Champlain Quadricentennial celebrates 400 years

CHAMPLAIN In 1609, Samuel de Champlain came upon what is now Lake Champlain. Today, people are working to make next years 400th anniversary celebration of his discovery one to remember. An event being referred to as the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial has been in the works since 2002. [Former Gov. George Pataki] created a commission of 21 people, explained Celine Racine Paquette, commission vice chairperson. We had a lot of meetings, but it took a lot to get traction. Pete Grannis, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and Carol Ash, commissioner of state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation got together to really get the quadricentennial off the ground, Paquette explained. In the North Country, Paquette said it was necessary to get some events prepared as well. I formed a Lake Champlain committee of Clinton, Essex and Washington counties, Paquette explained. We met quite regularly at first and then got some events down and we were trying to pool our resources and pool events. Some events in the works for the Champlain area include a rededication of the Samuel de Champlain monument located at St. Marys Church. Paquette also learned of a man who was from Champlain and was on the commission for the 1909 tricentennial, responsible for erecting the monument. Wed like to go to his grave and probably put a wreath [on it] and his stone needs to be cleaned up, said Paquette. Paquette said shed also like to get a public works art project off the ground, which will be titled Champy, although she admitted it would be expensive to launch. Its kind of a display that would be a fun thing and it would continue, she said. One of the major projects she is currently working on is the Samuel de Champlain History Center on Elm Street, which will focus on the history of the village and town of Champlain. Also, she is looking to focus on Franco-American history as well as Samuel de Champlain himself. Upstairs will be mainly maps, pictures and books. Downstairs will be exhibits, Paquette explained of the building. For instance, we used to have a ski factory here in Champlain. So, I have some wooden skis from that era. One of the plans for the quadricentennial is to have the dedication of the building as well as a plaque made up. Ive been working on this [building] maybe five years, said Paquette. I had to put heat and air conditioning in ... and of course carpeting and molding. Everything is brand new. Itll be nice once its done. Another project Paquette is working on is the legacy project, which will be held in Crown Point. What is being referred to as the areas signature event it will include music, food, games and family activities. The monuments being refurbished, Paquette said of another Samuel de Champlain monument in Crown Point. The monument was put up as a result of the 1909 commission. Paquette explained Crown Point seemed a natural location for the major events because Pataki had visited there some years back, as well as the DEC, and had funds committed to it for this anniversary. In terms of money for these events, Paquette said funding is always a big issue. There are some grants available, mini-grants people have applied for, and some of them have been successful, said Paquette. She further explained the mini-grants are from a private donor in Hudson Valley, each worth $1,000. People have found out theyre very popular for some little projects, she said. Other money has come from the state, consisting of $1 million that will go to three legacy projects one in Manhattan, one in Hudson Valley and the one at Crown Point. Paquette also said $1.5 million has gone to some towns, villages and cities, leaving $1.2 million for people to apply for. Other events are planned for the area, including an artist from Montreal looking to do an art show at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, which will feature paintings of Lake Champlain. The Hill and Hollow organization from Saranac is planning on conducting a French program for next year. The cities of Burlington and Plattsburgh are also hoping to have a waterfront festival weekend, tentatively scheduled for July 11-12. All these years, Ive worked very closely with Vermont, as we share the lake, said Paquette. We try to have events that coincide, or that we can put together, together. A lot of these events were events that were held annually anyway, and we said were going to quadracize them, laughed Paquette. So, if its a parade, maybe well have a float of Champlain and do a little bit more. When asked why people are looking forward to this upcoming quadricentennial, Paquette said, I think people like anniversaries ... People like to relive their history. The United States is not very old; we dont have much of a history. What we do have, we like to celebrate. And Samuel de Champlain was such a great man, hes worth celebrating.

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