Tea Party on Parade!

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The 2018 Chestertown Tea Party Grand Marshall Kate Livie      Photo by Peter Heck

We all know about the famous Boston Tea Party where the colonial patriots in 1773 threw a shipload of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the British crown’s tax on tea.  But not as many have heard about the similar action claimed to have occurred on the Chester River in Chestertown the next year in response to the call from Massachusettes and other colonies to boycott British tea.

Perhaps you had not heard about it because it didn’t happen!  Or maybe it did. … History is silent on the matter. No contemporaneous records have been found reporting that local residents –in broad daylight and not disguised as Indians as the Boston protesters were–boarded the British ship Geddes and tossed the chests of tea into the river. Still, stories have been whispered down the years and local children have been taught the story in school for decades. We do know for certain that the then Kent County residents thought about it, talked about it, and did pass the official Chestertown Resolves calling on citizens to buy no tea.  Their sentiments were clear. No Tea!  No Tax without Representation! And then in celebration and remembrance, the first Chestertown Tea Party Festival was held 43 years ago.

The 2018 Tea Party this past Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27, was a huge success with the largest crowds in several years. While there was no official estimate, Tom Yeager, the MC for this and most recent years, said that the crowd was at least twice as large as last year. Attendance during part of the last decade had been curtailed variously by rain, the recession, and $4 a gallon gas, but in recent years the festival was clearly growing.  Crowds are always in the thousands, with estimates for many past years running between 5,000 and 10,000.

The weather was perfect–if a bit hot–with no rain on Friday or Saturday.  And the rain politely held off until after the 2:30 p.m. raft race on Sunday.

The parade route down High Street was crowded.  The big draw was the horses, sturdy Clydesdales straight from Budweiser along with the Light Dragoon horses and more.  There were bands galore, high school bands from Kent County, Queen Ann, and Largo–even the Centreville Middle School band was there.  In addition, there were several groups in colonial garb playing revolutionary tunes on musical instruments of the era.  The Chestertown Ukelele Club dressed in trendy “colonial Hawaiian” style with flower leis around their necks and tri-corn hats–adorned with more flowers–on their heads. The bagpipers wore kilts.  Parade winners are listed at the end of the photo gallery.

Budweiser Clydesdales      Photo by Jim Block

American Revolutionary War re-enactors shooting genuine black powder muskets as used by the British army. Photo by Jim Block

A traditional Fire House Dalmatian dog      Photo by Jim Block

The Largo High School Band with it’s energetic and high-stepping dance team won first place in the band competition.      Photo by Peter Heck

“The Brigade of Blue” – Kent County High School Marching Band.      Photo by Jim Block

Kent County High School Band      Photo by Peter Heck

Queen Anne’s County High School Band – Pride of the Eastern Shore

Chestertown Ukelele Club in Leis and tri-corn hats      Photo by Peter Heck

John Lawrence times three! Three generations of John Lawrences — grandfather, father, and baby age 5 months – all named John Lawrence     Photo by Jane Jewell

Meet and Greet with the Clydesdale      Photo by Jane Jewell

Tea Party Parade winners 2018:

Riding/walking unit: 1st – Budweiser Clydesdales    2nd – Rough Riders

Band: 1st – Largo High School   2nd – Queen Anne’s County High School   3rd – Kent County High School

Marching Unit: 1st – First Delaware Regiment   2nd – First Regiment Light Dragoons   3rd – Maryland Loyalists

Float: 1st – Kent School     2nd – Chester River Association

Mayor’s Cup: Budweiser Clydesdales

The “tail end” of the parade. Note how the horses’ tails are carefully braided and tidily pinned up with a bow.     Photo by Jim Block

2018 was the 43rd annual Tea Party Festival in Chestertown.  Plans now begin for the 44th  Chestertown Tea Party Festivalto be held over Memorial Day weekend 2019!  Hope to see you there!

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