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Contact: Shera Cohen, (413) 271-3982
SPRINGFIELD, MA: Armory Day is the annual celebration of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site's history. This year's events are particularly important as they simultaneously honor the Armory's rich history on the same day of the City of Springfield's 375th Anniversary. The Spirit of Springfield, organizers of Springfield's 375th, selected the Armory as the site of its Saturday, May 14th afternoon activities. All programming is free and open to the public from 1pm - 5pm.
The day is highlighted by the 2nd Continental Dragoons Cavalry Demonstrations, historic weapons and cannon firing, and encampments representing the Revolutionary through Korean wars. Nearly 100 participants, each dressed in uniforms replicating particular eras, represent 12 actual troops from as near as Springfield and as far as New York and New Hampshire. These men, women, and youth will speak to visitors to interpret the history of the wars, weapons, and family life of that time in history.
The 2nd Continental Dragoons Cavalry dates back the oldest among the groups coming to Armory Day. Originally outfitted by General George Washington (also the founder of the Springfield Armory), the Dragoons of the Connecticut Light Horse Regiment were known for their opulent uniforms for both horse and man. The Dragoons were the first official cavalry unit of the United States. Those participating on May 14th will wear regalia which are a 95% accurate replica of that worn in 1776. The hour-long demonstration by four soldiers on horseback is extremely precise dressage riding and turns. Each man and horse works as a unit. They train together throughout the year. Interestingly, each of the horses was deemed useless and destined to be destroyed until rescued by members of the Dragoons.
According to Michael Quijano-West, Superintendent of the Springfield Armory, the Dragoons' demonstration should be seen by everyone. "The exacting movements of the horses, all in unison, are amazing. These exquisite animals and riders look like one would imagine they did over 200 years ago," he said.
Historic weapons and cannon firing will take place at 2pm and 4pm. "These demonstrations are something that the average person rarely, if ever, sees. We believe that the Armory is the perfect site for this form of reenactment," said Quijano-West. "While these demonstrations are as authentic as possible, our first concern is the safety of the visitors and the shooters," he continued.
Armory Day activities will begin immediately following the Pancake Breakfast and the 375th Parade at approximately 1pm. The parade will kick off from the grounds of the Armory and Springfield Technical Community College. The Opening Ceremony will start with a single cannon firing with the Garrison Flag (the largest United States flag) in the background, "The National Anthem," other military pomp and circumstance, the Dragoons' Honor of the Dead Ceremony, and speeches by local and Commonwealth dignitaries. Encampments will take place throughout the afternoon, as well as indoor Museum tours. A short Closing Ceremony will include the playing of "Taps" to will be held at 5pm.
Among the troops from the Pioneer Valley, which represent a total of 40 reenactors, are the 9th Massachusetts Light Artillery of Longmeadow, the 10th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry of Hampden, the Peter Brace Brigade of Springfield, and the 15th Massachusetts Infantry of Hatfield.
Groups from Connecticut include the U.S. 26th Infantry Yankee Division during WWI and the Dragoons. The Black Watch of Canada, from New Hampshire, and D Company/505th Parachute from Massachusetts will be those representing WWII. Individual interpreters of the Korean War are Steven Abatemarco of Rhode Island and Curt Munson of Connecticut.
Those reenactors who will discuss several periods of conflict in United States history will be the Oneida Indian Nation, from New York. They will speak to their involvement in the Mexican War, the War of 1812, and the Korean War. The Buffalo Soldiers Heritage United States Cavalry, an African-American troop from Massachusetts, will set up camp and explain the operation of rifles used during the Indian Wars in the West during the late-1800's.
Sponsors for Armory Day are the Springfield Armory NHS, Springfield Technical Community College, and the 375th Anniversary/Spirit of Springfield. The site is handicap accessible with rest room facilities available. Food vendors will be stationed.
Springfield Armory National Historic Site commemorates and preserves the site of our Nation's first armory, established in 1794. Managed together with the Commonwealth of MA, Springfield Technical Community College and the National Park Service, the site holds many layers of history within its buildings and grounds. The site of the repulse of Shays' Rebellion, 1787; production of the nation's first interchangeable parts; and home of the world's largest historic American military firearms collection invites our visitors to share its history and beauty. As a unit of the National Park Service, the Visitor Center, Museum, buildings and grounds are open daily, 9am-5pm except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Admission is free. Contact telephone number is (413) 734-8551. Our website is www.nps.gov/spar.