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February 4, 2011

Revolutionary Virginians Discuss Roles in the Birth of a New Nation During Presidents Day Weekend Feb. 19-20

Colonial Williamsburg celebrates Presidents Day Weekend with programs Feb. 19-20. The Fifes and Drums perform and cannon salutes honor the men who have held this office. The First Continental Light Dragoons demonstrate their horsemanship. Concerts toast the first president, George Washington. Guests can discuss the evolution of the role of first lady with Martha Washington. The men who have been the chief executive talk about their role in the development of a new nation.

Programs include:

Saturday, Feb. 19

  • The Great Men of Williamsburg, 10-11:40 a.m., Capitol. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were shaped by their experiences in Williamsburg and the roles that each played in momentous events that occurred at the Capitol. General Washington, in 1775, talks about his time as a Burgess from 1759 to 1774. He also discusses his close friendship with the last royal governor, Lord Dunmore, in the years just before the Revolution. Governor Jefferson, in 1780, speaks about his early experiences as a lawyer in the General Court, before the Revolution, and about his efforts to rewrite the laws of Virginia after he became governor. James Madison, in 1790, talks about his role in the drafting of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and the successful adoption of Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom. Admission is included in any Historic Area admission pass.
  • From a Virginia Governor, 2 p.m., DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Former Governor Patrick Henry discusses the friendships and political relations he has had over the years with General Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army, and with Thomas Jefferson, who was just elected to succeed Patrick Henry as the next governor of Virginia. Admission is included in any Historic Area admission pass.
  • Salute to the Presidents, 4 p.m., Market Square. Colonial Williamsburg’s Founding Fathers, military programs staff, and Fifes and Drums celebrate the institution of the presidency and the citizens who have served in that office over the centuries. The Foundation also recognizes the states most closely associated with each of our presidents, either by birth or residence.
  • To Washington’s Health, 7 and 8:30 p.m., DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Virginia Company presents a musical program in honor of our first president. Songs and tunes Washington knew and enjoyed throughout his life as a planter, soldier and president are given lively renditions by this musical trio. Using both British and American sources from Washington's lifetime, the Virginia Company performs a variety of popular music of the era, including period drinking songs, ballads, dance, music and toasts to Washington's health. Admission is $12 for youth ages six to 17 and adults and $5 for children under six.

    Sunday, Feb. 20

  • The Duties of the President’s Wife, 11 a.m., DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. When George Washington was elected president, no one gave thought to what Martha Washington would do while he served his country once again. She well understood her role as wife, mother, grandmother and plantation mistress. She had learned her role as the partner to the commander in chief. Now she was called upon to once again define a role that has served as a model down through the centuries. She knew herself to be a symbol of womanhood in the new republic. Join Mrs. Washington in the late spring of 1789 and discuss with her the duties of the president’s wife and help her decide what role she will play. Admission is included with all Historic Area or museum admission.
  • A Public Audience with the First President, George Washington, noon and 3 p.m., Courthouse. President Washington reflects on his years in the House of Burgesses, the American Revolution, serving as commander in chief of American forces in the War for Independence and his leadership in drafting the Federal Constitution which led to his election as the first president of the United States. Separate free reservation required with any Historic Area admission pass.
  • A Public Audience with the Third President, Thomas Jefferson, 1 and 4 p.m., Courthouse. President Jefferson looks back over his long career in public service and discusses the American Revolution, drafting the Declaration of Independence, his tenure as governor of Virginia during the war, serving as ambassador to France and the first Secretary of State, all leading to his election as the third president of the United States. Separate free reservation required with any Historic Area admission pass.
  • A Review of the Dragoons, 2 p.m., Magazine yard. A detachment of the First Continental Light Dragoons is inspected by an officer of the general staff. Guests watch as the dragoons demonstrate their horsemanship. No admission ticket is required.
  • An Evening with the Presidents, 7:30 p.m., Kimball Theatre. Guests join presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison in a discussion about the executive’s challenge in balancing the “will of the people” with the need to advance individual presidential policies. Admission is $12 for youth ages six to 17 and adults and $5 for children under six.
  • Palace Concert: From Coronation to Inauguration, 7:30 and 9 p.m., Governor’s Palace. Guests spend an elegant evening of music and hear firsthand accounts of the coronation of George III and the inauguration of George Washington. Music is performed by the Governor’s Musick. Admission is $12 for adults and youth ages 6-17 and $6 for children under six.

    Programs and exhibitions at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program.

    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. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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