River Dad, How I Spent My Summer Quadricentennial

This summer, we in the Rivertowns are celebrating the Quadricentennial Anniversary of One Man’s Voyage up a River While Searching for a Way to China. It’s been made out to be a big deal, and I was curious to know what all the fuss was about.

So after a thorough check of The River Journal’s online calendar of events (http://www.riverjournalonline/eventscal.php), my family and I made our plans for the official “Quadricentennial Weekend” of June 6th and 7th.

Our celebration began on Saturday with a trip to Pierson Park to enjoy River Day. Sadly, we arrived too late to view the flotilla of ships sailing past but that didn’t put a damper on the event. I ran into a fellow stay-at-home father I know (we’re like a club, complete with secret handshake) and we all stood around, fenced in like refugees, staring through the chain-link fence at the river. I was waiting for either a majestic ship to sail into the harbor, or my freedom. A biplane circled out over the river, buzzing us into mild hysterics and setting up for a strafing run that thankfully never occurred. Eventually, some park-goers could stand it no longer, and wave after wave of the oppressed ducked through a hole in the fence to illegally make their way to the water, where I can only presume they dove in and swam for the promised land of Irvington.

I wasn’t sure how trespassing would affect my future political career, so we walked around the Senior Center, stopping only long enough for the, in retrospect, less-than-brilliant idea of getting ice cream for our children at 5:30 in the evening. The ensuing sugar jack kicked in five minutes later as we reached the edge of the lawn, another chain-link fence, a better vantage point from which to view the new arrival, and, surprisingly enough, our next door neighbors! We all had a fine time while our three-year old son, with a chocolate goatee, flirted with our neighbor’s twenty-one-year old daughter, home from college for the summer. Guess who has a new favorite babysitter for the summer? Unfortunately, we had to return home long before dusk, so we were unable to see the fireworks. However, we heard them quite well from the comfort of home — no matter how tightly we closed the windows or how high we turned up the volume on the TV. They sounded impressive.

We began day two of our Weekend Extravaganza by meeting up with some friends at the Hudson River Fest. This was an all day affair on the majestic grounds of Lyndhurst Castle. The event featured live music, demonstrations, speakers, crafts, food, and…The Quest. The Quest was a brilliantly designed journey for kids across the grounds, taking them to various displays and tables, each offering an exploration of something that in some way or another they were able to tie into Henry Hudson. During the fun, we even ran into an old classmate of my daughter’s (can someone explain to me how a six-year old can have ‘old classmates’?) and her mother, allowing us to catch up.

After lunch, we walked over to the Tarrytown Street Fair. This was Rivertown community at its finest. Tents lined the crowded street, hawking everything from fake kitties in a basket to air-brush tattoos. My wife ran into a "train friend" from her Metro-North commute while shopping for tie-dye dresses for our daughter. For my part, I was drawn to the Fire Station dunk tank. Sitting patiently in the tank was a lovely Fire Fighter, hoping my aim was less than true. Lucky for her, I threw my first ball right over the screen. Fire Fighters scrambled out of sight to make sure my futility hadn’t damaged any important equipment and my face turned deep, deep red. Finally, they gave me my second ball.

Strike! Dunk! Redemption! I didn’t even need the third ball.

We celebrated my athletic prowess with another ice cream, this time securing a coveted sidewalk table at Main Street Sweets. Even off the street, this was the place to be. Holding court in front of the store, ice cream melting in the sun, we ran into two separate families we know through our social butterfly of a daughter, as well as the director of our son’s school. Stories were shared, loose teeth compared, booths recommended, my dunking tale cemented into oral history. Eventually, it was time to walk home and say goodbye to our Quadricentennial Weekend.

Looking back, I wonder what Henry Hudson would have thought of all the hoopla surrounding what was, for him, a failed mission. Would he have been touched by the tribute? Would the flotilla of sailing vessels have inspired him? Would he have been moved by the musical stylings of the Irvington High School Jazz Band playing "Let It Be" across the Lyndhurst lawn?

Personally, I don’t think it matters. Months from now, I won’t remember any of the individual booths or exhibits (well, apart from the dunk tank). What I will remember is that at each event, everywhere we went, we ran into friends. We are part of a community, and this event brought that community together. Henry Hudson may not have found China but, thanks to his poor navigation, 400 years later a vibrant community calls the Rivertowns home.

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About the Author: David Neilsen