Category Archives: Attractions

Endlessly Fascinating, Newport RI, Playground for the Rich, Makes its Attractions Accessible

 

The Gold Room at Alva Vanderbilt’s Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island, epitomizes the Gilded Age © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

by Karen Rubin & Martin D. Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Each time I visit Newport, Rhode Island, the guided tours of these Gilded Age mansions get better and better, more immersive into the lives upstairs and downstairs, more intriguing, and the relevance to society today more apparent. The gap between rich and poor hasn’t been this great since Cornelius Vanderbilt II built his palatial summer “cottage,” The Breakers.

Newport is still a playground for the rich – it is the reason it is the home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame and considered the sailing capital of the country, why it is so associated with classic cars – but the interesting thing is you don’t have to be rich to play, too.

This most recent visit to Newport comes as a port of call on the second day of Blount Small Ship Adventures’ week-long voyage to New England islands. We have a full day to explore, and sailing in gives a very different perspective.

We also are able to experience Newport from the perspective of how well the destination accommodates visitors with mobility issues.

Our ship, Grand Caribe, docks at Fort Adams State Park, “America’s largest coastal fortification,” a short stroll to a launch or a water taxi to the “downtown”.

Many of our fellow passengers are taking the island tour that the ship offers, which will include a stop at The Breakers, and the cruiseline had also arranged a 2-hour sail aboard an America’s Cup classic yacht (which had to be canceled because of weather). But I have some particular goals for our day in Newport.

We are met by Andrea McHugh from Discover Newport who has organized an itinerary to maximize our time gives us our own island tour (as well as the gossip of which tech billionaire has just bought which house, and how Jay Leno, who visited and attended events at the new Audrain Automobile Museum (which we will visit), passed an oceanfront mansion he liked and bought it on the spot, and now is seen regularly tooling around).

The gorgeous coastal views along Newport’s 10-mile Ocean Drive © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

We drive along the magnificent 10-mile long Ocean Drive with its scenic views and rocky shore, and pass the driveway into Hammersmith Farm, the Auchincloss estate where Jackie married John Kennedy. It used to be open to the public with a fantastic exhibit of the Kennedys but was acquired by Peter Kiernan (notable for the Robin Hood Foundation, funded by John Jr.), and is no longer open.

We pass Beechwood, a mansion once owned by the Astors and for many years, where actors played their parts in period dress. It is now owned by Larry Elllison (Oracle), who, we are told, is planning to open part of the mansion as an art museum.

We pass Belcourt, once owned by Oliver H. P. Belmont (who became the second husband of Alva Vanderbilt), which was purchased in 2012, by Carolyn Rafaelian, who has spent a considerable sum on a multi-year restoration and has reopened it for public tours.

The Breakers

The Breakers, the 70-room summer “cottage” built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We arrive at The Breakers, probably the most famous (and emblematic) of the Newport Gilded Age mansions that line Bellevue Avenue. It has a new visitor center which is really well done – barely visible from the street, it blends in wonderfully architecturally while affording a very comfortable (air conditioned) place to pick up tickets (take advantage of the multi-ticket options offered by The Preservation Society, which operates 10 of these glittering Newport Mansions, each with special exhibitions and presentations (see NewportMansions.org), refresh at a delightful café (sandwiches, $9.95), and utilize accessible restrooms (before, it was difficult for people with mobility issues to access a bathroom on property).

The new visitors center at The Breakers has a lovely café and sitting areas and is particularly helpful for visitors with mobility issues © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Each time I visit, I find new things to appreciate and understand– audio-guides, for example, which replace the scheduled docent-led tours so let you tour at your own pace, are endlessly fascinating with opportunities to click on specialized topics. (A free app, Newport Mansions, let you download the commentary on a smart phone even when you aren’t touring the property.)

(The audio-guide lets you know that people who can’t climb the stairs can ask a docent to escort them upstairs in an elevator.)

Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II (the grandson of “The Commodore,” the founder of the fortune, who turned a ferry boat into a shipping empire into a railroad empire), this breathtakingly grand, eye-popping, 70-room Italian Renaissance “cottage,” designed by Richard Morris Hunt, replaced a wooden structure that burned down. This was 1895, and the United States was jockeying for a position as an industrial power on the global stage. Hunt, the commentary relates, had a vision for an architecture expressing an American Renaissance, one that was classic, grand in scale, but that which reflected the hope and optimism of America.

Eye-popping grandeur at The Breakers, Newport © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is mind-boggling to recall when you see the gilding, the carefully carved wood, the marble, the artwork, that this palace (they called it a “cottage”) was only used about eight weeks of the year, during “the season.” The Breakers would have had 40 staff in summer (Newport had 2,000 servants, mostly immigrants).

The Breakers is as much an architectural and artistic treasure as a touchstone to social, cultural and political currents of the Gilded Age.

We learn about the family and the social structure of Newport: Mrs. Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt’s bedroom, for example, also functioned as an office from which she ran the home.

Newport was actually run by women, we learn. These grand homes were designed to present their wealthy daughters (heiresses) to be snapped up for a favorable marriage.

Dressing was important. Women would have to change something like seven times a day (a riding habit, tea gown, bathing outfit, tennis, golf, sailing). Newport was the first place women played outdoor sports; whole new fashions were created.

The Breakers had 15 bedrooms and 20 bathrooms (we see one bathtub, carved from a single block of marble that was so cold, it had to be fully filled and drained several times before it would be warm enough to bathe in.)

We see the servants corridors, hidden closets and back stairs. “Female servants were invisible.”

When we arrive in daughter Gertrude Vanderbilt’s bedroom, we learn that she was upset to learn she was an heiress. She preferred to be an artist, and became a sculptor, an art collector and patron and, in 1931, founded the Whitney Museum. (Here, I click the audio guide for more detail on specific things: Gertrude was on the forefront of the New Woman, an educated girl. The idea to become an artist came to her in a dream.)

We come to the mezzanine overlooking the grand staircase. (People who cannot climb stairs can ask to be escorted to an elevator.) “Gilded Age Newport was built, managed, and maintained by women. It was the backdrop for the presentation of women” at a time when a woman’s fortune depended upon making a favorable marriage.

The Breakers’ Grand Staircase – the steps were made two inches shorter so the debutantes would not trip on their gowns © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We learn that the grand staircase stairs were built (and even rebuilt) to be two inches shorter, so the young debutantes could be presented in their gowns without fear of tripping.

At this portion of the tour, you can click on the audio guide to hear more detail about how the Vanderbilt’s attained such wealth and privilege (but it is really, really hard to keep the players straight without a scorecard – so many have the same name like British royalty).

The Commodore left the vast majority of his enormous fortune to his eldest son, William Henry Vanderbilt (“Any fool can make a fortune; it takes a man of brains to hold onto it,” Cornelius Vanderbilt said.) Though he outlived his father by just eight years, in that time William doubled the Vanderbilt wealth from $100 million to $200 million.

In the oddest quote on the audio-guide, William Henry Vanderbilt explains why he sold controlling stock of the Vanderbilt empire to a syndicate headed by JP Morgan: “The care of $200 million is too great a load for any brain or back to bear. It is enough to kill a man. I have no son whom I am willing to afflict with the terrible burden.” The commentary adds, “Without a single visionary leader like the Commodore, there was no one to invest in the next new technology. Automobiles and airplanes replaced the railroads, the once vast fortune was split and shared among generations of descendants.”

When we visit the kitchen, we get to appreciate some of the modern innovations of the house. The first Breakers burned down so when Cornelius II rebuilt it, he had the kitchen separated from house and no burners. Zinc, the stainless steel of its day, covered the worktable. There was a separate, smaller room which could be kept cool, for preparing pastry.

The Music Room at The Breakers, Newport © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is worthwhile to appreciate that as we see the trappings of obscene wealth, privilege and power, we also get to appreciate that the servants – who were mainly immigrants – saw their position in these mansions as improvements, and many were able to embrace the American Dream and move up in station and class.  The Breakers’ chef, we learn, started as a kitchen boy and became known as the Omelette King.

The Butler’s pantry, a two-story affair, had a safe for the butler to lock the silver away. The butler, we are told, was like the captain of ship.

Leaving The Breakers, we walk down to the Cliff Walk, the most visited attraction in Rhode Island, and for good reason. This is a delightful walkway along the cliffs (mostly paved and accessible for someone who uses a cane or, as I urge instead, hiking sticks), behind the grand mansions such as The Breakers, and free to enjoy. It extends 3.5 miles all the way to Doris Duke’s Rough Point (where the walkway becomes more scrappy). Today, we only get a taste of it, in order to conserve time and energy.

The 3.5 mile Cliff Walk goes behind many of the magnificent Newport mansions and provides stunning views of the ocean © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Marble House

If The Breakers is about patriarchal wealth, power and privilege, Marble House, built before The Breakers by Cornelius II’s sister-in-law, Alva Erskine Smith Vanderbilt, tells the story of burgeoning feminism and what happens when a smart, ambitious woman has few outlets for her vast talents beyond making an advantageous marriage.

Of the $11 million spent to build Marble House was built for Alva Vanderbilt, $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Marble House (which we reach by hopping Newport’s delightful trolley-style bus) was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt (who also designed The Breakers). Inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles, Marble House was built between 1888-1892 at a cost of $11 million of which $7 million was spent on 500,000 cubic feet of marble. When it was finished, William Kissam Vanderbilt, the Commodore’s grandson, gave the house to his wife as a 39th birthday present.

Alva built Marble House to be “a cottage like nothing Newport had ever seen.” As it turns out, Alva Vanderbilt was also like nothing Newport had never seen.

At a time before there were public museums, The Gothic Room at Marble House, which Alva Vanderbilt purchased “en bloc” in Europe, became a private museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Gothic Room featured an important Gothic collection from Europe, which Alva purchased “en bloc” – the whole caboodle. “She considered herself equal to European collectors but didn’t want to collect over generations.” The room was designed and executed in Paris – then reassembled here piece by piece.

At a time before there were public museums, this room became a private museum.

The most revealing room into Alva’s soul is the library (the “morning room”), where you see photos of Alva’s children and a portrait of Harold, born when her oldest, Consuelo was 7, who came back one day to find she had a baby brother and was told “God had sent him to us.”

The room is Alva’s feminist declaration, decorated with images of goddesses representing beauty, wealth and power. She wove into the frame and the fabric of the room images of women’s accomplishment – women holding a quill pen, Cleo, the Greek muse of history, female images of learning and the arts – the four corners showing (mythical) women in chemistry, botany, astronomy.

Part of the ceiling decoration in the Marble House Morning Room, depicting women in intellectual roles, part of Alva Vanderbilt’s declaration of women’s rights. She later was a leader and benefactor of the Women’s Suffrage movement, holding rallies at Marble House © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“In education, women have made tremendous strides,” she said. “It is not so long since women freed themselves from their man-made belief that it was unwomanly for a woman to have an idea of her own.”

She also said, “A man’s brain is not half a brain and we are the other half. Blending of the two will make a better whole.”

Her bedroom also was a display of the power she coveted – a bed on a throne-like platform, and images of Athena – goddess of wisdom and war.In this period, though, she saw social standing – that is, marriage to wealth – as a woman’s only means to power and independence. She applied this to her daughter, Consuelo, and raised the child to marry royalty.

Alva Vanderbilt’s throne-like bedroom in Marble House © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Consuelo seems to have been Alva’s obsessive focus. You hear how she was groomed to be married off to European royalty – from childhood forced to wear a steel rod from her neck to waist with a strap around her shoulders, to force her to sit up straight.

From her quotes, Consuelo seems to be fully aware of how she was being dominated by her mother, yet was a dutiful daughter, very close to her mother and understanding. We visit her  austere room decorated by her mother which, she says, “reflected in my mother’s love of me.”

Consuelo Vanderbilt’s bedroom at Marble House © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

We see the guest room – the only one in this fabulous mansion – decorated in rose silk, with an 18th century bed. The most famous guest was, of course, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, Consuelo’s intended. We learn there is only one guest room in the house because people who would visit the house either had their own “cottage,” rented for the season or stayed in a hotel. “Marble House is built for the family.”

Consuelo “reluctantly accepted a proposal from the Duke of Marlborough.” She was one of the “Dollar Princesses,” American heiresses who married foreign royalty.”Consuelo Vanderbilt not the first or the last, but she was the best known.”

These marriages, “were a melding of the old world and the new world. They enabled royalty to maintain property and palaces for another generation.”

Indeed, the Gilded Salon – literally painted in 22 carat gold, the very epitome of Gilded Age – had a featured role in Duke’s marriage proposal.

But after Consuelo was married off to British royalty, Alva acted for herself, divorcing William K in 1895.

My favorite quote from the audio guide, “I was the first of my set to marry a Vanderbilt and the first to get divorced – but not the last.” Alva Erskine Smith of Alabama felt herself a pioneer for her class, a female knight reassuring others. “Mine was the first, but the first of many.”

She ditched William K. Vanderbilt to marry her husband’s best friend, Oliver H.P. Belmont, moving down the street to Belcourt.

After her second husband’s death, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont reopened Marble House and had a Chinese Tea House built on the seaside cliffs, and held Women’s Suffrage rallies © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After Belmont’s death, Alva reopened Marble House and had a Chinese Tea House built on the seaside cliffs. She became active and a major donor to the Women’s Suffrage Movement, holding rallies in 1909 at Marble House.

She raised money for the cause by opening Marble House to the public: “Shop girls could mingle with socialites” for the price of a $5 ticket (which would have been equivalent to $500 in today’s money).

Alva insisted, “Women shouldn’t marry until we get vote,” a pronouncement considered hypocritical for a twice-married woman.

Following her mother’s example, after 26 years as Duchess of Marlborough living in Blenheim Palace, Consuelo ended her loveless marriage in 1921, giving him $2.5 million a year, and married “for love” a French aviator, Jacques Balsan. (More about these personal relationships in a fantastic photo gallery in the basement.)

In stark contrast to the grand (albeit austere) bedroom that Consuelo occupied, her brothers’ rooms were tiny and spartan; Willy K Jr.’s room was occupied by Marble House superintendent, William Gilmour, who joined the household when he was 16 to be Willy K’s companion.

We visit a trophy room (that had been converted from two dressing rooms that were between Alva’s bedroom and Consuelo’s), that recognizes sons William K., Jr.’s role in pioneering the sport of auto racing in America (he created the Vanderbilt Cup auto races and built the Vanderbilt Parkway which starts across from where he had a home in Lake Success); and Harold Stirling, one of the finest yachtsmen of his era who successfully defended the America’s Cup three times and invented the game of contract bridge.  Notably, as chairman of the board of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Harold supported integration.”He wanted to be associated with positive, progressive thinking.”

In the basement kitchen (capable of feeding 100), we see yet another side of Alva in a quoted segment complaining “how the rich are exploited. When a shopkeeper learned my address, he said he made mistake of the price and added 50%.” This at a time when she paid a French chef (after all, you had to have a French chef), the massive sum of $10,000 (equivalent to $250,000 today).

We see in the cupboard silver trays etched with the children’s names and china made with “Vote for Women.”

In Marble House, too, people who have difficulty climbing stairs can ask to use an elevator, and the docents will find a place to sit and rest, as necessary.

