A champion of the American Revolution from a young age, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, is not only our city’s namesake. He is credited with playing a big part in winning the war. Lafayette was just 19 years old when he came to America in 1777 and joined the colonists in their quest for freedom, fi ghting with and leading American soldiers. He contributed fi nancially as well, spending much of his personal treasure on the war and persuading the king of France to send soldiers and money to the colonies.
In 1783, our fair city became Fayetteville, N.C. It was the fi rst of several towns in America to honor the Frenchman by taking his name, and the only one he ever visited.
“When Lafayette came to visit in March of 1825, he was a celebrity,” said Hank Parfi tt, a Lafayette Society spokesperson. “It was like when the Beatles visited the United States in the ‘60s. People were really excited about him visiting Fayetteville. He was a very popular fi gure — he was not a distant historical fi gure in a town-hall meeting. The common man absolutely loved him. When he came to visit Fayetteville, the town was practically empty because everyone was lined up at the river where he came in.”
His influence is still recognized today and on Sept. 7-8, the Lafayette Society invites the public to join in the celebration of Lafayette’s birth.
On Friday, Sept. 7, meet historian and Lafayette author Marc Leepson as he discusses his book Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General. The book explores how Lafayette infl uenced America’s formative years and how he contributed selfl essly to the founding of our country.
“Leepson’s book is part of the world general series,” said Parfitt. “McMillan Publishing had authors write about seven different military leaders through the ages and what made them successful. Leadership groups are invited to discuss the book. Leepson is going to talk to the Chamber of Commerce and the freshman class at Methodist University while he is here, but the public is invited to come and hear him at the Market House.”
Leepson is scheduled to speak on the second fl oor of the Market House at 7 p.m. The event is free, but space is limited, so reservations are recommended. Make a reservation by calling 678-8899. Books will be available for purchase at the event.
On Saturday, join the day-long celebration and participate in one of the many activities. It starts at 7 a.m. with the Lafayette French Toast Breakfast Fundraiser. For just $7 you get French toast (or pancakes) and a side of bacon or sausage. It’s at Horne’s Café and lasts until 3 p.m. For every plate sold $2 will be donated to the Child Advocacy Center.
At 9 a.m., the Lafayette Parade of Pooches takes place at the corner of Anderson and Hay streets. Call the Dogwood Festival to register your dog. It costs $5 to enter your dog in the parade.
Meet at the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Museum on Burgess Street at 9 a.m. and enjoy a guided tour of the Lafayette Trail. The event begins with coffee and croissants and a viewing of a documentary about the 250th LaFayette Birthday Celebration.
“The Lafayette Trail is always wonderful,” said Parfi tt. “Last year it was sold out.”
Although the trail involves some walking, there is an air-conditioned bus that is used for part of the tour. At the end of the tour, enjoy lunch at the Market House. Tickets are $30 per person and include the food and the tour of the trail. There are 30 spots available, and registration is recommended. There may still be a few spaces left — call 678-8899 or visit City Center Gallery and Books for details or to register.
If you are looking for something with a bit of a faster pace, join the Lafayette Birthday 3k Dog Jog and 5k Road Race. Participants meet at the Medical Arts Building on the corner of Hay Street and Bragg Boulevard. The event is sanctioned by USA Track and Field. Proceeds benefi t the Child Advocacy Center of Fayetteville. Call Julio at 578-9680 for more information.
With so many fun things going on downtown, don’t miss the sidewalk sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Merchants will set up along the sidewalk and offer great deals in honor of Lafayette. Don’t miss the unique merchandise and chance to grab a great find.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the All-American Fencing Academy hosts the 4th Annual Lafayette Open Fencing Tournament. Lafayette himself served as a member of the Black Musketeers, an elite unit in service to the French king upon which The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas was based.
This year the fencing tournament includes competition in epee as well as the foil. This event is sanctioned by the North Carolina Division of the United States Fencing Association. Guests are welcome to visit the academy’s studio at 207B Donaldson St. to enjoy the action. Call 910-644- 0137 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Festival of Yesteryear is a big part of the day’s activities. It is held at the Museum of the Cape Fear and runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival highlights North Carolina’s Colonial and Revolutionary War history. There will be military reenactors, an artillery canon and fun activities like rebus puzzles, a tricornered hat project and interactive toys and games. Professional storytellers will tell exciting tales that bring the past to life. Visit www.museumofthecapefear.ncdcr.gov or call 437- 2603 for more information.
After visiting the museum, head to Cross Creek Park for cake and ice cream (while it lasts). Arlene Fields has been coordinating the party for three years now and she really enjoys the idea of people of all ages having a good time and learning a little in the process.
“A lot of people don’t know that Fayetteville is named for the Marquis de Lafayette. What better way to share that than to have a party?” said Fields. Cross Creek Park is the perfect place for the party, she added “… there is a beautiful statue of Lafayette on the grounds and the landscape is interesting with a good layout.”
Admission is free. It’s the perfect place to take a break and have lunch. There will be a special kids area with crafts, games, face painting, bounce houses and more. This year the party hats are different colored French berets, which will be for sale while supplies last. Look for Kidsville News! own Truman, who will be on hand to celebrate the city’s namesake. Enjoy some bluegrass music. There will be barbeque for sale, so come hungry. The barbeque plates cost $7 each.
Fields first came to the Lafayette Society through her job at Davis Memorial Library at Methodist University where she is the archives librarian. Part of her job is to oversee the collection of letters written by Lafayette that are on fi le at the Library.
“We have letters written by Lafayette and the Lafayette Society has provided funding to buy many of them, so it makes sense for me to be involved with them,” said Fields.
The letters provide a peek into the everyday life of Lafayette.
“Some of them are mundane. One is from a person who wants an introduction and Lafayette says ‘I can’t introduce you to the king of Peru — because I don’t know the king of Peru,’” said Fields. “My personal favorite is a letter he wrote to his friend ‘…you made a promise … to return my books in two weeks’ time and the time has far expired,’” she added.
The letters have all been scanned and translated and are available online at www.methodist.edu/library/archspec/ lafayette/lafayet.htm or at the library.
Find out more about the Lafayette Birthday Celebration — and Lafayette — at www.lafayette250.com.