“In response to British Parliament’s closing the port of Boston, the citizens of Chestertown met in May 1774 and set forth Resolves forbidding imports, selling, or consuming of tea in Chestertown. According to local legend, residents then gathered at the town center, marched down High street to the brigantine Geddes which was anchored in the Chester River, and tossed their cargo of tea overboard.”
—The Chestertown Tea Party Foundation
Grab your tricorn hat. Excitement and the sounds of fifes and drums are in the air as the 43rd annual Chestertown Tea Party Festival takes place this weekend on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Friday’s festivities kick off with an event with the author of Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, a footrace for children (up to age 11), and a Tea Party Street Party with food trucks and live music.
Saturday, the Tea Party Distance Classic (aka Run for Radcliffe) starts in Wilmer Park at 8 a.m. then catch the Colonial Parade along High Street at 10 a.m. (*Tea Party Pro Tip: Street parking is very limited. Use the free parking shuttle that runs continuously around town Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Visitors young and old will enjoy the strolling musicians, an 18th-century dancing demonstration, Levram the Great magician, portrayals of Phyliss Wheatley and Benjamin Banneker, rousing sea shanties, the African American History Walking Tour, a concert by the USNA Country Current band and the reenactors demonstrating the dress, weapons and tactics of Revolutionary War soldiers.
As you wind your way to Heritage Village on the lawn in front of the Kent County Courthouse, be sure to visit the 25 local food vendors, and 150 artisan booths at this year’s festival.
At the Courthouse Lawn Children’s Corner find activities such as face painting, KidSPOT crafts, puppet shows, and Miss Jackie the storyteller.
America’s original pastime comes to the Tea Party this year when a cricket demonstration takes place in the Water Street garden of the president of Washington College.
At 2 p.m., head to the reenactors encampment by the Chester River at the end of High Street. There local protesters stand aloft a platform, loudly proclaiming the words of the Chestertown Resolves (basically a list of grievances drafted by the local Sons of Liberty stating it was unlawful to buy, sell, or drink tea shipped from England.) Then they head to the ship Geddes and dump tea into the harbor. Chestertown’s famous Sultana schooner stands in for the brigantine Geddes.
Sunday’s events include a beer festival and a homemade raft race (former winners include a giraffe raft and a Volkswagen Beetle). Best viewed from Wilmer Park, find your spot early before the race begins at 2:30. Awards are given in a variety of colorful categories, such as the Fabulous Flotsam Award which is presented to the raft more likely to cause a spectacle than win the race, whereas the Flop Award goes to the most impressive failure.
Next year the Chestertown Tea Party celebrates its 250th anniversary. A spectacle awaits with surprises to be revealed throughout the year through partnerships with The Garfield Center for the Arts, Sumner Hall, and Washington College.