Fayetteville’s namesake, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, came to America the summer of 1777 at the tender age of 19. He was intrigued by the colonies and their struggle for independence. So he came to America where he served on George Washington’s staff and worked to help win freedom from Britain. The colonists of never forgot Lafayette. Many towns were named after the Frenchman, but Fayetteville, N.C., is the first one to honor him as a namesake when it officially claimed the moniker in 1783 and is the only town named after him, which Lafayette visited. 

Locally, the Lafayette Society honors the memory of the Marquis de Lafayette and promotes awareness of his significant contributions to mankind and freedom through events, programs and educational activities at the Lafayette Birthday Celebration, which falls on Sept. 11-12, this year. The fact that this event falls on the same weekend as the Greekfest is by design. 

“It’s two great events, one great weekend,” said Lafayette Society spokesperson Dr. Hank Parfitt. “Both are excellent  events for  a fun-filled Fayetteville weekend, and there is no reason to miss one to attend the other.”

The festivities start with Arias and Artifacts on Friday, Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Davis Library on the Methodist University Campus. The library houses letters that were written by Lafayette along with many early 19th century Lafayette memorabilia. From the library, head over to Hensdale Chapel where Dr. Gail Morfesis and Friends will perform a short concert.

Saturday, Sept. 12, kicks off the day’s events with the Lafayette Birthday Farmers Market, which runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The farmers market is located at the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum and includes more than fresh produce. Visitors will find arts and crafts and other items for sale as well. Check out the Cape Fear Botanical Garden’s demonstration about local herbs and how they were used in the 1700s and 1800s.

Don’t miss the Lafayette Trail Tour at 9 a.m. The tour traces Lafayette’s footsteps during his 1825 visit to the city. New stops have been added this year and include the Phoenix Masonic  Lodge and Cool Spring Tavern. 

“The Lafayette Trail Tour is probably the best way to learn about Lafayette and what was going on in America and Fayetteville at the time he visited. You get so much history on this tour and Bruce Daws, who leads the tour, is probably the most knowledgable man in town when it comes to local history,” Parfitt said. “You will be fascinated with all the information he has to share. The Cool Springs Tavern’s docent’s  family has owned it for 200 years. The Masonic lodge is a new stop this year, too — you don’t get to go inside a Masonic lodge often. That is a real opportunity. Like many founding fathers, Lafayette was a Mason along with George Washignton and was welcomed and honored here. Tickets are $30 per person. Reservations are required. The tour includes coffee and croissants and a light lunch. Call 678-8899 for tickets and information.

The All-American Fencing Academy is set to host the Lafayette/Rulnick Open Fencing Tournament from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tournament includes foil and sabre events and is held at the All-American Fencing Academy on Donaldson Street.

Downtown shops and restaurants are celebrating the special day
with a Lafayette Birthday Sidewalk Sale. The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature great bargains and interesting finds.

The Museum of the Cape Fear’s Festival of Yesteryear runs from 10 a.m to 5 p.m.  Get an up close and personal look at what life was like in Fayetteillve when Lafayette was alive. The theme focuses on the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods. Come and see re-enactors as they show what life was like in the 1700s. Learn about music, toys and games, militia drills and even colonial dentistry. The living history groups include Camp Flintlock, the North Carolina Highland Regiment, and Captain Dry’s Militia Company. Visitors can check out Apprentice Alley, a hands-on experience for children to learn about many of the trades of the time. Apprentice Alley includes crafts and activities that bring history to life for children. The event is free and open to the public. Find out more about the Museum of the Cape Fear and the Festival of Yesteryear at http://museumofthecapefear.ncdcr.gov/Events.aspx.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., don’t miss the Lafayette District Scouting Expo at Cross Creek Park. The scouting district that covers most all of Cumberland County, and was recently named the Lafayette District. Parfitt noted that the Boy Scout rules tie in perfectly with who Lafayette was and what he represented. “The Scout’s Law lists 10 characteristics of what a scout should be. Lafayette exemplified those characteristics,” said Parfitt.

Demonstrations of scouting skills, camp games and more are planned. Scouts will show off their skills and offer hot dogs and camp food for sale. 

Stop by Lafayette Plaza at Cross Creek Park at noon  and enjoy a free concert compliments  of the Army Ground Forces Dixie-Land Band. The first 100 guest will get free birthday cake and ice cream.

“Part of the fun in this event is that you can connect so many things back to Lafayette and our freedom in this country,” said Parfitt. “When you talk about learning, the Lafayette Society renovated the area around the statue in Cross Creek Park and put in a nice brick plaza and there is a plaque there, which in about 250 words, sums up Lafayette’s life. It is a great way to take advantage of what we have in Fayetteville.”

This Wine Café will host a French wine and cheese tasting from 6-9 p.m. Then finish up the birthday celebration with an engaging presentation about Lafayette. At 7 p.m., Lafayette author and UNC professor of history Lloyd Kramer will speak about Lafayette and the Greek Revolution at the Market House. Kramer’s book Lafayette in Two Worlds offers a look at Lafayette’s role in America and Europe  during the late 1700s and early 1800s. The event is free but donations will be accepted. 

“We have Dr. Kramer talking about Lafayette and the Greek Revolution and his support of national revolutions worldwide,” said Parfitt. “During his time he was considered a beacon of hope in people in nations who wanted to determine how they would be ruled. The Greeks were under the rule of the Ottoman Turks and that struggle went on for 10 years. Dr. Kramer is a fascinating speaker. He’s  the kind of history professor everyone wishes thy had in high school or college. He makes history come alive when he talks about it.”

Find out more about Lafayette and his birthday celebration at www.lafayettesociety.org/events.php.

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