In summer, the Preservation Society has 10 properties open, all with distinctive presentations and exhibits.

Rosecliff, the 1902 “fantasy in terra-cotta”, is presenting “Bohemian Beauty” celebrating the ideals of the Aesthetic Movement, personified by Oscar Wilde who visited Newport twice, with furniture, ceramics, wallpaper, glass, silver, paintings and clothing (thru Nov 4).

(Plan your visit in advance at The Preservation Society of Newport County, 424 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840,  401-847-1000, info@newportmansions.org, www.newportmansions.org.)

In addition, there are the homes and heritage sites operated by Newport Restoration Foundation including Rough Point and Whitehorne Museum (51 Touro St., Newport, RI 02840, 401–849–7300, newportrestoration.org).

Tennis, Classic Cars

Between The Breakers and Marble House, we take in some of Newport’s other distinctive attractions:

The grass tennis court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, where the first US Open tournaments were played. The hall of fame honors tennis champions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The International Tennis Hall of Fame, which features the original grass court where American tennis began. The museum features 2,000 artifacts spanning hundreds of years of tennis history (such as the patent for the game of tennis signed by Queen Victoria in 1874), displayed in redesigned galleries with some interactive exhibits. One of the newest, most novel exhibits features a hologram of tennis legend Roger Federer who offers the top 10 reason why he loves tennis. The Hall of Fame honors hundreds of the most accomplished champions, inducted since 1954. After touring the museum, you can explore the seven-acre historic grounds of what the Vanderbilts’ would have known as the Newport Casino (the Tiffany clocktower and Shingle style building was originally developed by architects McKim, Mead & White in 1880), grass courts of the Bill Talbert Stadium and newly built indoor courts (you can even rent time to play on its grass courts). Here, too, we are able to request the use of an elevator to get up to the exhibits on the second floor. (194 Bellevue Avenue, www.tennisfame.com).

Audrain Automobile Museum offers regularly changing exhibits based on its private collection of 250 cars (every one in working condition), from 1899 to modern day, as well as special events. Ever changing exhibits display 15 to 20 cars at a time around a theme. We had just missed the “Muscle Car Madness” exhibit featuring cars of the 1950s and 1970s, accompanied with surf boards and original art.) On view now are some intriguing cars I had never seen before: Messerschmidt, which after World War II when Germans were no longer allowed to build airplanes, used airplane parts to create a micro-car that basically looks like a cockpit with wheels. A French version is also on view. “They aren’t great to drive,” says the young docent who drove it and says all the cars on display have to be in working condition.  (Audrain Automobile Museum, 222 Bellevue Avenue, 401-856-4420, audrainautomuseum.org)

Audrain Automobile Museum offers regularly changing exhibits based on its private collection of 250 cars; here some of the micro cars produced after World War II that are more like an airplane cockpit (and made from airplane parts) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We enjoy a marvelous lunch at Annie’s bistro café (176 Bellevue Ave., anniesnewport.com) – elegant dining in a casual atmosphere and the best New England clam chowder anywhere –before hopping a trolley-style bus for a short ride to Marble House (you can see the schedule on googlemaps.com on your smartphone).

Andrea returns us to the Grande Caribe, where it is too late to explore inside the fort, but I walk along the Bay Walk (a 2.5 mile  loop with gorgeous views of Narrangansett Bay and Newport Harbor) before returning to the ship for the cocktail hour and dinner.  (Blount Small Ship Adventures, 800-556-7450,  www.blountsmallshipadventures.com).

This was what you could do with one full day in Newport. There is so much more to do, and so deserving of a return multi-day visit. Top on my list: Doris Duke’s Rough Point (newportrestoration.org); Touro Synagogue and Loeb Visitors Center (tourosynagogue.org), Redwood Library and Athenaeum (opened in 1750 and has a collection of more than 200,000 titles, www.redwoodlibrary.org), and The National Museum of American Illustration (americanillustration.org), to list but a few.

See more and plan your visit: Discover Newport, 23 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport, RI 02840, 800-326-6030, 401-849-8048, www.discovernewport.org.

Blount’s Small Ship Adventures’ Grande Caribe © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Grande Caribe will next sail to New Bedford (see A Spectacle in Motion: Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World is Once-in-a-Lifetime Must-See at New Bedford Whaling Museum) and on to Martha’s Vineyard.

Blount Small Ship Adventures, 461 Water Street, Warren, Rhode Island 02885, 800-556-7450 or 401-247-0955,  info@blountsmallshipadventures.com, www.blountsmallshipadventures.com). 

See also:

Blount Small Ship Adventures’ Grande Caribe Voyage to New England Islands Proves Ideal for Babyboomers Who Still Crave Thrill of Travel, Albeit at Slower Pace

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

A Spectacle in Motion: Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World is Once-in-a-Lifetime Must-See at New Bedford Whaling Museum

“The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” is the longest painting in America, as long as the Empire State Building is tall © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New Bedford Whaling Museum calls its special exhibition a “A Spectacle in Motion” – a title that proves to be anything but hyperbole. Imagine before documentary, before moving pictures, before photography, where the only way people could see images of places beyond their own experience was through painting, etched drawings in newspapers, or scrimshaw. Now imagine a whaling voyage that starts in New Bedford and travels thousands of miles to Fiji, painted on one mural, nearly one-quarter mile long – the longest painting in America. I can only imagine the sensation “The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World,” caused when it was first exhibited in 1849.

“Purrington & Russell’s Original Panorama: Whaling Voyage Round the World. Three Miles of Canvas” a poster from the Boston showing in 1849 proclaims. “Tickets 25 cents, half-price for children” (at a time when the sailors themselves earned $1 a day).

“A Spectacle in Motion,” a special exhibit of the New Bedford Whaling Museum featuring an extraordinary quarter-mile long mural painted in 1848 (longest painting in America) depicting “The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World”  was the Virtual Reality of its day © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The mural, which is only rarely displayed in its entirety, has not been seen since the 1960s and is only on public view through October 8 by the New Bedford Whaling Museum, in New Bedford, Massachusetts (and very possibly never again), is a documentary of the whaling voyage, and while it stays still, it is you that gives it motion as you walk down the long, long stretch of each of the four panels – altogether nearly one-quarter mile long. But in its day, it was designed to be rolled so that it did in fact create a moving picture.

Coming upon this spectacle was one of the highlights of the Blount Small Ship Adventure cruise of New England Islands, all the more thrilling because it was completely unexpected, as most highlights and adventures are. As I was leaving the New Bedford Whaling Museum, I spotted a flyer saying that there was a free shuttle to “the mural.” I took a leap of faith and within moments, was traveling in the van for the five-minute, two-mile drive to the historic Kilburn Mills,as the van driver (a 47-year veteran of the museum who had a hand in moving it and laying it out to be photographed for the digitized exhibit) explained. Even after he gave me some sense of what the mural was about and why it needed to be housed in such a sprawling building, I was completely unprepared for what I would encounter. Indeed, seeing the Grand Panorama proved to be a thrilling experience and not a mere ‘viewing”. But as I climbed the flights of stairs to the fourth floor and got my first glimpse, it was, OMG. It took my breath away. Titling the exhibit “A Spectacle in Motion” was not over-selling.

 “The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” starts with the departure from New Bedford in scenes that are mimicked today. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The mural, in four panels each that stretches the entire length of the mill, is as long as the Empire State Building is tall; it is the longest painting in America.

Painted in 1848 by two New Bedford artists, Caleb Purrington and Benjamin Russell based on Russell’s actual around-the-world whaling journey, the mural documents every aspect of the places visited as well as key events. You see Pitcairn, settled by the Mutineers of the Bounty wound up; the scene as the whale rammed the Essex, the 1820 event that inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”; the island of Juan Fernandez off Chile, the temporary home of castaway Alexander Selkirk who was the model for Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.” It shows in gory detail the harpooning of a whale, blood spewing into the water; the danger as whalers are thrown into the churning sea; the 1847 eruption of the volcano at Fogo, Cape Verde, spewing its orange-red lava; sailing through a dark furious storm.

“The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” by New Bedford artists Caleb Purrington and Benjamin Russell, depicts important scenes like the whale that rammed the whaler, Essex, the event Herman Melville used in his novel, “Moby Dick.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The voyage starts in New Bedford, with the first section looking so much as it does from the water as we have seen, coming into port on Blount Small Ship Adventures’ Grande Caribe.

The last scene is in Fiji and the last panel is curious: it seems to depict two women, one giving birth and the other a midwife.

I can only imagine the sensation that The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World caused when it was first exhibited in 1849 – before documentary, before moving pictures, before photography, when the only way to get a visual impression of some place beyond your own experience was through painted or drawn images. But this goes so far beyond. Over the course of 1,275 feet, the mural documents the entire whaling voyage, from its departure from New Bedford, to Fiji Islands. Along the way, it shows the blood, gore, the dangers and hardships of whaling. And because you move, it is the closest thing to a “moving” picture documentary they would have had.

The final panel of “The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” is set in Fiji where there is a curious scene that seems to depict a woman giving birth and a midwife © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But where the mural transported these 19th century viewers to places on the globe they had never been – it was the 3D Imax, the Virtual Reality of its day- it transports us back in time. And in its day, it was designed to actually move. Before moving pictures, the scrolls were cranked on either side like reels of film, and displayed on a theater stage.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum calls the exhibit “Spectacle: A Voyage in Motion” in appropriate typeface that shouts its excitement. It is astonishing, captivating, awesome – on so many levels – the sheer size and ambition, the quality of the art – the delicacy and fine line of scrimshaw, stunning use of colors – the insights into the events – the importance of the subject, and on top of that, the achievement of restoring the painting – and finally, the enormity and rarity of the work being displayed at all – just the process of unrolling it and hanging it for display damages the painting.

Reproduction of a poster announcing “The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” at Amory Hall, Boston. The mural was first exhibited in 1849. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The museum spent two years restoring the mural, which originally was shown by rolling it so that the images actually did move – and important details of that conservation process, along with historical notes, are provided that are fascinating.

The mural is displayed in four sections that each cover the entire length of an historic textile mill (textile manufacturing displaced whaling when that industry collapsed, and then was replaced itself in the 1950s when climate controls made it possible to manufacture more cheaply in the South, which was then replaced by tourism).

Given the extraordinary length, the fragility of the painting, the sheer cost of moving it, setting it up, and finding a room big enough to display it, this is the first time in generations that the entire Panorama can be seen by the public.

Like a true documentary, “The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” by New Bedford artists Caleb Purrington and Benjamin Russell, depicts the blood and gore, the danger and risk of a whaling voyage © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

From where it is unfurled in the building two miles from the Whaling Museum, you travel around the world and back in time with the whalers without ever leaving the city. The exhibition’s interpretive panels and kiosks are fascinating to enrich the context and content of the Panorama, as well as to give a fuller appreciation of what went into the two-year restoration project.

The notes from the museum describe the Panorama as “a maritime artwork of national historical importance, authentically depicting a whaling voyage originating from the port of New Bedford in the mid-19th century. It was painted in 1848, by New Bedford artists Caleb Purrington and Benjamin Russell, who traveled it around the country as a commercial enterprise.”

The panorama as a form of public entertainment was developed in Europe in the late 18th century and subsequently made its way to the United States after demonstrating its commercial potential to an armchair traveler audience. Robert Barker, who patented this exhibition style, defined a “panorama” as “all view.”

He felt that spectators should feel like they were “really on the very spot,” that they should feel as if they were part of the scene in a surrogate reality, an imaginary “Grand Tour” of the world.

This is precisely what visitors will experience. It was the Virtual Reality of its day.

In the late 1840’s and early 1850’s, well before the age of cinema, the Panorama was designed and performed as a moving panorama, a form of entertainment where multiple scrolls moved across a stage similar to how a reel-to-reel film would later be shown.

The Grand Panorama depicts the island of Juan Fernandez off Chile, the temporary home of castaway Alexander Selkirk who was the model for Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But, “after years on display, the wear and tear on the 170-year old painting was so extensive that it was deemed worthless and impossible to conserve. After decades of conservation planning and method strategy research, the Museum brought this national treasure back to life and is proud to share it with the public. However, due to the extensive conservation efforts that have been invested into the painting, it will no longer be shown in its original format – as a moving panorama – as this would undo the extensive work recently completed.”

The Panorama drew crowds in the era of public entertainment before moving pictures and films. To celebrate this origin, the exhibition is coupled with dynamic and engaging programming all summer long. Live performances, contemporary artistic presentations, and other unique interpretations accompany educational programs and cultural celebrations.

Plan on being dazzled for at least one to two hours.

The exhibit is billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” and is free and open to the public, through Columbus Day, October 8, 9 am to 5 pm at Kilburn Mill (the museum provides a free shuttle service every half hour from 10 am to 5 pm through Labor Day).

The Grand Panorama: The Experience 

As the Panorama was being conserved, it was photographed at high resolution to produce this fully digitized recreation of the entire painting for the first time, allowing the Museum to create a exhibition of The Grand Panorama it calls “The Experience” – recreating the same experience the 19th century audiences had of seeing the original Panorama on a theatrical stage, with music and narration.

You stand on the bow of the world’s largest model whaleship, the Lagoda, and watch the Panorama scroll by in a life-sized digital format projected in a full theatrical setting, and experience what Benjamin Russell and other whalers saw as they left the port of New Bedford and traveled the sea in search of whales. This re-creates the experience that the 19th century viewers would have had, since the mural was originally rolled.

Visitors can stand on the bow of the world’s largest model whaleship, the Lagoda, in the New Bedford Whaling Museum and watch the Panorama scroll by in a life-sized digital format projected in a full theatrical setting, and experience what Benjamin Russell and other whalers saw as they left the port of New Bedford and traveled the sea in search of whales. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The stage set is based on drawings and prints from the period and is installed off the Lagoda’s bow so visitors can experience the performance from the deck, from theater seating on the floor level, or from vantage points to the port and starboard of the iconic whaleship.

Since the original score and narrative have been lost over time, they have been recreated and remastered for the new installation, and includes new research and points of interest.

Visitors are able to dive deeper into the specifics of the Panorama story on a large, touch-screen, interactive kiosk. The kiosk will have thematic tabs on various subjects, including a map of the voyage, related Museum artifacts and paintings, and the Panorama’s conservation history. You will be able to zoom in close to any scene or detail that interests you and get rich context for each section.

Enhancing the experience, artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collections further illustrate Russell’s own global travels and connect locations represented in the Panorama with relevant ethnographic material and objects. Exhibitions that tell the stories of Yankee Whaling, the connections with the Azores and Cabo Verde, as well as the many stories told in the existing Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World exhibition help amplify the content of the Panorama. The Panorama in the context of its own time – the era of the “public spectacle” is explored in the exhibition, and includes complementing pieces from the Museum’s permanent Collection.

While I strongly recommend the incomparable experience of seeing the mural first-hand and this Virtual Reality experience, the museum will also have an online digital version, an interactive designed to expand access to the Panorama and to supplement both the Spectacle in Motion exhibitions, the Original at the Kilburn Mill and The Experience at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. While it will work on a phone or tablet it has been optimized for desktop viewing.

