The 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River and Frenchman Samuel de Champlain’s explorations of the river and lakes will be celebrated in 2009 from New York City to Quebec.
Communities up and down the Hudson, including many in Schenectady, Albany, and Saratoga counties, have special commemorative programs planned throughout the year.
One of the first is to occur at 7 p.m. Friday in Clifton Park’s Grooms Tavern. Town Historian John Scherer and featured speaker Brian Buff will provide a historical perspective on early commemorative celebrations held by communities in the 19th century and early 20th century to celebrate such important anniversaries.
Buff, former director of the Albany County Historical Society, has done extensive research on early forms of historical celebrations in New York state.
A major statewide celebration of Henry Hudson’s historic exploration of the Hudson River in 1609 will be held in June, said Tara Sullivan, executive director of New York state’s Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration.
Robert Fulton’s name is part of the celebration because 2009 is the 200th anniversary of his first voyage up the Hudson River in a steamboat. Fulton introduced steam power to river navigation.
“River Day is the only linear event that connects all the celebrating communities,” Sullivan said. A flotilla of ships and boats will start from New York harbor on June 5 and reach Albany by June 13, where a daylong celebration will be held.
The river day will feature a Relay Flotilla, including such replica ships as Hudson’s Half Moon, the ship Onrust, which has been under construction in Schenectady County for the past two years, and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, plus dozens of other vessels of all shapes and sizes, Sullivan said.
The Onrust, being built by volunteers at the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction, is an exact replica of the first sailing vessel built in the New World. It should be finished in time for the celebrations. Dutch ship builders constructed the first Onrust in Manhattan.
Four hundred years ago, Henry Hudson and a crew of just 20 sailed the Half Moon, flying the Dutch East India Co. colors, to North America, eventually making their way up what is now known as the Hudson River.
Hudson was hired by the Dutch East India Co. to find a northwestern, all-water route to Asia.
Instead, Hudson claimed what are now Manhattan and Albany, and much of the land up and down the Hudson, for the Dutch.
The city of Schenectady, even though its not on the Hudson River, will commemorate the quadricentennial because of its significant early Dutch heritage, Sullivan said.
Schenectady city officials are currently reviewing applications from a number of nonprofit organizations seeking a piece of a $45,000 grant from the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission.
Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton said the city qualified for the grant because of its Dutch heritage. The average award will be in the $1,000 to $10,000 range and will go to organizations proposing celebrations and historical programs connected with the city’s Dutch heritage.
“I’m just one of hundreds of people working on commemorative events,” Sullivan said.
She said schools, libraries and cultural institutions are planning events to commemorate the quadricentennial in New York, Vermont and Canada.
Samuel de Champlain was the first European to sail up what is now the Champlain River and the first European to map Lake Champlain.
Sean Kelleher, the Saratoga town historian, said he is heading up a town committee that is planning some special commemorative events that will be held during the town’s annual history week and events hosted by the Old Saratoga Historical Society.
“Our community was never visited by Champlain or Hudson,” Kelleher said.
However, he said French Jesuit Isaac Jogues, who was martyred and later canonized, may have been the first European to visit what is now Schuylerville and the town of Saratoga. There was also a Swiss botanist named Petr Kalm who came through the upper Hudson area in the 1600s, he said.
Kelleher said a group of kayakers traveling the Lake Champlain-Hudson River corridor this summer will also be marking the quadricentennial by camping in Fort Hardy Park on the Hudson on July 4.
New York’s first lady, Michelle Paige Paterson, is the honorary chairwoman of the statewide festivities.
She kicked off the yearlong celebration by cutting the ribbon at the New York National Boat Show in Manhattan in mid-December, Sullivan said.
A section of the Onrust was displayed at the show.
Gov. David Paterson and the state Legislature devoted more than $12 million in the 2008-09 state budget for the quadricentennial. This money has been distributed to communities up and down the Hudson to assist in commemorative events.