Lafayette’s Birthday Bash

August 29, 2017

lafayette celebrationIf you have seen or even heard the buzz around Broadway’s popular musical Hamilton, you might already know a thing or two about “America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman,” the Marquis de Lafayette. Fayetteville was the first U.S. city named for this French Revolutionary War hero, and it also holds the distinction of being the only namesake city Lafayette visited. When our fair townspeople welcomed this hero in 1825, we treated him like a celebrity and threw him quite the party. Fayetteville continues this tradition by hosting “North Carolina’s Official Lafayette Birthday Celebration” every year. On September 8th and 9th, we will celebrate Lafayette’s 260th birthday with a big bash. Here’s how visitors to the area may join the locals in all the revelry.

lafayetteStart the weekend’s festivities off Friday evening at Methodist University’s Davis Memorial Library with Arias and Artifacts. The program begins with a catered reception of French-themed foods, followed by a presentation on MU’s “Lafayette Collection”—an array of artifacts that tells the story of the Frenchman’s famous visit. Afterward, folks may attend the arias segment of the program at MU’s Hensdale Chapel to enjoy a concert of musical selections by French composers. (5:30 p.m., Artifacts reservations recommended, Arias tickets required*)

Follow in Lafayette’s footsteps on the Lafayette Trail Tour. The Saturday morning expedition will begin with coffee and croissants at the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry (F.I.L.I.) Museum, where guests can see Lafayette’s carriage and learn about his connection to F.I.L.I. (the oldest militia unit in continuous existence in the South). Commander Bruce Daws of the F.I.L.I. will then escort the group on a tour of several sites visited by the Marquis. A catered lunch at a surprise historic site will wrap up the morning. (8:30 a.m., tickets required*)

lafayetteJoin one of the Historic Tours by Horse and Carriage for a 45-minute overview of Fayetteville’s Revolutionary War history. This specialty tour will take attendees by horse and carriage to several sites of interest. One of the planned stops is Cool Springs Tavern, where docent Lulie Harry will share some of the fascinating history behind her family’s home and what is believed to be Fayetteville’s oldest existing structure. (10 a.m. – 1 p.m., tickets required*)

Head to the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex’s Arsenal Park for Festival of Yesteryear. Dressed up in period costumes, the Camp Flintlock and North Carolina Highland Regiment living history groups will be demonstrating aspects of daily life in the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods. You will not want to miss performances by the Tryon Palace Fife and Drum Corp, as well as Life as Art Productions’ “African Spirituals: Freedom Prayers.” Purchase food from onsite food trucks, such as local favorites The Blind Pig and R Burger. Then celebrate Lafayette’s birthday with a cake and ice cream party. (10 a.m. – 5 p.m., free)

Visit Fayetteville’s only National Historic Marker, the Market House, to view the Lafayette in Fayetteville exhibit. On the second floor, you will find a display that shows the ways Fayetteville has been celebrating the Marquis ever since his visit. (10 a.m. – 4 p.m., free)

lafayetteLook for all the French flags around Cool Spring Downtown District to know where to shop during the Lafayette Birthday Sidewalk Sale. Many downtown merchants will be offering discounts and deals on their sidewalks and in their stores just for this special occasion. (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.)

Stop in to City Center Gallery & Books for a presentation on The Lafayette Escadrille in World War I.” U.S. Army Veteran Mike Ariano will discuss the fascinating history of the American airmen who served in the Lafayette Escadrille, the airmen who patrolled the skies in France’s fight against Germany pre-WWI. (7 p.m., free)

Top off the birthday bash at a French Wine Tasting in The Wine Café. Owner Angie Malave will host the free wine tasting, with a guest expert discussing the characteristics of French regional wines. (6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., free)

For details on all the other events going on in Cumberland County over this same weekend, refer to the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Calendar of Events. If you are interested in exploring Fayetteville’s French connections on your own, we recommend checking out the Lafayette Trail, a 6-mile driving trail that includes several sites of interest pertaining to the Frenchman’s historic trip to Fayetteville. In addition, the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum is yet another local attraction well worth exploring that houses an exhibit of artifacts from Lafayette’s visit.

*To make reservations or purchase tickets for select events, call 910-678-8899.

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