At the New Bedford Whaling Museum, you can look through etched glass to see the exact port where our ship, Blount’s Grande Caribe, is docked today and yesterday © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The quality of the collection at New Bedford Whaling Museum – consisting of the merger of two private collections of whaling artifacts – is not to be believed, including what is claimed to be the largest collection of scrimshaw. I love the way the gallery rooms are like a warren – you come upon them.

I love the theming of the rooms: From Pursuit to Preservation: The History of Human Interaction with Whales;  Energy and Enterprise: Industry an d the City of New Bedford; Enlightened Counters: the Two Nations of Manjiro Nakahama  (about a 16-year old Japanese sailor who was rescued and spent eight years in New Bedford, the first Japanese person to live here, then went back to become a major counselor to the Emperor negotiating with the US and England) and The East Unlocks its Gates: American Whalers and Trade in Asia.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum, in New Bedford, MA, a private non-profit museum, has one of the largest collections of scrimshaw in the world © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is (of course) a Herman Melville room (while Melville never actually visited Nantucket before writing “Moby Dick,” he sailed from New Bedford on his whaling voyage), artifacts collected from around the world brought back by the whalers and opened the New Bedford people to the cultures of the world. There are sections dedicated to the Portuguese from the Azores and the sailors recruited from Costa Verde and how they impacted the diverse community in New Bedford. I am introduced for the first time to Captain Joshua Slocum, the first to solo circumnavigate the world.

An astonishing sight is the skeleton of a whale that is suspended from the ceiling as you enter the Museum, its bones with oily brown patches. It turns out that the bones still have oil which drips out and is collected in a jar below.

Whale skeleton still drips oil from its bones at the New Bedford Whaling Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is the world’s largest model whaleship, the Lagoda, at half-scale that takes up the entirety of the Bourne building, that you can climb aboard. In addition, there is the Mariner’s Home that is used for exhibit, and the Seaman’s Bethel which offers a superb video about whaling.

It drives home the theme that is so pressing today: “Trade: Expand American Ideas” (but also bring ideas back).

New Bedford Whaling Museum, 16 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford MA 02740, 508-997-0046, www.whalingmuseum.org. 

They are contained within the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, a 13-block historic district of cobblestone streets, historic, stately buildings now juxtaposed with contemporary art galleries and funky restaurants and shops (my favorite: Sanctum – Folklorica: Apothecary and Witchwares, Tarot Reading). At the visitors Center, you can watch a 20-minute orientation movie and take in exhibits about whaling and New Bedford, “The City That Lit the World.” (www.nps.gov/nebe/planyourvisit).

Blount Small Ship Adventures’ Grand Caribe docked at the State Pier in New Bedford, Massachusetts, just steps away from the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This was one of the incredible highlights of our own voyage aboard Blount Small Ship Adventures’ Grande Caribe, on the third day of a seven-day New England Islands cruise. We docked in the port along with the largest fishing fleet on the East Coast, and could look through etched glass of the same port in 1914 of our ship. Arriving by ship – we had come from Warren, Rhode Island to Bristol and had come this morning from Newport and will be going on to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket – made this experience even more tangible.

Blount Small Ship Adventures, 461 Water Street Warren, RI 02885, 800-556-7450, www.blountsmallshipadventures.com.

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Governors Island: New York City’s Island Retreat So Near Yet So Far Away, Introduces Glamping

Governors Island, reached by ferry from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, gives you a getaway to faraway destination, chock full of historic attractions like Castle Williams, a fortification built for the War of 1812, used as a prison during the Civil War. Enjoy festivals like the Jazz Age Lawn Party, then tour the island by surrey. You can rent bicycles too and beginning this year, even camp out © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com 

Governors Island, a 712-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, but a mere 800 yards off Lower Manhattan and even closer to Brooklyn, is a sensational getaway destination in its own right – historic sites like Fort Jay and Castle Williams, bicycle paths, playgrounds, art venues, and marvelous festive “happenings.” You never have had to go so near to be transported so far in time or place.

Arriving by ferry at Governors Island © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Be one of the first guests to stay overnight on NYC’s historic Governors Island with Collective Retreats. With unique accommodations including luxury tents (glamping) and designer modular containers, guests enjoy a full-service hotel-style retreat with unparalleled waterfront views of New York City and the Statue of Liberty (collectiveretreats.com).

Be among the first to experience luxury camping (glamping) on Governors Island; dinner and breakfast are included © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can rent bicycles at Citibikes and at Blazing Saddles (which offers a free hour-long ride weekdays before noon) and delightful surreys.

Governors Island has a fabulous history that goes back to the Native Americans and colonial days of  the Dutch and the British in New York. It has had a military purpose going back to the Revolutionary War. Between 1806 and 1809, the U.S. Army reconstructed Fort Jay and built Castle Williams on a rocky outcropping facing the harbor. During the War of 1812, artillery and infantry troops were concentrated on Governors Island.

Built before the War of 1812, Castle Williams on Governors Island was used to imprison Confederate soldiers during the Civil War © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The island continued to serve an important military function until the 1960s. During the American Civil War, it was used for recruitment and as a prison for captured Confederate soldiers (on one visit, I came upon Civil War reenactors practicing drills, quite a mind-bender from having just come from the 1920s Jazz Age Lawn Party). Throughout World War I and II, the island served as an important supply base for Army ground and air forces (my father was stationed at Fort Jay during the war.)

Civil War reenactors at Fort Jay on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Over the years, Governors Island has served as the backdrop for a number of historic events. In 1986, the island was the setting for the relighting of the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty by President Ronald Reagan. In 1988, President Reagan hosted a U.S.-U.S.S.R. summit with Mikhail Gorbachev on Governors Island, and in 1993, the United Nations sponsored talks on the island to help restore democratic rule in Haiti.

Enjoy stunning views of New York City from Governors Island © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

In April 2010, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson reached an agreement on the future of Governors Island. The City of New York is now responsible for Governors Island and created the Trust for Governors Island, the organization charged with the operations, planning and redevelopment of the Island.

The Island has become known as New York City’s “Playground for the Arts,” hosting cultural events, festivals, concerts, performances throughout the season.

Jazz Age Lawn Party, held 4 times a year, is one of the cultural festivals held on Governors Island © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Trust for Governors Island, also offers a wide variety of programming on public access days. Visit them at www.govisland.com for more information.

Access to the island has been greatly improved.

This summer, you can stay late on Fridays, when is open until 10 pm (May 25-September 14); you can have cocktails and dinner at the outdoor cafes and bars;  outdoor films and other events are scheduled.

Governors Island is open daily May 1-October 31, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.,  Fridays from May 25-September 14 until 10 p.m.. You can get ferry schedules here (ferries during Late Fridays will run from the Battery Maritime in Lower Manhattan, located at 10 South Street), https://govisland.com/visit-the-island/ferry.

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

After 18 Years, Strawberry Fields Plays Its Last Beatles Tribute at BB King Blues Club…But the Beat Goes On

Strawberry Fields, a Beatles tribute band, playing its last performance at BB King Blues Club, after 18 years; BB King is closing, but Strawberry Fields continues to play in various venues. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin and David Leiberman,

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

After 18 years of playing BB King’s Saturday brunch, Strawberry Fields, one of the most heralded of Beatles tribute bands, played for the last time at the celebrated live-music venue in Times Square.

The room was packed with appreciative fans, family and friends, many who have been regulars, and many who were out-of-towners enjoying this slice of New York.

The lighting deliberately shadows the bandmembers’ face because the illusion of seeing the Beatles performing live is so accurate – close your eyes and the sound is re-created note for note, tone for tone, beat for beat. But instead of an immense stadium or arena, they are playing for you in this remarkably intimate and comfortable supper-club setting – that is, until this weekend, when they played their last Saturday brunch at BB King.

They play on the same musical instruments of the Beatles’ era, with the same sound amplifiers, even the same 40-year old drum set that Ringo Starr used so the sound is as authentic as it could be.

Strawberry Fields, in the Sergeant Peppers costumes provide live rendition to songs that the Beatles never performed in concert © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The costumes set the timeframe for the music: dressed in mop top hair, black suits and thin ties for the early Beatles Rock n’Roll era when they burst onto the world stage that was so melodic and danceable; re-creating the album cover for the Sergeant Pepper era of innovation (where the Band re-creates the innovative instruments and multiple tracks invented in the studio after the Beatles stopped performing concerts to focus on in the extraordinary musical innovations that could only be accomplished in a studio); and finally, the “White Album,” “Abbey Road” and “Let it Be” period of social and political activism, with “John Lennon” in an army jacket.

Strawberry Fields, a Beatles tribute band, playing its last performance at BB King Blues Club, after 18 years; BB King is closing, but Strawberry Fields continues to play in various venues. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are any number of Beatles tribute bands, but Strawberry Fields is acknowledged to be one of the best – the musicians who have taken on the persona of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr since the band was formed 28 years ago, have performed in Beatlemania on Broadway and in touring companies, Let it Be, the 40th Anniversary re-creation of the Shea Stadium concert, and have performed all over the country and the world: Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, the Plaza Hotel, Paramount Theater, numerous Hard Rock Cafes – some 2000 performances.

Yet after all this time, they don’t play by rote, as if their head was some other place or that playing the same music over and over has become a chore. It is as fresh and vital as if they were the Beatles and recognized the responsibility of playing live for people who were such devoted fans of their records.  They play with such purity, respect and reverence for the music and the creators – not as cliché, over-the-top, or caricature.

 

Tony Garofalo as John Lennon, founded Strawberry Fields in 1991 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tony Garofalo, the John Lennon impersonator, is Strawberry Fields’ Founder, Creator, Producer and Financier, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar, Piano, Mouth Organ, Lead Vocals. Tony has continuously perfected the role as John Lennon throughout the 80’s and 90’s, performing with countless incarnations of Beatlemania. He formed Strawberry Fields in 1991 to make a complete Beatles performance accessible in variety of musical venues.

Tony was born into a musical family, with a mother who was a professional dancer/ teacher and father who is both a 25 year guitar teacher and professional Carnegie Hall alumnist with the New York Mandolin Orchestra. Tony has been playing guitar since he was five, and is also trained in the fine art of classical guitar, mastering pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Sor, Julian Bream, and Andrew Segovia.

But Tony had another life entirely as an undercover Detective and Sergeant and a first-responder who was among those who came to the World Trade Center on 9/11.

He served in the NYPD police for 20 years, with over 700 arrests to his credit and has worked in the central robbery unit, narcotics division, detective division, and internal affairs bureau. Tony was also a key contributor in the September 11th rescue and recovery effort both at Ground Zero and the Staten Island Fresh Kill location. Colleagues and police brass call him the real Sergeant Pepper.

The colorful character is also known for re-constructing the famous Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car (autographed by Dick Van Dyke).

Billy J. Ray, who has been Strawberry Fields’ Paul McCartney since 1978, was a member of the original Broadway Beatlemania cast, with John Korba as George Harrison © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Billy J. Ray, who has been Strawberry Fields’ Paul McCartney since 1978, was a member of the original Broadway Beatlemania cast, and plays Bass Guitar, Piano, Lead Vocals. Billy bears a certain resemblance to Paul: that boyish charm and devil-may-care attitude that captivates any audience. He can sing the rockers with unbounded energy and change gears quickly to render a soft, beautiful ballad in Paul’s inimitable style. His Hofner “Beatle Bass” and Rickenbacker Model 4001 complete the look, feel, and aura associated with Paul McCartney.

John Korba is Strawberry Fields’ George Harrison © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

John Korba, who takes on the George Harrison part, plays Lead and Rhythm Guitar and does Vocals. John was associate conductor of the Broadway show Rent for four years, associate conductor for the Broadway productions of The Civil War and the Rocky Horror Show and has appeared in numerous Broadway productions including TabooKat and the KingsRain and Let It Be. He has performed and recorded with Hall and OatesCarly SimonTodd RundgrenPhoebe SnowJohn Waite, and numerous other artists. He spends most of his time, when he’s not touring, writing, recording, and producing various projects in his own studio. In the stage lighting, John takes on an amazing  resemblance to George.

Michael Bellusci, Strawberry Fields’ Ringo Starr impersonator, is responsible for Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Music Orchestration and Technical Director © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Michael Bellusci, the Ringo Starr impersonator, is responsible for Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Music Orchestration and Technical Director. Michael discovered his passion for drums the moment he saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, Sunday February 9, 1964. He is a multi-instrumentalist and has studied with such drumming legends as Tommy Hatch (long time staff drummer at Radio City Music Hall), Sam Ulano, Rod Morgenstein, Justin DiCioccio, and Frank Marino. Michael’s musical career has spanned four decades, from 1970 to the present, performing with a long list of musical acts that include: Get With It (with Kasey Smith of Danger Danger), the ConglomowitzWonderous StoriesLeslie Fradkin (original “George” from “Beatlemania”, Edison Lighthouse), the Off Broadway theater production of Cougar the MusicalThe Big Apple CircusHere Comes the Sun, George Harrison tribute with Godfrey Townsend (Allen Parsons Project Live, John Entwistle Band, Happy Together tour musical director), and most notably, was selected to perform as Ringo for well over a decade with the touring cast of Beatlemania, which starred Mark “Farquar” VaccacioLeslie Fradkin, and Don Linares. Michael, an original member of Strawberry Fields who toured with the band through the 1990s, is now repriseing his role as Ringo in Strawberry Fields. Some have described him as a “dead ringer” in both his resemblance to Ringo and his drumming expertise.

“They have closed a chapter, but the book is still going on,” said Maria Milito, the popular 104.3 FM Classic Rock radio host who first introduced Strawberry Fields show at BB King 18 years ago, and closed out the last show © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

They are not so much “playing” the Beatles as re-creating the Beatles’ musical artistry with a respect, a reverence that is powerful. I half-expected Yoko Ono to make an appearance to express her appreciation to how Strawberry Fields keeps the Beatles legacy alive across generations (the youngest fan in the audience was just three weeks old). Or perhaps Sir Paul McCartney, who, along with Ringo Starr, and Sid Bernstein (the original Beatles concert promoter for Shea Stadium), announced the band at the 40th anniversary re-creation of the Shea Stadium concert and in July 2013, invited Strawberry Fields for a personal meeting and after-concert VIP party at the Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, when Paul was photographed holding Tony’s actual NYPD Police Sergeants badge.

Billy J. Ray, John Korba, Michael Bellusci, and Tony Garofalo of Strawberry Fields taking a final bow at BB King Blues Club, which is closing © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

How is it possible to play Beatles music in over 2,000 shows and keep it fresh and exciting? “Partly that is because all four of them are extremely talented, lifelong musicians. Another reason is that all of them were either in the touring company or the Broadway cast of Beatlemania and had to graduate from ‘Beatle boot camp’ so they are the best of the best. And it is also because they never do the identical show twice. Since they are quite literally capable of performing any of the more than 200 songs in the Beatles canon, they change up the set list every time,” says Deborah A. Sable, who met Tony Garofalo through Strawberry Fields and married him a year ago. “I was with them on tour at Busch Gardens in Tampa where I watched them do 18 shows in six days and no two were exactly the same!”

You have the opportunity to savor the musical virtuosity of the Beatles – who were self-taught musicians – to really appreciate the intricacy and the innovation of the Beatles. This isn’t just nostalgia; this is preservation of the musical artistry in the way Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin will always be a part of musical repertoire.

