by 25 foot commemorative flag that will mark the sesquicentennial year accompanied by the National Anthem. There followed a program that included remarks by Sagamore Hill Superintendent, Thomas Ross and a special address by James Foote portraying President Theodore Roosevelt. Greetings and proclamations were offered by local and state officials as well as an address by Ms. Gerbauckas who noted TR’s significance in the NPS, particularly in the northeast region. The keynote speech, presented by Tweed Roosevelt, noted TR’s commitment to civic duty and urged every one, particularly the students, to vote in the coming election. He also spoke of TR’s dedication to conservation and his amazing record of 230 million acres of public lands protected during his presidency, as NPS, US Forestry and Wildlife Preserves set aside during his seven and one half years in the office.
No birthday party would be complete with out singing Happy Birthday, which preceded serving birthday cake to all.
Happy 150th Birthday, Theodore Roosevelt; may your memory continue to inspire us.