July Fourth is a particularly special day at the home of America's first Commander-in-Chief. Having suffered through the bone-chilling cold of Valley Forge and the long march to Yorktown, Independence Day to America's first elected leader was far more than flag waving and parades.
It was the beginning of the grand experiment, which remains a work in progress.
To mark the occasion the annual "Red, White and Blue Concert" will fill the air on the Mount Vernon's Bowling Green this Independence Day. This patriotic musical performance will feature the "Concert Band of America," an 80-member contingent of retired musicians from each of the United States Armed Forces bands. They will perform patriotic favorites and American standards, according to Melissa Wood, media relations, Mount Vernon Estate.
"The day will feature musical performances, a special wreath laying ceremony, free birthday cake for all, while it lasts, and a visit by General George Washington himself," she said.
Beginning at 12:15 p.m., re-enactors from the Fife and Drums of Prince William III, Maryland Militia, Virginia Regiment, and First Regiment of North Carolina will assemble for demonstrations on the Bowling Green, directly in front of the Mansion. That will be followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence by George Washington, portrayed by William Summerfield, and a cannon volley.
PRIOR TO THOSE ceremonies, visitors are encouraged to join the George Washington Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, and the three military re-enactment units, on a procession to Washington's Tomb at approximately 10 a.m. where a member of the SAR will place a memorial wreath and lead visitors in the Pledge of Allegiance. This marks the 45th anniversary of the SAR chapter's participation in this July Fourth celebration.
July has always been a time of celebration at Washington's farm, marking the beginning of the wheat harvest season, according to Wood. To celebrate Washington the farmer, field hands will kick off the season on Independence Day with wheat-treading demonstrations at the Pioneer Farm site.
Costumed staff will lead Mount Vernon's horses as they tread wheat in the 16-sided barn at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. This is an actual demonstration of entrepreneurial Washington's innovative treading process to separate grain from straw.
Another innovation of the General was his Gristmill, located three miles from the Estate on Route 235. From July 1 to 4, for an extra $1 fee, visitors can observe the 18th century water-powered mill in operation as it was in Washington's day.
This mill, which was a new creation in its time, played an important role in Washington's vision for America's future. Early American millers reveal Washington's approach to farming as they grind wheat into flour as it was done 200 years ago.
Cornmeal, ground and bagged, is available for sale at the Gristmill Shop. Tickets for a Gristmill visit, open daily though October from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., can be purchased at Mount Vernon's main gate.
All events for this Red, White and Blue celebration at the Estate are included in the regular admission fee: Adults, $13; Children six to 11, $6; and children under age five, free, when accompanied by an adult. The Estate will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 4.