August 13, 2013

Editorial: Changes ahead for commemoration


---- — Committees have been working for months to plan this year’s Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration. And we’re pleased to hear that a spinoff group is already forming to figure out how to reshape the popular event after the bicentennial year of 2014.

The Battle of Plattsburgh has grown from a small re-enactment on a hillside to what has sometimes been a 10-day event. This year, it will cost $90,000. That money doesn’t come from taxpayers; it is raised in sponsorships by the ever-energetic volunteers who organize the celebration.

The commemoration is a massive undertaking; volunteers start work on the next year’s celebration right after the current one has concluded. And the 2014 celebration has to be the best ever, coming, as it does, on the 200th anniversary of the namesake battle.

Christopher “Kit” Booth and Gary Vancour, leading founders of the commemoration, have said they will be departing as organizers after next year. That, of course, will be a huge loss, as their vision, guidance and hard work have played a major role in shaping this crowd-pleasing commemoration.

Booth tells the Press-Republican that the event has probably grown to be too long and expensive, and that it will likely be reconfigured after next year.

It certainly can be tightened up to fewer than 10 days and still maintain its rustic charm and underlying educational theme. We encourage organizers to concentrate on expanding the re-enactment portion of the event and maintaining the hugely popular parade as they rework the commemoration.

The parade is, without question, the best in the North Country, as far as music is concerned. While most groups are unable to afford more than one or two bands, this celebration is a virtual concert in motion, with performances by Her Majesty’s Royal Marine Band, Cobourg Legion Pipes and Drums, Police Pipes and Drums of Plattsburgh, Spirit of Scotland Pipes and Drums, Sailing Masters Fife and Drum Corps, U.S. Navy Band Northeast, Norwood Firemen’s Band and RCMP Pipes and Drums.

This year, the parade will be held Sept. 14, with the theme “The Canadian Connection.” More than 90 units are already signed on.

The Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration has always had an aura of sophistication, likely because of its history component, which lends itself to lectures, learning sites such as re-enactor camps and music that appeals to older citizens as well as young. People who wouldn’t feel comfortable mixing with the masses at the city’s Fourth of July fireworks will venture downtown for the battle festivities.

That equates to marketing opportunities targeting the most coveted tourists and locals: those willing to spend money. Plattsburgh merchants would be wise to gear events, specials and sales toward this crowd.

The many people who have worked to make the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration a landmark event for this area deserve our appreciation and praise. We are certain the organizers who carry on after 2014 will maintain its high quality.