And they have their own fans – we meet Dina Marks, a teacher in PS 63 in Ozone Park and Wantagh, Long Island resident, who has followed them around their outdoor concerts and has come to the Saturday BB King brunches where Strawberry Fields has performed for the last 18 years “at least once a year for my birthday and anniversary” and wears a replica of the same John Lennon army jacket that Tony wears. “The minute I heard they were closing, I said, ‘I don’t care what, I will be here.’ They make me feel they are playing just for me.”

While Strawberry Fields is now on the prowl for a new indoor venue to replace BB King, the band has a series of summer outdoor concerts set:

July 10, 2018: Rocky Point Free Outdoor Concert, 7 pm, St. Anthony Padua Church, Route 25!, NY 11778 (raindate Aug 28)

July 18, 2018: Tanner Park Free Outdoor Concert, 7:30: Beach Waterfront concert Band Shell, 99 Tanner Park, Copiague, NY 11726 (10,000 are expected to attend).

July 19, 2018: Smithtown Library Free Concert, 7:30: at the Library, Northeast corner of Route 25 and route 111.

July 27, 2018: Glen Cove Free Downtown Sounds Concert Series, 7:30 pm: Village Square at intersection of Glen, School and Bridge Streets, Glen Cov e NY 11542.

Aug. 1, 2018: town of Oyster Bay Concerts Under the Stars series, 8 pm. Syosset Woodburyt Park, 7800 Rte 25 (Jericho Turnpike), Woodbury, NY 11797.

Aug. 11, 2018: Musikfest Concert at outdoor Festplatz main state, 8 pm, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem PA 18015. Largest East Coast outdoor concert venue with 15,000 expected (artsquest.org).

Strawberry Fields, a Beatles tribute band, playing its last performance at BB King Blues Club, after 18 years; BB King is closing, but Strawberry Fields continues to play in various venues. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“They have closed a chapter, but the book is still going on,” said Maria Milito, the popular 104.3 FM Classic Rock radio host who first introduced Strawberry Fields show at B B King 18 years ago, and closed out the last show.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for us,” Tony says in his farewell. “The greatest thing about the Beatles was love. Just go out into the world and just love.”

For more information, visit the Strawberry Fields website, www.StrawberryFieldsTheTribute.com.

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Cycle the Erie: Heritage of Erie Canal Preserved in Murals Along the Erie Canalway

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the many delights of Parks & Trails NY’s 8-day, 400-mile Cycle the Erie bike tour from Buffalo to Albany across New York State, is coming up beautiful murals that describe the history and cultural heritage of the Erie Canal and the canaltowns that were spawned.  Through the course of the ride, you travel 400 miles but also 400 years through history, and see the whole story of how America came to be unfold in front of you.

Here are some of our favorites, as we bike along the Erie Canalway, on brick, on barns, on bridges, on benches, on fences:

Gasport © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Middleport © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Medina © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Albion © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Albion © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Spencerport © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Spencerport © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Palmyra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Palmyra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Palmyra © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Newark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Newark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Newark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Newark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Newark © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lyons © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lyons © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lyons © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jordan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sims General Store, Camillus © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Syracuse Canal Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Outside of Rome © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 20th Annual Cycle the Erie Canal ride is scheduled July 8 – 15, 2018 (www.ptny.org/canaltour). In the meantime, you can cycle the trail on your own – detailed info and interactive map is at the ptny.org site (www.ptny.org/bikecanal), including suggested lodgings. For more information on Cycle the Erie Canal, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or visit www.ptny.org.

The entire Erie Canal corridor has been designated the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Waterford, NY 12188, 518-237-7000, www.eriecanalway.org.

More information about traveling on the Erie Canal is available from New York State Canal Corporation, www.canals.ny.gov.   

See also:

Cycle the Erie: 400 Miles & 400 Years of History Flow By on Canalway Bike Tour Across New York State

Cycle the Erie, Day 1: In Lockport, See Erie Canal Engineering Marvel, ‘Flight of Five’, Cruise Thru Double Locks, and Go Underground to Fathom Rise of Industrial Revolution

Cycle the Erie, Day 2-3: A Sequence of Charming Canaltowns, Pastoral Landscapes, Punctuated by City Birthed by ‘Mother of Cities’

Cycle the Erie, Day 4: Seneca Falls to Syracuse, Crossing Halfway Mark of 400-Mile Biketour

Cycle the Erie, Day 5: Deep Dive into The Erie Canal: ‘Mother of Cities’, Empire Builder, Wonder of the World

Cycle the Erie: At Fort Stanwix, Rome, Time Travel Back to America’s Colonial, Native American Past

Cycle the Erie, Days 6-7: Erie Canal Spurs Rise of America as Global Industrial Power

Cycle the Erie, Days 7-8: Schoharie Crossing, Mabee Farm, Cohoes Falls to Finish Line in Albany of 400-Mile BikeTour

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Cycle the Erie, Day 5: Deep Dive into The Erie Canal: ‘Mother of Cities’, Empire Builder, Wonder of the World

Cycle the Erie riders stop in at the Syracuse Canal Museum, which opens especially early © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Day 5: Syracuse to Rome, 50 Miles

Day 5 of our 8-day, 400 mile Cycle the Erie biketour from Buffalo to Albany offers a deep-dive into the history of the Erie Canal, an appreciation for the engineering marvel that it was, and how it changed American culture and society, as our 50-mile ride today brings us to a sequence of museums and historic sites.

We begin the day riding into downtown Syracuse from our campsite at Burnet Park, adjacent to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo (we are so close, some said they could hear the animals during the night). A highlight for the entire trip is visiting the Syracuse Eric Canal Museum, which has opened early, from 7 am, especially for us. It is not to be missed and I plan to spend a couple of hours here. (The museum also was open especially for us last evening, with shuttle bus transportation from our campsite, to accommodate our riders, but I chose to visit the zoo.)

Downtown Syracuse, revitalized. The Erie Canal used to run through the city © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The downtown of Syracuse has gone through an amazing renaissance.

Erie Canal at one time went through Syracuse but President Roosevelt wanted a “modern” canal built and largely replaced the original canal.

Today, in a magnificent plaza there is an impressive Jerry Rescue Monument to William “Jerry” Henry, a freemason taken into custody under Fugitive Slave Act, despite the fact that New York State abolished slavery in 1820.

Daniel Webster, who was secretary of state under President Millard Filmore, came to Syracuse in1851 and declared that Syracuse (which was a stop on the Underground Railroad) was “a laboratory of abolitionism, libel, and treason” and warning local abolitionists and abetting slaves that any violation of the Fugitive Slave Law, which called for returning those in flight into bondage, would be “treason, treason and nothing else.”

A few months later, on October 1, a mob stormed a downtown police station, knocked down the doors and freed Jerry, and put him on a carriage traveling toward Canada.

Syracuse Canal Museum 

All along our Cycle the Erie route – mostly following the 353-mile long Erie Canalway – we have visited small canal museums and historical societies which each tell a part of the Erie Canal epic drama. At Lockport, which is itself a living-history museum, on the first day of our ride, we saw the astonishing “Flight of Five” locks and its small museum. At Camillus, the half-way mark of our 400-mile ride from Buffalo to Albany, we visited Sims Store, a re-creation of a 19th century general store that would have served the boats traveling along the canal. Still to come (later today), the Chittenango Landing Boat Museum which offers a look at how the canal boats were built and we get to look inside a reconstruction; Canastota, which offers a delightful Canal Town Museum in a tiny house that was once a bakery. Further on, we will see the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, featuring sections of all three alignments of the Erie Canal and a fascinating historic exhibit in a house-turned-museum.

A painting at the Syracuse Canal Museum depicts Governor Dewitt Clinton bringing water from Lake Erie to New York City, in the ceremony known as the “Wedding of the Waters,” symbolizing how the Erie Canal linked New York City to the West © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

But Syracuse is the “official” Erie Canal Museum – it offers the most expansive collection of artifacts, the most comprehensive history, starting the story well before Governor Dewitt Clinton pushed so obsessively for his Ditch. It offers the most sophisticated presentations, including lots of interactive exhibits and opportunities to engage. It is all the more remarkable because it is a maritime museum which is not on the water – indeed, the expanded canal was moved north of the city.

One of the unique features of the Canal Museum – indeed, the “most unique thing about Syracuse” – is the chance to visit the Weighlock Building, built in1850 – the only remaining weighlock building in America. You can walk aboard a replica passenger packet boat in the weighlock and get a real impression of how the Erie Canal transformed culture and society in America.

Getting a tour inside the packet boat in the Syracuse Canal Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And, as we ride into the downtown historic district, with some magnificent architectural jewels (like the Niagara-Mohawk building, an Art Deco palace that is simply breathtaking), what we appreciate most is how the Erie Canal was the “Mother of Cities” – as historian Ben Willis has said – and how Syracuse is one of her children.

A chart in the museum graphs the explosive growth in population of Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, and even small canaltowns like Lockport because of the Erie Canal, “It was the 8th Wonder of the World, the pathway to an empire, and a school of engineering.”

Indeed, in 1820, Syracuse was but a swampy settlement on Genesee Turnpike, its primary industry was salt production (a key reason that banks had already established themselves in Syracuse, before the canal). Because of the canal (“The Mother of Cities”) the population of Syracuse swelled 40-fold in just 10 years, from 250 in 1820, to 11,064 in 1830, and by 1920, a city of 171,717.

“German masons who came for the canal, stayed to build cobblestone houses, churches. The canal was a whole way of life.”

Before the Canal, it would take 6 to 8 weeks for a mule to carry less than a ton, versus 6 to8 days to transport up to 200 tons of freight on the canal. The cost dropped to one-tenth, $12 per ton and 60c for barrel of salt.

Each day, some 1,800 immigrants would come through Syracuse on the Erie Canal on their way to the west, paying 10c to travel from one town to the next.

“Land was free, you just had to get there, settle on it for a number of years. Often pioneers would work on the boat in exchange for transportation,” the notes read.

New York State financed the building of the Erie Canal (without any federal help) by selling $7.7 million in bonds; the state earned back revenue from fees on goods shipped and taxes on salt (because salt was brought out of salt springs that were owned by the state).

The success of Clinton’s Ditch was quickly apparent and in just 10 years (after paying off the $7.7 million), the Erie Canal had to be rebuilt and expanded to handle all the traffic.

Ben Willis explains some of the innovative engineering that went into building the Erie Canal to Cycle the Erie riders at the Syracuse canal Museum © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

There were no real engineers when they began to build the canal. The initial designers were surveyors. “They knew how to do property lines but were not engineers.” The biggest problem was figuring out the elevations. But when they completed the canal, these self-taught engineers started the engineering school, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy.

One of the innovative methods devised was a stump puller to clear the trees – a contraption that looks like a military armament, but actually had giant wheels to move it and give leverage to pull out stumps. 

There is so much that is so engaging in the museum – even the staircases are made so you can see the elevations of the different locks along the entire canal, and the elevator is painted so you feel you are stepping into a lock, yourself.

Indeed, a key message you come away with from the Erie Canal Museum, is how the canal keeps reinventing itself, and with it, the society around it.

Peak use of the Erie Canal was 1951, but it was also a time when the canal was fetid with pollution – oil slicks and raw sewage. Then the Clean Water Act of 1972, prohibiting dumping and requiring municipalities to have treatment plants, changed the way shippers and factories could do business. (My suspicion is that environmental protection and worker protections, not free trade, is what led to the demise of American manufacturing.)

So, up until the 1980s, the canal was almost exclusively for commercial traffic and was too polluted, fetid and crowded for the recreational boater, or, in fact, residential buildings anywhere near the canal. That’s all changed. Now, the canal is predominantly used for recreational purposes, there are lovely housing developments along the canal. But a changing upstate economy is seeing a resurgence of manufacturing and more commercial shipping is coming to the canal.

There are many other uses of the Erie Canal other than shipping and transportation. The canal is the largest source of irrigation for upstate agriculture. People don’t think of New York as agricultural, but it rivals other states, producing a range of foodstuffs – orchards, vineyards, dairy operations. Riding along the canal trail, you see the white pipes of the irrigation system. The canal also provides for flood control for upstate New York. Many of the dams generate electricity.

Here, I appreciate the ecology of the Erie Canal – not just for the people whose towns, livelihoods and lives revolved around the canal, but how it impacted the environment.

Cycle the Erie riders pass the Niagara-Mohawk building, an Art Deco palace, in downtown Syracuse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And you can see the social ecology as well – as the canal is cleaned up, there are new housing developments that are popping up alongside, as we saw at Rochester, Spencerport, Fairport, changing the economic base for these communities. (They are not intrusive, though – indeed, the entire Barge Canal was just placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of New York State’s Heritage Corridor). The small canaltowns are reinventing themselves – and the structures that had been factories and silos and such in places like Pittsford and Cohoes have been re-purposed for condos and offices, as well as to cater to new manufacturing ventures like manufacturing wind turbines.

“Everything reinvents itself – just like the Canal,” says Daniel Ward, who curated the exhibit. “When I was boy, there was no accommodation for pleasure craft, no tie ups. It was a barge canal. Now there is balance.

“Often the Erie Canal gets separated in people’s minds from the Port of New York, but New York City is the terminal port of the canal system. Our current work is trying to reconnect idea of New York City – we’re coming up to the bicentennial of the opening of the canal (2025), which was a celebration in New York Harbor.”

The museum has a marvelous animated display of Governor Dewitt Clinton sailing into New York City to spill water from Lake Erie into the Hudson River in a ceremony called, “The Wedding of the Waters” with simulated fireworks. (There were cannons set up all along the route and it took hours for the sound that started in Buffalo to make its way to New York City.)

He points to the Mount Vernon Museum, at 421 East 61st Street, which was a hotel that opened in the 1820s to accommodate visitors who wanted to travel on the Erie Canal on packet boats.

Before the Erie Canal, “New York City was an insignificant port city, dwarfed by Boston and Philadelphia, and became a great city, as a result of this engineering.”

What I come away with: It wasn’t that people were different in 1817 when construction of the Erie Canal began, that they had more guts, gumption, daring, pioneering spirit. If anything, what this journey back in time shows is that people are exactly the same – Governor DeWitt Clinton was mocked for the project, which was called “Clinton’s Folly” and “Clinton’s Ditch”; President James Madison refused to give federal funding, questioning the role of the federal government.

Country scene outside on the Erie Canalway on our way to Rome © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Farmers didn’t want to give right of way,” Ward tells me, “they didn’t envision a global economy. It turned out to be great for them. They went from local subsistence economy to global. When the Erie Canal was built, it was the wave of future.”

So many morals to be drawn to today.

You can easily spend two to three hours at the Erie Canal Museum, which I happily do, even with 50 more miles to travel today.

(Erie Canal Museum, 318 Erie Boulevard East, Syracuse, NY 13202, 315.471.0593, eriecanalmuseum.org.)

Chittenango to Canastota

My deep dive into the Erie Canal’s history continues on this day’s ride.

