Community Helps Save Delaware Crossing
Bucks County, Pa., history buff John Godzieba says he was "devastated" when he learned last month that state budget cuts threatened to scrap the historic Revolutionary War river crossing that had been re-enacted for 57 years at Washington Crossing.
Then his community mobilized to save the ceremony, which draws 10,000 visitors each Christmas.
"Now we have volunteers coming forth once again to save the crossing," Godzieba says. "You have happening today pretty much the same thing that happened 233 years ago."
The ceremony commemorates George Washington's counterattack across the Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776 that turned the tide of the war. The 2,400 men who made the crossing on that winter night were supported by a community effort that included blankets, tents and food that arrived by horse and cart from as far as Philadelphia.
This year, despite the demoralizing economic news, hundreds of volunteers joined the effort to save the crossing again. A group called Friends of Washington Crossing Park raised money and completed a year's worth of planning in six weeks to help save the annual event.
"What created such excitement, it's not only the history of the event but the ability to succeed when many have said it could not be done," says Bill Haas, a board member of the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau and chairman of the Friends group.
The Bucks County Rotary Club provided workers to spruce up the park. The Upper Makefield Business Association fed them. The Bucks County Historical Society provided documentation for programs. The Upper Makefield Township Historical Society provided Christmas tree ornaments, Haas said.
Donations paid for marketing, insurance and cranes to lift the Durham boats, like those used by Washington's men, into the water.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which owns Washington Crossing Historic Park, cut employees and programming at all its 25 historic sites after the state cut its budget by 43% this year, said marketing director Howard Pollman. It is working with citizen groups to keep parks open and provide programming.