Fayetteville has a unique relationship with Marquis de Lafayette, the Frenchman who served as a general under George Washington during the Revolutionary War. We were the first city named after him and the only namesake city that he visited when he toured the country in 1825.
Lafayette was a remarkable man. As described by Hank Parfitt, the president of the Lafayette Society, “He was a defender of freedom and equality for all men. He was a vocal opponent of slavery his entire life. It is cool that we are named after a man with such liberal views toward equality.”
Sept. 8-9, Fayetteville holds its annual citywide celebration of its namesake.
“It really started in 2007 with Lafayette’s 250th birthday,” Parfitt said. “That’s a huge milestone. We have to celebrate that with the unique relationship that we have, being the first city named after him. We got 20 organizations in the community, from schools, the library, the Arts Council and the paper involved. We planned for two years and had a phenomenal yearlong celebration. It was such a tremendous success that we decided to have an annual celebration on a small scale.
“We designated the weekend after Labor Day as the official weekend. It is recognized by the North Carolina House of Representatives and the U.S. Congress. Fayetteville is where North Carolina officially celebrates Lafayette’s birthday.”
Methodist University plays a large role in the celebration. Sept. 8, Friday night, there will be Arias and Artifacts. Starting at 5:30 p.m. there will be a reception with heavy French hors d’oeuvres. “Arleen Fields will talk about the Lafayette collection at Methodist University,” Parfitt said. “It is the 50th anniversary of the collection. Nineteen original letters written by Lafayette were donated, and since then more have been added, including valuable artifacts related to the 1824/25 visit. They will also be unveiling a letter that is a new acquisition.”
After the new letter is revealed, there will be a concert of French music in Hinsdale Chapel starting at 7:30 p.m. The concert is organized by Dr. Gail Morfesis and is a short walk away from the library. Trumpet fanfare will guide the way. Tickets cost $10. The musicians and vocalists are a mix of professionals and talented students.
One of the highlights of the Lafayette Birthday Celebration is the Lafayette Trail Tour on Sept. 9, Saturday morning. The tour takes participants along the path that Lafayette would’ve taken when he visited Fayetteville. “The Lafayette Trail Tour starts at 8:30 in the morning with coffee and croissants at the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Museum where participants will get to see the carriage that Lafayette used,” Parfitt said. “The rest of the morning is touring the sites that Lafayette would have visited by foot or by bus. Lunch is included, and there is a gift bag for everyone.”
Tickets for the tour are $30, and advanced registration is required. They can be purchased by calling (910) 678-8899. “Major Bruce Dawes of the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry will be leading the tour,” Parfitt said. “It is one of the best tour’s I’ve ever taken. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of this time and Fayetteville. You’ll also learn about what was happen-ing in America at this time.”
Another event is created in partnership with the Museum of the Cape Fear; it is The Festival of Yesteryear on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be re-enactors who demonstrate daily life for average civilians and militia members during the Revolutionary War period. They’ll demonstrate day-to-day tasks like cooking meals and playing children’s games. There will also be Life as Art Productions demonstrating African spirituals and freedoms prayers in addition to wine tastings, talks and side walk sales downtown.
Find out more at www.lafayette-society.org.