I am fairly amazed to find some of the cyclists still at the morning rest stop when I arrive at Chittenango Landing Boat Museum, which, through preservation, reproduction, construction, and interpretation of the Chittenango Landing industrial complex, instructs about the construction and repair of canal boats and the social history of the Erie Canal era. There are people in period dress and it looks like a historic village. Here, I get to poke inside a re-creation of a canalboat, and see where the mules would have been housed on the boat with the family. (7010 Lakeport Rd, Chittenango, NY 13037, 315-687-3801, clcbm.org/)

At the Chittenango Landing Boat Museum, we get to see how the canal boats were built and to look inside a reconstruction of one of the canal boats © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chittenango is also the birthplace of L. Frank Blum who wrote “Wizard of Oz” (his mother-in-law was the mother of the Women’s Rights movement, Melinda Gates), and I am told the village has a yellow-brick road.

Once again, I am determined not to miss the things that I missed on my first Cycle the Erie ride two years before. I ride up the main street looking for evidence of Frank Blum – I find the yellow brick sidewalk, but before I can get to the All Things Oz Museum, which has family photos, early posters from musicals and movies before the 1939 MGM film, collectibles, it starts to rain. (Open year-round or by appointment, 219 Genesee St., Chittenango, NY 13037, 315-687-7772, allthingsoz.org).

And rain. And rain.

Riding through Old Erie Canal New York State Park – rural, quaint, with wildlife, five aqueducts, and very flat © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a drenching rain by the time I get to Canastota, where I remember there is a delightful Canal Town Museum which I visited on my first Cycle the Erie ride. Inside, I find other Erie Canal cyclists huddled together in the back, happily watching a video while they get warm.

Housed in a former bakery and residence dating from 1873, Canastota Canal Town Museum is a major surprise. From the outside, you wouldn’t think much at all of the tiny frame structure, but once inside, it’s like a Harry Potter experience – the rooms are chockablock full of fascinating artifacts and portraits that make the inside seem enormous. It is a surprisingly fine museum, which adds pieces of understanding to the historic puzzle of the Erie Canal and the rise of the United States. Here the focus is on people – including important people who contributed to building the canal, like Nathan Roberts (a Canastota native who devised the ingenious “Flight of Five” Locks in Lockport which we saw on our first day of the ride); there is a portrait of him by an important 19th century artist, Frederick R. Spencer, and portraits of others who owned the very existence of their town to the canal.

Motion picture cameras on view at Canastota Canal Town Museum; Canastota was home to early movie and projection film industry © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In addition to the ingenious engineering of Nathan Roberts’ lock system, I realize an amazing array of inventions came out of this tiny village:  it was the birthplace of the American Microscope Industry; early movie and projection film industry.

I spot a photo on the wall referring to a action-adventure-comedy, “The Great Race” (1965), and only in that moment realize the movie was based on an actual event: the 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris, by way of Albany, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Valdez Alaska, Japan, Vladivostok, Omsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin and finally Paris. I learn that it was only made possible because of an innovation by Weed Chains of Canastota that enabled a car to drive across frozen Siberia. The 1908 Race was won by the American Thomas Flyer driven by George Schuster Sr. of Buffalo, NY. There is even a connection between Amelia Earhart and Canastota’s Airport opening in 1928. I am dazzled.

(Canastota Canal Town Museum, 122 Canal St., Canastota, NY 13032, 315-697-5002, www.canastota-canal.com)

Deer on the Erie Canalway © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Of the 50 miles between Syracuse and Rome that we ride today, 36 miles are in the Old Erie Canal New York State Park – rural, quaint, with wildlife, five aqueducts, and very flat. This is where the Erie Canal building began, in the “Long Level”. And just outside of our destination for today’s ride, Fort Stanwix in the center of Rome, we come to the historic marker where the very first shovel to dig the canal went into the ground on July 4, 1817.

The Demeritt Family with their boys aged 4, 8, 11, from Malta NY. Sam Demeritt, age 8, was the youngest rider pedaling the 400 miles on his own pose in front of the historic marker where the first shovel to dig the Erie Canal went into the ground July 4, 1817, in Rome, NY © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mercifully, just as I ride into Rome, the rain stops, and I am able to set up my tent right outside Fort Stanwix, take a shower at the shower truck, change into dry clothes, and rush over to the Fort where they have arranged for guided tours (by costumed rangers) until 9 pm. I am literally the last one out of the Fort at closing. I walk a couple of blocks to a pizza shop for dinner (this is one of two nights that we are on our own for dinner). The National Park Rangers keep the Visitor Center open for us all night long, and I love to really linger over the exhibits.

Setting up our tents at Fort Stanwix, Rome © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 20th Annual Cycle the Erie Canal ride is scheduled July 8 – 15, 2018 (www.ptny.org/canaltour). In the meantime, you can cycle the trail on your own – detailed info and interactive map is at the ptny.org site (www.ptny.org/bikecanal), including suggested lodgings. For more information on Cycle the Erie Canal, contact Parks & Trails New York at 518-434-1583 or visit www.ptny.org.

The entire Erie Canal corridor has been designated the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Waterford, NY 12188, 518-237-7000, www.eriecanalway.org.

More information about traveling on the Erie Canal is available from New York State Canal Corporation, www.canals.ny.gov. 

Next: Cycle the Erie: At Fort Stanwix, Time Travel Back to America’s Colonial, Native American Past

See also:

Cycle the Erie: 400 Miles & 400 Years of History Flow By on Canalway Bike Tour Across New York State

Cycle the Erie, Day 1: In Lockport, See Erie Canal Engineering Marvel, ‘Flight of Five’, Cruise Thru Double Locks, and Go Underground to Fathom Rise of Industrial Revolution

Cycle the Erie, Day 2-3: A Sequence of Charming Canaltowns, Pastoral Landscapes, Punctuated by City Birthed by ‘Mother of Cities’

Cycle the Erie, Day 4: Seneca Falls to Syracuse, Crossing Halfway Mark of 400-Mile Biketour

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New-York Historical Society Examines ‘Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.’

Juxtaposed portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, Schiller’s photo taken just days before RFK’s assassination, open the exhibit © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy are tethered together in peoples’ minds, and not only because they both were assassinated within two months of each other in that fateful year of 1968. A new, remarkable exhibit that has just opened at the New-York Historical Society commemorates the 50th anniversary of those events, examines their conjoined legacy and makes some interesting discoveries: their lives had a kind of parallel trajectory, yet, they consciously steered separate courses, intersecting finally in death.

On view through May 20, 2018, Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. showcases 61 photographs and 30 documents and artifacts that reveal the relationship between these historic figures. The exhibit is based in part on The Promise and the Dream, written by Vanity Fair contributing editor and New York Times writer David Margolick and produced by Lawrence Schiller for National Geographic Publishers. Schiller, a photojournalist who covered many of the significant events throughout the 1960s, conceived of the project and collected 21,000 photographs, sifting them down to 3,000, then 2,000, and ultimately, over the course of just three days, laid out the photographs that are presented much like a 20-page photo essay in Life Magazine, where Schiller worked, would have produced.

Lawrence Schiller, a photojournalist since the 1960s, recalls a fateful day when he was 26 years old: “The elevator opened to reveal Oswald, who was only 24 years old. It shocked me that evil could be in such a person – a kid my age had caused this tragedy.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But in the course of gathering that material, an essential question arose: why were there so few photos of King and Kennedy together? The exhibit has just one where the two men were at the same event, with then-Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Another instance where they would have been together was when King testified to a Senate Committee which included Robert Kennedy, in which he stated that the millions of dollars that were being sent to support the war in Vietnam should better be spent to revitalize America’s ghettoes (a photo is taken from behind King). Significantly, while Kennedy supported the idea of spending more in cities, he was forced for political reasons (like the fact that his brother, as President, dramatically escalated America’s role in Vietnam) to disassociate himself from King’s anti-Vietnam stance.

Margolick, who researched and wrote the book in a mere seven months time, started off with no pre-conceived notion, but wanted to come up with some original construct about these two lions of American history.

Indeed, if news is the first draft of history, books provide the room for reflection and context.

The big idea of the book and the exhibit is that “Robert Kennedy was a political person and Martin Luther King Jr. a spiritual person; they respected one another but there was a limit how closely they could ally,” Margolick said at the press opening of the exhibit.

The two men had reason to be wary of one another.

Robert Kennedy was at his core a politician from a political family; on top of that, his brother, as president, had made key decisions including significantly involving the US in war in Vietnam, and was skittish about making civil rights a key focus of his administration; as JFK’s Attorney General, Robert Kennedy had signed off on J. Edgar Hoover’s request to surveil King, whom Hoover was convinced was a Communist. But Kennedy also sent US Marshals to force school integration.

King, for his part, was a spiritual man for whom civil rights was not merely a political issue but a matter of everyday survival for millions of people who could be brutalized without repercussion under a Jim Crow regimen.

“They were initially wary of each other,” Margolick said. “There was an enormous chasm which gradually shrank, but did not entirely disappear.”

Bobby Kennedy on the cover of Time Magazine © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

“RFK felt MLK a liability, he couldn’t get close.” There was that special night, when Robert Kennedy, who made a concerted effort to embed himself into black communities when he realized he did not have more than a superficial understanding of issues, was in “black” Indianapolis for a campaign speech and gets notice that King has just been killed, and instead of rushing away, he spoke compassionately to the crowd. “That was a special night. Death was the only time Kennedy actually embraced [the idea] of King. Kennedy was dead two months later. There was no time to carry torch of MLK.

“But even in limited time, Kennedy was reluctant to embrace King. The Kennedys were politicians King was a spiritual man. Kennedy considers the political implications of everything. Part of the purpose of this book is to examine and correct the revisionist idea that were together – really was there was always space between them.”

They also came from completely different worlds: Kennedy chose to take up the fight; the fight chose King.

Over the course of researching the book, Margolick said, “my point of view was constantly evolving. I wanted it to be as original as it could. I looked at newspapers no one had; primary documents not examined before. I came to realize the most precious thing was to talk to dwindling supply of people who knew both men – very few knew both: Andrew Young, William Vanden Heuval and some behind scenes intermediaries.

Margolick realized that an excellent source would be the photographers who photographed both – including Harry Benson, Steve Shapiro – who could even describe how differently they interacted with crowds.

“Both men had a sense of their mortality – they knew they were doomed.” One of the photographers, he thinks it was Harry Benson, said that when King was in a crowd, he would look it over carefully, mindful of his safety. He never stayed in one place longer than he had to.”

But, he adds, “Robert Kennedy didn’t care. He had a premonition of death but approached it differently. He told his security force he didn’t want precautions. There were reporters who never left RFK’s side because they expected he would be assassinated and wanted to be there when it happened.”

David Margolick with the Time Magazine featuring Robert Kennedy on the cover © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lawrence Schiller, who organized the project and curated the exhibit, was one of those photographers who helped document history beginning in the 1960s. He was assigned to Robert Kennedy and followed him for the last 40 days of his life. Schiller was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night that Robert Kennedy delivered his last speech, tried to hurry out by going through the kitchen, where he was met by Sirhan Sirhan who shot him dead. (The portrait that opens the exhibit was taken by Schiller on board Kennedy’s plane en route to California just days before the speech.)

He was just 26 years old working as a photojournalist on a fateful day in 1963 when he was summoned from Los Angeles to Dallas after President John F. Kennedy was shot. He was in the police station when, as it happened, the police were booking Lee Harvey Oswald.

“The elevator opened to reveal Oswald, who was only 24 years old. It shocked me that evil could be in such a person – a kid my age had caused this tragedy.”

Schiller, who has several photos in the exhibit, called upon many of the photographers he knew who are represented, but there are many which had not been published before.

The exhibit is laid out chronologically for the most part, but in some cases “emotionally chronologically”, as when a portrait of Robert Kennedy, photographed on Feb. 26, 1962, with a movie slate, is juxtaposed next to a police mug shot of King from Feb. 22, 1956, upon which someone had scrawled “DEAD 4-4-68”; and in a case with artifacts, the Time Magazine editions with each on the cover, is displayed. ”King’s ‘Man of the Year’ drove people crazy,” Schiller remarks.

Parallel lives: portrait of Robert Kennedy, photographed on Feb. 26, 1962, juxtaposed next to a police mug shot of King from Feb. 22, 1956, upon which someone had scrawled “DEAD 4-4-68” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Asked which photo was the most impactful, Schiller points to one of a man with a broom, sweeping the blood from outside King’s hotel room in Memphis, a photo which he said had never been published; another shows the hotel room. Schiller says that people came in and collected vials of blood to keep as a memento.

The exhibit starts with Rosa Parks and ends in a field after Kennedy’s assassination, where people are holding a sign, “So long Bobby.” Several of the photos don’t feature King or Kennedy at all, but provide context: the KKK, US Marshals, Freedom Riders, the march after Medgar Evers was assassinated in June 1963, just five months before JFK was assassinated, in eerie similarity to the one-two King-Kennedy assassinations.

There is great intimacy of the experience – the photos, which were printed all at the same time in the same lab from negatives and then scanned –  are 8 x 10 and smaller, the room is compact, so you are close to the images, can easily read the captions and notes.

“The insight we came to early on emerged from the question: Why were there not more photos of the two together?” Margolick said. “The book tries to fill the gap, why there were no more photos of the two together. They kept apart. We are documenting, explaining the absence of something.”

One notable absence is a still photo of Robert F. Kennedy addressing a black audience in Indianapolis the night that King was killed, which in itself, says a lot.

“No one knew how important that speech by Kennedy would be, the night MLK was killed,” Margolick said. “The event that became so important was so scantily covered, there were just two still photographers there from local papers. It was only a 6-7 minute speech, but there is no film of the entire speech.” But it was at that point that Kennedy most fulsomely embraced King. (A portion of the video is displayed.) There’s a monument in Indianapolis commemorating the event.

Born Worlds Apart

Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) and Robert F. Kennedy (November 20, 1925 –June 6, 1968) were born worlds apart—culturally, geographically, racially, financially, and politically—but by the time they were killed within months of each another in 1968, their worlds had come together. As their concerns expanded beyond civil rights (King) and organized crime (Kennedy), their ties deepened to encompass shared interests in supporting the poor and opposing the war in Vietnam. This unprecedented exhibition explores the overlapping paths of their lives through images taken by some of the most renowned photojournalists of the era, including Bob Adelman, Danny Lyon, Henri Dauman, Jacques Lowe, Spider Martin, Steve Schapiro, Lawrence Schiller, and Paul Schutzer, alongside original correspondence, publications, and ephemera.

“The year 1968 rocked the nation in many ways, but it would be difficult to point to anything that shocked and sickened Americans more that year than the senseless and tragic deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Fifty years later, the legacies of Kennedy and King still reverberate. This timely exhibition underscores the two men’s lasting impact on our nation while drawing attention to the ways in which their lives intersected. ”

Author David Margolick, Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, and Lawrence Schiller, photojournalist and curator of “Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.” © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Exhibition highlights include images of King and his son looking at the charred remains of a cross the Ku Klux Klan burned outside his Atlanta home in 1960, King’s mug shot after being indicted for the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Kennedy being swarmed by an adoring crowd during his 1968 presidential campaign. Also on view are posters reading “Honor King: End Racism!” and “I Am a Man” that were carried in a Memphis march led by widow Coretta Scott King and her children on April 8, 1968, as well as a black and white “Kennedy/King” button worn by a New Yorker in memory of the two slain leaders.

