The volunteers who plan the annual Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration have put on another amazing celebration. But unless younger volunteers step up, the popular event could end after 2014.
That year will mark the 200th anniversary of the battle, and longtime committee participants, including founding members Christopher “Kit” and Sally Booth, have promised to stay on to see the celebration through that date.
The Booths and a few others have been in on the planning since 1997 and have helped guide it through an impressive growth period. What started as a modest weekend commemoration has turned into a week-long tribute to this area’s history and a robust, family-friendly festival that draws thousands of people.
However, after 16 years, Kit Booth said, some of the stalwarts are “getting weary of the repeated year-round load and would like to have time for other things. I polled the committee a few weeks ago, and the general opinion was that we would pass the torch after the 200th anniversary.”
About 20 people put in time all year long planning the commemoration, with another dozen or so getting involved around May and continuing through the highlight weekend. Up to 600 volunteers turn out on battle weekend to make the whole plan work, this year guided by volunteer coordinator Diane Kwarta.
Perhaps some of the people who lend a hand in the latter part of the planning process would consider extending their efforts to 12 months. We understand it is a big commitment, but having volunteers take part reduces expenses, making the event affordable.
Years ago, the City of Plattsburgh backed off its financing of the Mayor’s Cup Festival, trying to bring in more corporate sponsors, as a way to reduce the burden on taxpayers. Partly due to that, the event dwindled from a week-long celebration to one day. It would be a shame to see that happen with the Battle of Plattsburgh. The city should certainly do all it can to see it continue, since the September celebration now outshines Mayor’s Cup, in many aspects, as a tourist draw. Maybe that means assigning city staff to helping with Battle of Plattsburgh planning.
The North Country Chamber of Commerce has designated history tourism as one of the areas of focus for the future, so that organization should encourage members to get involved in the Battle of Plattsburgh strategy sessions, as well.
Volunteering as a planner is not as imposing as it may seem. With the Booths, co-Chair Gary VanCour and other key people still at the helm for two more years, now is the time for a younger generation to learn the ropes.
This effort is all about teamwork, so you needn’t be intimidated by the scope of the event. Each volunteer has specific assignments, and the group works together to make the commemoration happen.
It’s a great way to make your own contribution to the community’s history.