North Carolina will celebrate the birthday of Revolutionary War hero Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette in Fayetteville Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7-8. Fayetteville was the first city in the nation named for the famous Frenchman when the State Assembly combined the towns of Cross Creek and Campbellton in 1783. It is the only namesake city Lafayette visited, even though there are scores of cities named for him.
Festivities begin Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. with “Arias and Artifacts” in Davis Memorial Library at Methodist University. Some of the university’s collection of unique LaFayette artifacts include ceramic pitchers and bowls, medallions and other items manufactured to commemorate the hero’s celebrated visit to America in 1824-1825. Curator Arleen Fields will unveil one of the newest acquisitions, an original letter written by Lafayette.
“One of my favorites from this collection is a drawer pull that was painted with Lafayette’s picture on it,” said Dr. Hank Parfitt, Lafayette Society president. “The artifacts in this collection were manufactured and sold around when Lafayette visited Fayetteville, so people could buy them and have a keepsake to remember when they saw Lafayette – like how we buy T-shirts at a Rock concert.”
The Arias segment of the evening – an hourlong concert featuring vocal and instrumental music by French composers – begins at 7 p.m. in the Hensdale Chapel next door to the library. “This event has become quite popular,” said Parfitt. “It includes a wide variety of music and includes many talented musicians.”
Tickets for the concert are $10 at the door, but reservations are recommended. Advance tickets can be purchased at City Center Gallery & Books at 112 Hay St. in downtown Fayetteville or by calling 910-678-8899.
Saturday, the Museum of the Cape Fear celebrates Lafayette’s birthday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the Festival of Yesteryear, a day of living history with re-enactors, period crafts and interactive events for the whole family. Children will enjoy coloring and other fun activities at “Camp Lafayette,” where at 1 p.m. there will be free birthday cake and ice cream.
City Center Gallery & Books will host Lafayette authors and artists from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday. A large selection of books on Lafayette and the Revolutionary War will be featured. Artist Caroline Merino will present her new artwork of the Market House with the 1825 Lafayette Map as a background. It will go on sale that day for the first time.
The weekend celebration will end with Party Like You’re in Paris, a winetasting party at The Wine Café at 108 Hay St. from 6-8:30 p.m. Guests can sample a variety of French wines, and there will also be small plates of French cheeses available for purchase.
Lafayette defied explicit orders of French King Louis XVI, who did not wish to provoke Great Britain. He eluded authorities and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to assist the rebellious Americans in 1777. Although he was only 19, spoke little English and lacked any battle experience, Lafayette convinced the Continental Army to commission him a major general July 31, 1777.
During the Battle of Brandywine, near Philadelphia, on Sept. 11, 1777, Lafayette was shot in the calf. Refusing treatment, the military novice managed to organize a successful retreat. Following a two-month recuperation, Lafayette was given command over his own division for the first time.
As both a friend and a father figure, the commander of the Continental Army, George Washington, held the young Frenchman in high esteem. Lafayette remained at Washington’s side during the harsh winter at Valley Forge in 1777 and through the conclusive battle at Yorktown in 1781.
Learn more about Lafayette’s birthday celebration by visiting the website www.lafayettesociety.org.