An adjunct display showcases the bronze sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr.―one of five existing casts created by Harlem Renaissance artist Charles Alston (1907– 1997), on loan from the Community Church of New York.
Rebel Spirits is based in part on The Promise and the Dream, written by David Margolick and produced by Lawrence Schiller for National Geographic Publishers. The exhibition was curated by Lawrence Schiller, Cristian Panaite, and Marilyn Kushner. It was produced by Wiener Schiller Productions, Inc. in association with Susan Bloom International with support from Getty Images, The Jacques Lowe Estate, and Steve Schapiro.

Published by National Geographic and written by  David Margolick, The Promise and the Dream: The Interrupted Lives of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. features an introduction by historian Douglas Brinkley. The book is available at the NYHistory Store.

Several public programs will provide further insights into the exhibition and its time period. On March 6, eminent legal experts survey the evolution of the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretations of the 14th Amendment—in commemoration of its 150th anniversary—and civil rights throughout American history, highlighting landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education. On April 23, scholar Randall Kennedy discusses the Supreme Court and Martin Luther King Jr. On May 21, journalist Chris Matthews sits down to explore the rebel spirit of Robert Kennedy.

Vietnam War

The New-York Historical Society has a variety of fascinating exhibits, some short term and some ongoing.

The Vietnam War: 1945 – 1975, on view through April 22, 2018, is particularly timely in conjunction with the “Rebel Spirits.” © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Vietnam War: 1945 – 1975  on view through April 22, 2018 is particularly timely in conjunction with the “Rebel Spirits.” Featuring interpretive displays, digital media, artwork, artifacts, photographs, and documents, the exhibit provides an enlightening account of the causes, progression, and impact of the war. Spanning the duration of U.S. involvement in Indochina, the narrative incorporates perspectives covering both the home and the war fronts. Displays touch upon the Cold War, the draft, military campaigns initiated by both sides, the growth of the antiwar movement, the role of the president, and the loss of political consensus. The exhibition explores themes of patriotism, duty, and citizenship. Key objects include a troopship berthing unit, interactive murals, vibrant antiwar posters, artwork by Vietnam vets, a Viet Cong bicycle, the Pentagon Papers, and news and film clips.

Gallery of Tiffany Lamps

Step into the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, a permanent exhibit which is the centerpiece of a newly designed fourth floor, and you are aglow in light and beauty. The exhibit features more than 100 illuminated Tiffany lamps from N-YHS’s  spectacular collection displayed within a dramatically lit jewel-like two-story space (the glass staircase is exquisite).

Step into the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, a permanent exhibit which is the centerpiece of a newly designed fourth floor, and you are aglow in light and beauty. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The presentation is breathtaking, and so insightful: it was only in the last decade that it was learned through a series of letters that some of Tiffany’s most famous and prized lamps, featuring nature imagery like wisteria, dragonflies, spider webs, were designed by Clara Driscoll, who headed the Women’s Glass Cutting Department of some 45-55 young  women (mainly 16-17 year olds who would work until they went off to be engaged).

It was only in the last decade that it was learned through a series of letters that some of Tiffany’s most famous and prized lamps were designed by Clara Driscoll who headed the Women’s Glass Cutting Department of some 50 young women © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.comThe collection comes from Dr. Egon Neustadt. an Austrian immigrant enamored with all things American, who purchased his first Tiffany lamp in 1935 for $12.50 (by then, Tiffany Lamps were no longer in favor, the company closed, Tiffany went bankrupt in 1932 and died in 1933) and went on to amass the largest and most comprehensive Tiffany lamp collection ever assembled. The docent explained that he bequeathed half his collection to the N-YHS and half to the Queens Museum. She points out what would have been the most valuable lamps: the wisteria would have sold for $450; the cobweb for $500, at a time when you could buy a brand new car for that amount. On the mezzanine level, you not only can look down onto the lighted lampshades, but can try your hand at designing your own.

Learn how Tiffany Lamps were made at the New-York Historical Society’s Gallery of Tiffany Lamps © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The redesigned fourth floor also offers exhibitions and interactive media that explore American history. Themed displays in the North Gallery present a variety of topics—such as slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, and 9/11—offering unexpected and surprising perspectives on collection highlights. Touchscreens and interactive kiosks allow visitors to explore American history and engage with objects like never before. When I visit, a docent is discussing the Industrial Revolution with high school students.

Women’s Rights & Social Activism

 A new Center for Women’s History enables visitors to discover hidden connections among exceptional and unknown women who left their mark on New York and the nation with the multimedia digital installation, Women’s Voices, and through rotating exhibitions in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery. Objects from the Billie Jean King Archive are also on view. 

Celebrating the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York and on view in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, Hotbed brings to life the neighborhood’s bohemian scene and energetic activist spirit © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hotbed, a special exhibit on view through March 25, 2018, is about Greenwich Village in the early 20th century, when it was a hotbed of political activism and social change—where men and women joined forces across the boundaries of class and race to fight for a better world. At the heart of the downtown radicals’ crusade lay women’s rights: to control their own bodies, to do meaningful work, and above all, to vote. Celebrating the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York and on view in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, Hotbed features immersive installations and more than 100 artifacts and images—drawn from New-York Historical’s archives and several private collections—that bring to life the neighborhood’s bohemian scene and energetic activist spirit.

Collecting the Women’s Marches, on view through June 3, 2018, documents  January 21, 2017, when hundreds of thousands rallied at the Women’s March on Washington for diverse issues including women’s rights, racial equality, and the environment. Counting more than 500 sister marches across the United States, it was the largest single-day protest in the nation’s history. As part of its History Responds program, the New-York Historical Society collected a range of artifacts, including signs, sashes, pussyhats, and colorful props, to document the moment. One year later, Collecting the Women’s Marches highlights some of the political and visual themes that emerged, as well as the efforts of individuals and groups that worked behind the scenes. An adjunct display of protest clothing by Olek (Agata Oleksiak), an artist who works in crochet, and Brick x Brick, a public art performance group, is also on view. It is odd to have an exhibit of a major historic event so recent, and to actually have been there.

New York through the Lens of George Kalinsky on view through June 3, 2018 is an amazing photo exhibition of some of New York’s most iconic cultural moments over the past 50 years as captured by George Kalinsky. Serving as Madison Square Garden’s official photographer, Kalinsky has turned truly memorable moments―sporting events, legendary performances, and notable occasions―into lasting images that have defined the city. Among the quintessential photographs on view are Pope John Paul II hoisting a seven-year-old child onto the Popemobile in Madison Square Garden, Bill Bradley celebrating a New York Knicks victory, Sloane Stephens winning the 2017 US Open, and Jesse Orosco falling to his knees on the mound as the Mets won the 1986 World Series.

Collector’s Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection, ongoing: Since 1804, the New-York Historical Society has been welcoming to its collection some of the most esteemed artworks of the modern world. Collector’s Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection showcases a selection of paintings that reflect the individual tastes of several New York City collectors who donated their holdings to New-York Historical. Joining Picasso’s Le Tricorne ballet curtain are featured American and European masterpieces spanning the 14th through the 21st centuries from Luman Reed, Thomas Jefferson Bryan, and Robert L. Stuart, including colonial portraits of children, marine and maritime subjects, and an installation showcasing recently collected contemporary works.

Picasso’s Le Tricorne ballet curtain is part of the New-York Historical Society’s permanent collection © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm; Friday: 10 am – 8 pm; Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm; Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm  Admission: Adults: $21; Teachers and Seniors: $16; Students: $13; Children (5–13): $6;  Children (4 and under): Free. The museum has a pay-as-you-wish policy on Fridays from 6-8 pm.

Check the website for special events and lecture.

New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street), New York, NY 10024, www.nyhistory.org, (212) 873-3400. 

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Philadelphia’s New Museum Immerses You into Drama of America’s Revolutionary War

A mural at Philadelphia’s new Museum of the American Revolution depicts George Washington in front of his battlefield tent he stayed in virtually throughout the war; the actual tent is the crowning jewel and centerpiece of the museums extraordinary collection © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

I used the opening of the brand new Museum of the American Revolution as the theme for my three-day visit to Philadelphia – a really deep dive probe of the Revolutionary War era, a return to understanding the founding of the nation through, as it were, original documents, materials and artifacts, at a time when we need to be reminded. During this all-too-brief time, I also  visited the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, Betsy Ross House and the National Constitution Center. 

It’s 1770s Colonial America. Anger, resentment against the British Crown is brewing; an independent spirit is growing and spreading among the colonies. Would you have joined the American Revolution and taken arms along with other farmers, shopkeepers and merchants against the most powerful nation that history had ever known with not much more than a musket? The newly opened Museum of the American Revolution, located in the heart of Philadelphia’s most historic district, plunges visitors into the tumult and transformation of the Revolutionary era when colonials took upon themselves a new identity: Americans.

You are challenged to choose sides and it isn’t a simple matter. This was very much a civil war, with families, neighborhoods, villages and towns split in terms of which side they would support: Patriots or Loyalists. But it was a revolution in ways beyond taking arms against ruling institutions: it was every bit a revolution in ideas, in ideals, in the notion of self-governance and civil rights, a revolution the Museum would like you to realize that is still underway.

“We have it in our power to begin the world again,” Thomas Paine, an English immigrant wrote. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” he later wrote.

‘No taxation without representation’: At the Museum of American Revolution, explore the reasons that colonial Americans fought for freedom from Great Britain © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

With thousands of Revolutionary-era artifacts at its core – the crown jewel of which is General George Washington’s actual wartime tent  in which he lived on the battlefield with his troops throughout the war – the Museum uses immersive experiences, dynamic theaters, recreated historical moments, and interactive digital installations to make you feel you have time-traveled back to the 18th century, giving context and making the events, people, and ideas that created this nation more immediate and relevant.

A private nonprofit institution founded by Jerry Lendfest who put up $50 million and raised $100 million more from thousands of donors, the Museum of the American Revolution goes beyond the Founding Fathers and well known key figures to explore the personal stories of the diverse range of individuals who were part of establishing our nation, including women, native people, and free and enslaved people of African descent.

The experience brings you on a chronological journey from the roots of conflict in the 1760s through the creation of the American republic. Along the way, you learn about the rise of the armed resistance to British taxation, the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the long years of brutal warfare and how the Revolution continues to be relevant today.

Walk beside a life-size re-creation of Boston’s Liberty Tree in one of the 16 galleries of the Museum of the American Revolution © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The museum experience is a journey through time and place and builds to a climax: seeing General Washington’s War Tent, one of the most significant surviving artifacts of the Revolution. (I save this experience for last, and the presentation is so riveting, I sit through it twice.)

It’s not just the history of the war, battle by battle, with amazing detail and with skillful use of multi-media to enhance the dramatic retelling, but even more interestingly, how it overlays the human dimension. These aren’t just places and dates and round numbers, but individuals, some of them heroes whose names are so familiar, and many who were just ordinary people swept up in events. You are able to explore the personal stories of the diverse individuals. There is a wealth of information, but the presentation is so engaging, children of any age will be swept up in the drama.

Witness life-size figures of Oneida Indians debate whether to support the Revolutionary cause, the British or stay neutral © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

My favorite gallery is the one devoted to the Oneida Indian Nation, where there are life-size figures who you hear debating (as a video provides a visual context) whether to support the Revolutionary cause, the British or stay neutral. Indeed, the Revolutionary War split the Six Nations Confederation.

At the end of the excellent presentation, there are photos of Oneida who have served in the American military in every conflict since the Revolutionary War.

A section devoted to women introduces us to Deborah Sampson who dressed as a man to join the 4th Massachusetts Regiment and fought in New York’s Hudson Valley where she was wounded in the thigh with a musket ball and took the bullet out herself to avoid being found out by the surgeons (she was honorably discharged in 1783 and later published a memoir of her experiences.); and to Esther Reed who published an essay, “Sentiments of an American Woman.”

Abigail Adams warns her husband, the future President John Adams: “Remember the women.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, urged the writers of the Constitution to “remember the women,” and wrote her husband, John Adams, a Congressman at the time, in March 1776, “If particular care is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” The King’s abuses proved that men were tyrants, she wrote, and only the influence of women could secure reason and liberty. (That revolution clearly is still going on.)

A really interesting character I had never known about before was Baroness von Riedesel who followed her husband into battle and was taken prisoner in 1777 when General Burgoyne surrendered to General Gates at the Battle of Saratoga (a pivotal battle, which had the British won, would have enabled them to separate New York, the breadbasket for the American army, from the rest of the colonies; instead, the American victory enabled Ben Franklin to persuade France to give critical support to the Americans).

Baroness von Riedesel, who followed her Hessian husband into battle and protected prisoners, is lauded for her courage and heroism © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

She is depicted as a hero: “In the final days of the siege, the Baroness guarded the lives of women, children and wounded men. She barricaded them in a basement as American cannonballs slammed the house. She cared for her own children and the most vulnerable members of the army for six days. For most of this time, the firing was so heavy that they could not leave, and the basement filled with excrement. But she probably saved dozens of lives.” She was taken prisoner along with her husband and nearly 5,000 British and Hessian troops who were moved frequently to prevent their escape or rescue and were not freed until the war ended in 1783.

(You can continue this immersion into women during the Revolutionary War era at the Betsy Ross House a few blocks away.)

The museum does a yeoman’s job of humanizing and personalizing war, revolution and nation-building. For example, we learn that “Hessians, portrayed [by propaganda, which was waged by both sides] as cruel and inhuman but were a lot like Americans: King George hired 20,000 German special troops who came from six European nations and most were poor farmers with families.”

Displays at the Museum of the American Revolution confront the issue of slavery and give voice to freed and enslaved black Americans © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In “Finding Freedom”, you can explore the different experiences of enslaved African Americans in Virginia in 1781 through a multi-kiosk touchscreen interactive based on the lives of five men and women who followed different paths to freedom during the Revolutionary War. The Museum worked with a historical illustrator who used diaries and letters to animate these stories.   

You have an extraordinary opportunity to look into the faces of the Revolutionary generation in a fascinating display of photographs of 70 people who lived through the American Revolution and survived into the age of photography.

Faces of the Revolutionary generation © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Throughout the museum, there are immersive, multi-media experiences that put you into the action: in the Battlefield Theater, you find yourself on the Continental Army’s front lines facing an attack by British soldiers (with appropriate sound effects, smoke and rumbling floor); you walk beneath the branches of a realistic, life-size replica of Boston’s Liberty Tree and can touch an embedded piece of the Annapolis Liberty Tree, a Tulip Poplar that sheltered Maryland colonists in 1775 which survived until 1999; you can climb aboard a large-scale replica of an 18th century privateer ship like the one on which 14-year-old free African American James Forten volunteered. In the Declaration of Independence Gallery, which evokes Independence Hall, you sit in your own Windsor chair to witness the unfolding debate and decision-making as delegates to the Continental Congress decide whether to declare American independence, then view authentic printings of the Declaration of Independence on display.

You get to thoroughly engage with the Museum’s rich collection of original historic artifacts. One of the premier collections of its kind, it includes several thousand objects from the Revolutionary period, and includes George Washington’s personal belongings, as well as an impressive assortment of weaponry, soldiers’ and civilians’ personal items, fine art, letters, diaries, and manuscripts. You can examine child-sized slave shackles, an intricately carved woman’s busk (corset piece), and a signed 1773 volume “Poems on Various Subjects” by Phillis Wheatley, America’s first published black female poet.

