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January 23, 2009

Founding Fathers headline Presidents Day Weekend programs

Colonial Williamsburg guests discover the unique experiences of three early Virginians who ultimately steered the course of the new republic as chief executive during Presidents Day Weekend, Feb. 14-15. Programs throughout the weekend highlight and portray the actions and experiences in 18th-century Williamsburg of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and their interactions with several contemporaries including Patrick Henry and Martha Washington.

“The Great Men in Williamsburg: The Founding Fathers – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison at the Capitol” recalls the trios’ experiences in the colonial capital. Washington discusses his 15 years of service in the House of Burgesses and his friendship with Virginia’s last royal governor. Jefferson speaks of his experiences as a lawyer in the colony’s General Court and his efforts to re-write the laws of Virginia following independence. Madison relates his role in the drafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the successful adoption of Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom. Guests experience the three Presidents’ recollections during tours of the Capitol 10 a.m. – noon, Saturday, Feb. 14.

President Washington recounts his long public career during “A Public Audience with the First President, George Washington” as he reflects on his legislative role in the House of Burgesses, as commander-in-chief of patriot forces during the American Revolution, his leadership in drafting the Constitution and his election as first chief executive of the United States. The 45-minute program is presented at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at the Kimball Theater in Merchants Square. A reservation is required.

Nearing the end of his term, the Commonwealth’s first governor, Patrick Henry tells of his friendships and political relationships with General Washington and Thomas Jefferson, soon to succeed Henry as the independent Virginia’s next chief executive. “From a Virginia Governor” is presented at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at the Hennage Auditorium in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

Evening guests enjoy a musical program in honor of our first President. The Virginia Company presents “To Washington’s Health,” a concert of lively music Washington knew and enjoyed throughout his life as a planter, soldier and President. Two performances –- 7 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at the Capitol -– showcase popular music of the era, including ballads, dance music, drinking songs and toasts to Washington’s health. A separate admission ticket is required.

A few short years after the American Revolution, the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation spurred the infant United States to form a new national government resulting in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. “Letters Between Friends: the Constitution and Its Ratification” brings to life correspondence between convention president George Washington, the document’s principal author James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the ambassador to France, as they communicate about the document and its chances for approval. The 15-minute program begins every 20 minutes from noon until 1:40 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15 in the East Advance of the Governor’s Palace. A reservation is required.

Martha Washington had the rare opportunity to create a role that has served for centuries as a model to be emulated. Well aware of her role as wife, mother, grandmother and plantation mistress, she learned by experience how to best help her husband during the Revolutionary War. Guests are invited to join her in 1789 as she begins to define the unwritten duties of the First Lady and to help her decide the role she will play. “The Duties of the President’s Wife: A Conversation with Martha Washington” is presented at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15 at the Hennage Auditorium in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

Guests join Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison, the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums and the military program staff during “Salute to the Presidents” on Market Square at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15 as they celebrate the presidency, the citizens who have served in that office through the centuries and the states those Presidents called home.

From the beginnings of the republic, Presidents faced difficult decisions, precariously balancing the “will of the people” with the need to advance their own individual or political party policies. Explore challenges that continue today during “An Evening with the Presidents: Early Presidential Politics and the Role of Parties in the American System of Government” with Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison. The program begins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb.15 at the Kimball Theater in Merchants Square. A separate admission ticket is required.

A special evening of music in the home of the independent Commonwealth’s first two governors – Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson – provides a fitting conclusion to Presidents Weekend programs. “Palace Concert: From Coronation to Inauguration” offers two performances –- 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. Feb. 15 – for guests to enjoy elegant 18th-century music performed on period instruments in an authentic setting. A separate admission ticket is required.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution guests interact with history through “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281