When you have a history of 350 years plus as a city, you show your age and that's not always a bad thing. When you go out walking, there are streets on which you can still see the outlines of the cobblestones beneath the blacktop on the edges where the curbstones have worn away.
Elsewhere, walking through Franklin Square on your way to Burnham you don't so much see the trolley tracks as somehow feel their presence and if you've lived in Norwich for more than twenty-five minutes you've heard the stories about Abraham Lincoln's stay at the Wauregan Hotel.
Thinking of Lincoln is a good idea starting tomorrow, Flag Day, as The Rose City transforms into the Bell(e) of the Ball in preparation for January 1, 2013, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Tomorrow morning at 8:30, the Bell Foundry on Wheels of the Verdin Company arrives in Howard T. Brown Park direct from Cincinnati, Ohio, with a Patriot Guard Escort. The Foundry will have a busy weekend.
Throughout the day there are all kinds of family activities including flag ceremonies (and explanations of customs and etiquette) as well as educational events sponsored by the Norwich Area Veterans Council to include the Boy Scouts as well as the Young Marines and other groups.
Friday is Native Heritage Day and an opportunity throughout the entire day to attend demonstrations and educational events conducted by various Native American tribes from across the region. The Verdin Mobile Foundry will be completing preparations for the casting of the 250 pound commemorative bell being poured Friday night. The bell pouring ceremonies will begin with music and speeches; spectators will, I suspect, be able to tell them apart easily, starting at five with the actual bell casting happening in the early evening.
There's also an opportunity to get even more close up with our American history as tours of the Amistad Freedom Schooner will be offered all day, on both Friday and Saturday, beginning at eleven. The Amistad America is not only a reminder of the Amistad slave revolt incident of 1839 but also symbolizes the universal struggle for freedom.
And that yearning for freedom, an integral part of our American heritage, will be celebrated all day Saturday, which is also Juneteenth Day, commemorating the announcement in Texas in 1865 of slavery's abolition. In addition to a wide variety of exhibits and demonstrations in Howard T. Brown Park, there will be a walking tour of Norwich's African-American Downtown history.
Encamped on the Norwichtown Green will be re-enactors of the 8th and 14th Connecticut Regiments offering soldiers' lives as they were 150 years ago at Camp Aiken where the volunteers mustered and trained before marching south to preserve the Union and end slavery. Shortly before six there will be a parade from Brown Park to Norwich City Hall capped by the presentation of "The Norwich Freedom Bell" and the laying of the cornerstone for the Freedom Bell Tower in front of City Hall.
This will be an active and busy three days, as Norwich welcomes guests from across the state and throughout the region for history and heritage celebrating both where we have been and where we are heading as we let freedom ring, again and for all.