Arms of Independence: Nearly 50 Revolutionary War-era weapons and artifacts are on display and below them, a multi-kiosk touchscreen interactive enables you to virtually handle them and learn more about their uses, owners, and makers. Using the latest ultra-high definition photography, you get a 360-degree view of the glass-encased weapons and artifacts, most of which have never been displayed before.

The statue of King George III as it is about to be torn down by an angry mob in New York City is one of the historic moments depicted with life-size figures © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are more than 20 re-created historical moments with life-like figures, tableaux intended to broaden our view of the people who were central to the Revolution. One of these scenes is a brawl among Revolutionary soldiers that George Washington broke up in Harvard Yard; another portrays the statue of King George III as it is about to be torn down by an angry mob in New York City; another features artist Charles Willson Peale reuniting with his brother James on the banks of the Delaware River in December 1776; there is a view of Independence Hall in disarray during the British occupation of Philadelphia; a pair of Loyalist cavalry troopers in the South; and a conversation between enslaved Virginians and a black Loyalist soldier in 1781.

There are opportunities to participate in the story which is why the exhibits are so engaging for children as well as adults. You can mix-and-match pieces of a soldier’s uniform to learn about how soldiers displayed their loyalties; learn about the common soldiers and their families who endured the harsh winter at Valley Forge with flip-doors that explore the complex workings of a war camp; assume George Washington’s role as President of the Constitutional Convention by sitting in a reproduction of the “Rising Sun” chair; and try hand at an early American stitching lesson through an interactive sampler station in a gallery on the role mothers played in educating children as citizens.

Costumed educators offer a deeper understanding of the lives and times of the Revolutionaries: at the Battlefield Theater, learn to muster before marching into battle; on the Privateer Ship, discover how to load and fire one of the ship’s cannons; at Discovery Carts, handle replica artifacts to learn more about how they were made and used.

Children will be engaged by the many opportunities to handle materials at the Museum of American Revolution © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Climax: Washington’s War Tent

All of this builds to the climatic experience: and the crown jewel of the Museum and the original artifact which led to the creation of the museum to begin with: General Washington’s War Tent.

You line up for the timed show in a dedicated theater built to house one of the most iconic surviving artifacts of the Revolution: General Washington’s War Tent, which served as both his office and his sleeping quarters through much of the war. It was within the folds of this tent that key decisions were made that changed the course of history.

I was expecting to walk into an exhibit of the tent. Instead, it is dramatically revealed after a powerful 12-minute video. The movie screen rises to reveal a gauzy sheet which rises to show the tent. With surround-sound track, theatrical lighting, video projection on a front scrim and screen, as well as on a scenic wall behind the tent you see the tent, in different times of day, months, seasons, years as if marching in time.

The presentation makes you really appreciate the meaning of the tent and why it is so iconic – it is a physical link to the man who was, as Henry Lee said, “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Indeed, the tent has its own dramatic story which lives on beyond Washington.

The tent was created for use as a mobile headquarters during the Revolutionary War. It was made in Reading, Pennsylvania, while Washington was encamped at Valley Forge in 1778. He used it until 1783, including throughout the 1781 Siege of Yorktown, the last major land battle of the war. Indeed, throughout the war, Washington spent only a few days back at his Mount Vernon plantation.

The tent covers an area about 23 feet long and 14 feet wide, comprising three small chambers – a central office, a half-circle sleeping chamber for the general, and a small area for luggage and for sleeping quarters for his enslaved African American valet, William Lee, who traveled with Washington through the war.

But the drama of the tent doesn’t end there. After the war, the tent was eventually acquired by Martha Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, and was stored at his Virginia estate, Arlington House. It passed to Custis’ daughter Mary Anna, who was the wife of General Robert E. Lee (how ironic was that? – both a revolutionary like Washington, but in pursuit of destroying the nation that Washington won and lead), only to have it seized by federal troops at the start of the Civil War when they took over Lee’s plantation. The tent remained in federal possession for 40 years before it was returned to the Lee family. Mary Custis Lee put the tent up for sale to raise money for Confederate veterans.

In the early 1900s, an Episcopal minister, Rev. W. Herbert Burk, dreamed of creating a museum to tell the story of our nation’s founding. He began collecting historical artifacts, beginning with General George Washington’s War Tent. He raised the $5,000 to purchase the tent from hundreds of ordinary Americans. The acquisition began a century of collecting – a collection which eventually came under the ownership of the Museum of the American Revolution.

George Washington’s battlefield tent is an iconic link to the man who was “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Textile conservator Virginia Whelan spent more than 500 hours restoring the priceless hand-stitched, linen tent. “Losses” – small holes which could fray – needed to be stabilized so that original material wasn’t lost. The process involved inserting an extremely fine needle and thread between the fibers of the tent’s weave and using virtually invisible netting to stabilize the holes. The conservation effort also entailed using digital inkjet printing to reproduce new fabric that matched the original material. The new fabric swatches were then used to repair holes, rips, and a large piece that had been cut away. For this, Whelan partnered with faculty from Philadelphia University’s textile design faculty.

One of the challenges of displaying the tent was to keep the drape-like effect of the fabric without putting tension on it. To design a system that would support the artifact without inducing stress in the delicate fabric, the Museum commissioned Keast & Hood, a structural engineering firm that is a nationally recognized leader in the preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of historic structures.

To protect the centuries-old canvas from rope tension, Keast & Hood worked with a team of conservators, historians, and craftsmen to design an innovative umbrella-like aluminum structure and canvas sub-tent membrane, creates an illusion of the tent draping naturally. The ropes that originally tensioned the tent are now purely aesthetic and representative of the earlier form.

The tent is set behind glass in a 300-square foot climate-controlled object case.

The presentation is so powerful, I watched it twice and both times, the audience applauded at the end.

The museum does an excellent job of tackling complex ideas, the span of history, the intricacies of the battles, while also bringing in a human scale. There is so much to see and absorb, it is a really good idea to take advantage of the fact the ticket is valid for two consecutive days.

Located just steps away from Independence Hall, the Museum of the American Revolution is housed in an impressive three-story state-of-the-art building. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Located just steps away from Independence Hall, Carpenters’ Hall, and Franklin Court, the Museum, housed in an impressive three-story state-of-the-art building, serves as a portal to the region’s many Revolutionary sites, sparking interest, providing context, and encouraging exploration. The Museum is a private, non-profit, and non-partisan organization.

Guided Tours: While most visitor tours are self-guided, the Museum does offer several guided tours, including: Early Access Guided Tour, a 60-minute guided tour before the museum opens (Tues, Thurs, Sat at 9 a.m. $50 non-members; limited to 10 people). Guided Highlights Tour, a 60-minute guided tour of key artifacts and stories (daily at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; price of admission plus $12; limited to 15 people). Book online or at the museum.

General admission tickets to the Museum can be purchased here and are $19 for adults; $17 for seniors, students, and active or retired military; and $12 for children ages 6 and up. Children ages 5 and under are free. All tickets are valid for two consecutive days. Group tickets for parties of 15 or more are currently available for a discounted price by calling 267.858.3308. Memberships are also available for purchase here or by calling 215.454.2030.

Museum of the American Revolution, 101 South Third Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, 215-253-6731, 877-740-1776, info@amrevmuseum.orgwww.AmRevMuseum.org.

My immersion into Revolutionary War Americana in Philadelphia continues with visits to the Betsy Ross House, the Benjamin Franklin Site, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration House, the National Museum of American Jews, and the National Constitution Center.

Visit Philadelphia provides excellent trip planning tools, including hotel packages, itineraries, events listings: 30 S 17th Street, Philadelphia PA 19103, 215-599-0776, visitphilly.com. 

See also:

National Museum of American Jewish History is Unexpected Revelation in Philadelphia 

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

A Balloon Festival of a Different Sort: Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation Draws Thousands

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK –This Thanksgiving, a magical march returns to the streets of New York City and to homes across the U.S. as the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® kicks off the holiday season with its signature spectacle of wonder. On Thursday, Nov. 23 (9 a.m.-noon in all time zones), the streets of Manhattan fill with the sound of “Let’s Have a Parade!” Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker of NBC’s “Today” will host the broadcast. Telemundo will simulcast the parade in Spanish, with the event hosted by Carlos Ponce, Jessica Carrillo and Karim Mendiburu.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But the night before, the streets around the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West are literally flooded with hundreds of thousands of people coming to delight in seeing the massive balloons – 17 giant character balloons and 28 legacy balloons, balloonides, balloonheads and trycaloons, being inflated by hundreds of volunteers.

New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio spoke of how iconic the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and the Balloon Inflation events have become, and how the parade not only kicks off the holiday season for the city, but the entire nation.

NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio at the Macy’s Parade Balloon Inflation © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“It’s an example of what makes New York City great – hundreds of thousands here tonight, tomorrow millions, and it comes off flawlessly,” Mayor DiBlasio said. “It takes a lot of work, and working together. New York City is a beacon to the world – we have people of every background, faith, nationality, in harmony, giving thanks together.

“This is a beautiful event that happens because we’re safe. Every year, the NYPD does more to keep us safe. We live in a dangerous world. We have the strongest anti-terrorism capacity of any police force in thecountry. You will see a lot of officers so people feel good, confident, calm.

“There has been no credible or specific threat against New York or the parade. But we have precautions in place. Everyone needs to help: if you see something, say something.”

Acknowledging the terror attack that took place on Halloween in which 8 people lost their lives, he said, “That attack was an attempt to under our values, our democracy. It failed. Everyone is out, enjoying this great celebration. It is important to show how it failed.

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill describes heightened security for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade © 2017 Karen Rubin/ news-photos-features.com

NYPD commissioner James O’Neill said that there will be 36,000 police out on the streets, criticial response teams, mounted police, long-gun teams. “This is the reality of 2017. We have 2000 more officers on patrol than last year.”

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette noted that the parade started almost a century ago by employees who wanted to do something for their families and local people. For the 91st edition, the line-up will feature 17 giant character balloons; 28 legacy balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; 12 marching bands; and 6 performance groups.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette noted that the parade was begun in 1924 by Macy’s employees who wanted to do something for their families and community © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A special float by Delta Air Lines will debut to commemorate the season of togetherness with the gift of song, as more than 125 Macy’s employees gather to form a one-of-a-kind cross-generational choir aboard the Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree.

“It’s the beginning of a new tradition.” Gennette said.

Here are highlights from the Balloon Inflation:

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event is a magical experience © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event  © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation involves hundreds of volunteers © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here’s more of what to look for in the Parade:

The star power on parade will once again feature some of the nation’s most riveting performers. Taking to the streets of New York City on board one of Macy’s signature floating stages and thrilling the nation with their performances at Herald Square will be 98 Degrees, Lauren Alaina, Cam, Sabrina Carpenter, Andra Day & Common, Sara Evans, Jimmy Fallon & The Roots, Flo Rida, Goo Goo Dolls, Kat Graham, Andy Grammer, Angelica Hale, Olivia Holt, Nicky Jam, Wyclef Jean, Bravo’s Top Chef stars Padma Lakshmi & Tom Colicchio, Dustin Lynch, Miss America 2018 Cara Mund, Leslie Odom Jr. and the cast & Muppets of Sesame Street, Bebe Rexha, Smokey Robinson, Jojo Siwa and more.

On 34th Street, Broadway’s best shows will take a star turn in front of Macy’s famed flagship with special performances from the casts of “Anastasia,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Once On This Island” and “SpongeBob SquarePants – The Broadway Musical.” In addition, the show-stopping Radio City Rockettes®  will bring their signature high-kicking magic to Herald Square.

“The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of our great holiday traditions and we’re thrilled to be able to once again bring the pageantry and spectacle to viewers across the country,” said Doug Vaughan, Executive Vice President, Special Programs and Late Night, NBC Entertainment. “We can’t wait to see all the balloons, floats and high-end entertainment that have become such an integral part of this wonderful event.”

“For more than 90 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has signaled the start of the holiday season for millions of families. We are thrilled to once again come together as a nation to give this gift of joy and wonder to all,” said Susan Tercero, group vice-president of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She added, “Our incredible team has planned a fantastic spectacle featuring an amazing line-up of giant character balloons, floats of fantasy, the nation’s best marching bands and performance groups, a dazzling array of musical artists, all coming together to herald the arrival of the one-and-only Santa Claus.”

The Macy’s Parade is always a unique multi-level, magical march that provides spectators with different experiences, whether they watch it on television with friends and family or scout the perfect spot on the route to watch it unfold live. To give fans another unique viewing opportunity, Macy’s, along with NBCUniversal and Verizon will once again take viewers closer to the magic via up close and personal views of the event through a 360-degree livestream of the parade on Verizon’s YouTube page. The stream, found at www.youtube.com/verizon, will be synced with the start of the Parade.

Flying Icons

Taking flight on Turkey Day will be the Parade’s signature giant character helium balloons. Since their introduction in 1927, these giants of the sky have featured some of the world’s most beloved characters. This year four giant characters will debut, including Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen,” Illumination presents Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Jett from Super Wings™ and PAW Patrol®.

The balloon line-up will also feature the return of Harold the Baseball Player, a legacy Macy’s character prominently featured in Twentieth Century Fox’s iconic holiday film classic “Miracle on 34th Street.” In celebration of the film’s 70th anniversary, the Harold heritage balloon has been recreated for this year’s Parade, painted in hues of black, white and grey, to look exactly as it did on-screen during a memorable scene in the 1947 film. In addition to Harold, the famed spokesduck, the Aflac Duck, will debut as an all-new balloonicle (a Macy’s Parade innovation of hybrid cold-air balloon and vehicle) and is sure to have fans quacking with joy and laughter down the route.

Returning giant balloon characters include Angry Birds’ Red; Charlie Brown; Diary of a Wimpy Kid®;  Sinclair’s Dino®; the Elf on the Shelf®; Hello Kitty®; Ice Age’s Scrat and His Acorn; Pikachu™; Pillsbury Doughboy™; Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger; Ronald McDonald®; SpongeBob SquarePants; and DreamWorks’ Trolls.

Parade Floats

Floating down the route this Thanksgiving, the Parade’s signature floats transport spectators to worlds of wonder. Designed and created by the incredible artists of Macy’s Parade Studio, which include carpenters, painters, animators, sculptors, metal fabricators, scenic/costume designers and electricians, this year’s line-up of floats sets an unparalleled stage for entertainment. The painstaking process of creating a Macy’s Parade float is both a creative and technical endeavor. Macy’s Parade floats are often three-stories tall and several lanes of traffic wide, but must collapse to no more than 12½-feet tall and 8-feet wide in order to travel safely from the New Jersey home of the Parade Studio, to the Manhattan starting line via the Lincoln Tunnel each Thanksgiving eve. These creations are not only works of art, but also engineering marvels.

This year five new floats will debut including Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s® (Sara Evans), Harvest in the Valley by Green Giant® (Lauren Alaina), Parade Day Mischief by Sour Patch Kids® Candy (Nicky Jam), Shimmer and Shine by Nickelodeon (Jojo Siwa) and Universal Playground by Sprout® (Angelica Hale).

