A large ceremonial cake is flanked by members of the British Honor Guard during the opening event for Boston Harborfest 2023 held at the Franklin Steps at Downtown Crossing on Friday. (Amanda Sabga/Boston Herald)
With the cutting of a gigantic cake topped with a decorative ship, Harborfest has arrived in Boston, and commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party is a top focus of the weekend-long festival.
The Old State House on Saturday is opening a new exhibit called ‘Impassioned Destruction,’ exploring protests in the context of 1773, but also in other moments throughout history to present day, Nathaniel Schniedley, president and CEO of Revolutionary Spaces, told a gathering of more than a hundred guests in Downtown Crossing.
Dec. 16 will mark the 250th anniversary of when colonists protested taxation without representation by throwing British tea into Boston Harbor in what is considered a pivotal event leading to the American Revolution.
“We hope you will think about the legacy of the moment that we are celebrating here together during Harborfest,” Schniedley said, “and we hope you will come back often throughout the rest of this commemorative year to join us in thinking deeply about the importance of the founding story.”
Revolutionary Spaces, which oversees Old State House and Old South Meeting House, is partnering with Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum to hold a grand-scale, live reenactment of the historic event on Dec. 16.
A “major” program prior to that event is what Shawn Ford, executive director of Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, dubbed as “grave markers,” in which his organization has placed more than 150 grave markers at the headstones of all known participants of the Boston Tea Party, many in Boston and across the Commonwealth and New England.
Next week, markers will be placed on graves in Pennsylvania and New York, and then in the coming months, the museum will be going abroad to Dublin and Paris, Ford said.
“The actions of the Tea Party participants reverberate as strongly today as they did in 1773,” he said. “Many of these participants were common tradesmen … The majority of their names are hardly, if ever, mentioned with those we routinely honor during times of historical commemorations.”
Peter Abbott, the British Consul General in Boston, said the Brits have had a tough time historically in Boston, but he feels the city has an “affection and respect” for the generations of the British Royal family, including hosting Prince William and Princess Kate last fall.
“As the British Consul General in Boston, you’d be surprised actually what it’s like … Evacuation Day, the Battle of Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill … wherever I go I have a personal bodyguard to protect me,” Abbott said, “so it is nice today to be at something that feels a little bit happier.”