The returning float roster includes 1-2-3 Sesame Street by Sesame Street (Leslie Odom Jr. and the cast and Muppets of “Sesame Street“); The Aloha Spirit by King’s Hawaiian (Goo Goo Dolls), Big Apple by N.Y. Daily News (Bebe Rexha); Big City Cheer! by Spirit of America Productions (Miss America 2018 Cara Mund); Building a Better World by Girl Scouts of the USA (Andra Day and Common); The Colonel’s Road Trip to NYC by Kentucky Fried Chicken (Dustin Lynch); The Cranberry Cooperative by Ocean Spray®; Deck the Halls by Balsam Hill® (Olivia Holt); Discover Adventure! by Build-A-Bear (Sabrina Carpenter); Frozen Fall Fun by Discover®/NHL (Wyclef Jean) and NHL Hockey Hall of Famers Ray Bourque & Bryan Trottier); Fun House by Krazy Glue® (Flo Rida); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel (98 Degrees); It’s All Rock & Roll by Gibson Brands (Jimmy Fallon & The Roots); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism (Smokey Robinson); On The Roll Again by Homewood Suites by Hilton® (Andy Grammer); Santa’s Sleigh; Snoopy’s Doghouse by Peanuts Worldwide; Stirrin’ Up Sweet Sensations by Domino® Sugar (Cam); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Nickelodeon (Kat Graham); and Tom Turkey featuring Bravo’s Top Chef (Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio).

Drum Roll, Please…

Marching bands are a central piece of the Thanksgiving delights, bringing national excitement and hometown pride to the streets of the Big Apple, not to mention the musical beat to the holiday revelry. Twelve performance ensembles will take up the call of the baton and march down the streets of Manhattan. This year’s bands include Colony High School (Palmer, Alaska), Davis High School (Kaysville, Utah), Rosemount High School (Rosemount, Minn.), West Harrison High School (Gulfport, Miss.), Rockford High School (Rockford, Mich.), Ohio University (Athens, Ohio), Nation Ford High School (Fort Mill, S.C.), Trumbull High School (Trumbull, Conn.), Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, Texas), the United States Air Force Band and Honor Guard, Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States) and the NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY).

Specialty Parade entertainment always promises a unique, exciting, and sometimes humorous look at the nation’s finest performance groups. Returning to the line-up this year are the dancers and cheerleaders of Spirit of America Dance Stars and Spirit of America Cheer. These groups combined feature more than 1,000 of the nation’s very best performers recruited from small towns and big cities. Days before Thanksgiving, they will gather for the first time in NYC, ahead of their once-in-a-lifetime national spotlight. Adding to the dance floor revelry will be 34th & Phunk, a special group commissioned and produced by Macy’s with organizers from the United States Tournament of Dance. Choreographed by the legendary artist Willdabeast Adams and acclaimed dancer Janelle Ginestra, 34th & Phunk will be a one-of-a-kind hip-hop dance crew featuring performers of all ages and from all walks of life, who have a passion for dance and precision movement. Bringing a Broadway flair to the spectacle will be the talented kids of Camp Broadway, who this year have auditioned and selected dancers/singers from military bases around the nation, and who will pay tribute to America with their performance. Rounding out the performance group list are the zany Red Hot Mamas (Post Falls, Idaho) who will deliver their signature humorous take on the holiday season, along with the whimsical stars of the Big Apple Circus (New York, NY).

Interactive Fun

This year the magic of Macy’s iconic balloons and Parade artistry will head south for the winter to give fans an up close and personal experience for the holidays. Starting on Saturday, Nov. 18, Universal Orlando Resort’s destination-wide Holidays celebration begins, featuring the all-new “Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s.” This one-of-a-kind experience is where merry and mayhem mesh to create a fantastic treat for park guests that features more than 15 incredibly detailed floats, colorful stilt-walkers and characters, and a specially created cast of all new Macy’s balloons that you can’t see anywhere else. Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s will run daily from Nov. 18 through Jan. 6.

The 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin at 9 a.m. from 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will march to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South and march down 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas. At 34th Street, the Parade will make its final turn west and end at 7th Avenue in front of Macy’s Herald Square. “A Holiday Treat for Children Everywhere” has been the guiding motto of this annual tradition for more than nine decades and is the mandate that continues to this day.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast is produced by the Emmy Award-winning Brad Lachman Productions. Brad Lachman serves as executive producer, Bill Bracken will co-executive produce and Ryan Polito directs.

For more information on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,  visit www.macys.com/parade  or call the Parade hotline at 212-494-4495. Follow @macys on various social networks and join the conversation using #MacysParade.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

‘Fool The Eye’ at Nassau County Museum of Art Explores Artists’ Techniques of Illusion

Marc Sijan’s Security Guard watches over “Fool the Eye” exhibition on view at the Nassau County Museum of Art 24/7 with no complaint © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

You walk into the Nassau County Museum of Art, housed in the stunning mansion built for Childs Frick in 1919, the scion of Henry Clay Frick, and are confronted by a guard, hands crossed in front of his chest. You do a double-take – it takes a bit of questioning in your own mind what you are seeing to realize the guy isn’t moving, isn’t even breathing. In fact, it is a sculpture, so realistic you have to double-check your brain. This is just the first of an entire exhibition devoted to art that literally “fools the eye.”

One could argue that all art fools the eye – you are, after all, taking a living, changing, three-dimensional (even four-dimensional) subject and using manufactured materials and constructions converting it to two- or three-dimensions, in an assimilation or approximation of what is lives in a moment in time.

But these artists, gathered together in the “Fool the Eye” exhibit now on view at NCMA, employ fascinating techniques that keep you guessing as you walk from gallery to gallery: Is it a flat surface or a sculpture? Is it a photograph or a painting? Is it made of wood or bronze, rubber or steel? Is it real or faux?  The works on view date back to 1870 (“A Canvas Back” by William Davis), to as recently as a weeks ago (Ben Schonzeit’s “The Fantasticks”) showing that these artistic devices of fooling the eye are well entrenched in artists’ palette.

David Mach’s “Blue Weave” at the Nassau County Museum of Art © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You see a re-creation of a portion of the famous Van Gogh self-portrait with all the vibrant color and exciting brushstrokes, only to realize that David Mach created “Blue Weave” (2013) as a postcard collage out of individual strips. Similarly, a vibrant, richly textured portrait, “Blue Hair” by Federico Uribe (2014) is a collage made entirely of small colored pencils, and Chuck Close’s “Self Portrait” (2004) is actually a woodcut in 19 colors.

Sharon Moody’s “Drowning Girl Secret Hearts Vol. 1, No. 83.” Is it a comic book, or a painting? © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You see a famous photo of Marilyn Monroe taped to a board, and realize that except for the tape, the entire piece is a painting (“Gold Marilyn” by Otto Duecker); similarly, Dueker has made such a painting of a Frank Sinatra “photo.” “Drowning Girl Secret Hearts Vol. 1, No. 83,” is Sharon Moody’s oil painting that you are convinced is an actual comic book appended to a board. Then there are the hypnotic geometric abstractions, like Victor Vasarelly’s “TITOK-L” (1972).

Otto Duecker’s”Frank Sinatra” (2011), oil on board, courtesy of Arthur and Arlene Levine at the Nassau County Museum of Art © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Fool the Eye, on view at Nassau County Museum of Art’s Saltzman Fine Arts Building through March 4, 2018, challenges you to experience the wonder of masterful artistic techniques. This exhibition includes examples of traditional trompe l’oeil (meticulously painted, hyper-real images) and a wide range of other approaches to illusion. See larger-than-life oversized objects, hypnotic geometric abstractions, sculptures made of unexpected materials, images with mind-bending impossibilities and fine art so seemingly realistic, they are (nearly) indistinguishable from real things. The magic will provoke debates in every gallery about reality and deception.

There is the shocking sense that a work of art is “following you” – changing as you move slightly and change your angle of view. Disorienting. Jarring. Creepy even. That’s the case with Patrick Hughes’ “Living Library” (2017), and two stacked Brillo boxes, Patrick Hughes’ oil on board construction homage to Andy Warhol, “Warholly,” 2008). Most of the time, though, you come away with a sense of amusement, realizing you’ve been played.

Brillo boxes, Patrick Hughes’ oil on board construction homage to Andy Warhol, “Warholly,” 2008, seems to follow you as you move © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Artists throughout the ages have been intrigued by perceptual illusions, devising visual tricks to manipulate the perception of space, incorporating spatial illusion as an aspect of their art. Featured in this exhibition are 20th- and 21st-century artists whose work has explored illusion, including Salvador Dali, Janet Fish, Audrey Flack, Jasper Johns, Judith Leiber, Roy Lichtenstein, Vik Muniz, Ben Schoenzeit, and Victor Vasarely.

NCMA Trustee Harvey Manes with Victor Vasarelly’s TITOK-L (1972), one of five paintings from his collection on loan for “Fool the Eye.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Fool the Eye” is guest-curated by Franklin Hill Perrell with Debbie Wells whose previous collaborations for the Museum have included Feast for the Eyes (July 2016), The Moderns: Long Island Collects (July 2015) and Garden Party (March 2014).

‘Fool the Eye’ Curator Franklin Hill Perrell, NCMA President Angela Susan Anton and Director Charles A. Riley II at the opening reception © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“This show is the work of a superstar curator,” Charles A. Riley II, NCMA’s Director, said. “One thing that brings it all together: when an artist guides you in how to see… How artists create the illusion of life. Is it real or isn’t it? Is it or isn’t it? That question prevails through the whole show…There is a vitality.”

“Fool the Eye” curator Franklin Hill Perrell © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“All the art has to come from some place, someone has to arrange,” Perrell tells the gathering at the opening reception on November 17. “No other museum scurries around country convincing people to give up things they don’t want to give up- then have to get it here.”

Perrell rattles off a long list of nearly 60 galleries and private collections where the works have come, including NCMA trustee Dr. Harvey Manes who loaned five works including two Salvador Dalis and a Roy Lichtenstein.

One of the works – Ben Schoenzeit’s “The Fantasticks” – was painted specifically for the show, as I learn (one of the best things about an opening reception is that some of the artists show up).

“I was just finishing a piece when Franklin came to my studio in Soho and wanted a painting not yet finished,” says Schoenzeit, who has been featured often at NCMA. “I didn’t know how to finish it. I knew [the show’s theme] was tromp d’oeil, so I painted this with this show in mind.”

He says it took a month to make “The Fantasticks” (in between other projects), which is based on a collage.

Artist Ben Schonzeit painted “The Fantasticks” expressly for the “Fool the Eye” show at the Nassau County Museum of Art © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“It’s funny – it came out funny,” he says, using the word “they” to describe his paintings. “They surprise me…I don’t have a finished concept when I start. They tell me. These things come to me.”

How do you know when it’s done? “When it walks away. When I have nothing more to say. When adding more makes it worse, or the idea you add doesn’t fit,” Schoenzeit says.

He steps back from the over-sized canvas. “I like to see it out of the studio, how it feels in real world, rather than in the chaos of my loft.”

Why “The Fantasticks?” “This was a long-running show in Greenwich Village [which he saw more than 30 years ago]. At the end, they threw colored tissue paper squares into the audience. I picked [some] up and put them in a collage. The paper is the envelope that I wrote ‘The Fantasticks’ on: There are other references in the painting (acrylic on linen): a stage, curtain.

Chuck Close’s “Self Portrait” (2004) © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Detail from Chuck Close’s “John” © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Programs that NCMA is offering the public in conjunction with Fool the Eye include: Paper Medium Rare: All Things Paper, a film that is screening daily; Fool the Eye Meets Fool the Palate, a December 10 talk by guest curator Franklin Hill Perrell; Brown Bag Lectures presented by Museum Docent Riva Ettus on December 14, January 4 and February 1; Sketching in the Galleries with Glenna Kubit on December 19, January 9 and February 6; and artist Dale Zinkowski in the galleries on March 4 to meet with visitors and answer questions about his work. Docent-led tours of the exhibition are offered every day at 2 p.m. Call 516-484-9338 for current exhibitions, events, days/times and directions or log to nassaumuseum.org/events for details and registration.

“Fool the Eye” exhibit also marks the first in the museum under the helm of its new director Charles A. Riley II.

Daniel Sprick, “Souls in Purgatory.” Is it a photograph or a painting? You have to really look to see © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dr. Riley’s long association with Nassau County Museum of Art includes having served as curator-at-large and popular presenter of many lectures offered for many exhibitions. He helped curate the Museum’s Picasso, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionist exhibitions and recently curated the permanent installation of Western art at a major new private museum in Taiwan as well as several exhibitions in Berlin, Amsterdam, Lausanne, Manhattan and Long Island’s East End.

NCMA’s new Director, Charles A. Riley’ s Free as Gods: How the Jazz Age Reinvented Modernism, will provide the basis for the museum’s next exhibit. © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dr. Riley is a prolific arts journalist, reviewer and essayist and a celebrated public speaker. His 32 books on art, business and public policy include the recently published Free as Gods: How the Jazz Age Reinvented ModernismThe Jazz Age in FranceThe Art of Peter MaxArt at Lincoln Center, The Arts and the World EconomyColor Codes, and The Saints of Modern Art. Dr. Riley’s next book, a study of Rodin in Chinese and English, will be published by the Chimei Museum in fall 2017.

The next exhibit to open is “The Jazz Age: Picasso, Matisse, Chanel, Gerwin, Joyce, Fitzgerald and Hemingway” (March 17-July 8, 2018), based on Riley’s book, “Free as Gods.” 

An Art Destination

The Nassau County Museum of Art is an entire art destination:

Sculpture Park has some 30 works, many of them monumental in size, by renowned artists including Fernando Botero, Tom Otterness, George Rickey and Mark DiSuvero among others, are situated to interact with nature on the museum’s magnificent 145-acre property.

Walking Trails: The museum’s 145 acres include many marked nature trails through the woods, perfect for family hikes or independent exploration.

Gardens: From restored formal gardens of historic importance to quiet little nooks for dreaming away an afternoon, the museum’s 145 acre property features many lush examples of horticultural arts. Come view our expanded gardens and beautiful new path to the museum.

Nassau County Museum of Art, consisting of the Arnold & Joan Saltzman Fine Art Building and The Manes Family Art & Education Center, is located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor, just off Northern Boulevard, Route 25A, two traffic lights west of Glen Cove Road. The Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and above) and $4 for students and children (4 to12). Admission to the Saltzman Fine Art Building includes admission to The Manes Family Art & Education Center. Members are admitted free. Docent-led tours of the Saltzman Building exhibitions are offered at 2 p.m. each day; tours of the mansion are offered each Saturday at 1 p.m.; meet in the lobby, no reservations needed. Tours are free with museum admission. Call (516) 484-9338, ext. 12 to inquire about group tours. The Museum Store is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call (516) 484-9338 for current exhibitions, events, days/times and directions or log onto nassaumuseum.org. Call (516) 626-5280 to reach The Manes Center directly.

(Artists and art-goers would also do well to visit the new exhibition, “Our Senses: “An Immersive Experience” now on view at the American Museum of Natural History to better understand the physical, cognitive and emotional underpinnings to achieve such illusions; visit amnh.org. See: American Museum of Natural History Creates Immersive Experience for Understanding ‘Our Senses’)

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures