Celebrating Independence Day With The Declaration

first_imgStory and photo by Joseph SapiaSHREWSBURY – Out of state in Maine, Katie Kingsberry knew she had to get home, driving for 12 or so hours to get back to the borough by the morning of Independence Day.Why?Kingsberry, 32, wanted to be one of the approximately 30 readers of the Declaration of Independence on this Fourth of July at the historic Allen House. Read as she did last year in the inaugural event.“I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the values our country was founded upon,” Kingsberry said.“I think it’s just good to remember the history of our country,” said Kingsberry’s friend, Jenna Ciongoli, 32, also of Shrewsbury who read a paragraph of the Declaration with her son, Gus, 3. “It’s very emotional.”Ciongoli, who also read last year, noted in these polarized political times that the founding fathers had a “common cause.”“I think we’ve lost that,” Ciongoli said.The event was sponsored by various parties: the Monmouth County Historical Association, which owns Allen House at the corner of Route 35 and Sycamore Avenue; Christ Episcopal Church, diagonally across the intersection; Shrewsbury Borough; Shrewsbury Historical Society; Shrewsbury Garden Club; and the county library. The idea of the Independence Day Celebration is “to remind people where we came from, how historic Monmouth County” is, said Mary Ann LaSardo, a Rumson resident who co-chaired the event. The county was important in the American Revolution, LaSardo said.Will Githens of Neptune City portrays a Colonial patriot at the Shrewsbury reading of the Declaration of Independence July 4. His wife, Pati, works for the Monmouth County Historical Association.“The Battle of Monmouth was a turning point in the war,” said LaSardo, a county Historical Association trustee.An estimated 350, or 150 or so more than last year, attended the reading, said Charles H. Jones III of Rumson, the other event co-chair.“This started as a kernel of an idea,” said Linda W. Bricker, president of the Monmouth County Historical Association. “To see the diversity of the group that gathered here is wonderful.”Leeann Arnts of West Long Branch attended the ceremony because she traces her ancestry back to Elizabeth Allen, sister of Judah Allen who built a house at the site in the late 1600s and farmed the land. She said her family always talked about its history, which also includes the well-established, local Throckmorton and Van Note families.“New Jersey needs to focus on its rich history,” said Arnts, 59, an assistant music teacher at Shrewsbury Borough School.Will Githens of Neptune City portrays a Colonial patriot at the Shrewsbury reading of the Declaration of Independence July 4. His wife, Pati, works for the Monmouth County Historical Association. “Shrewsbury is doing this. The youth need to know the history and keep it going.”Jim Weythman of Red Bank said he liked “just the appropriateness of the ceremony.”“Lots of Fourth of Julys get lost in fireworks, beer, picnics,” said Weythman, 71.Maggie LaRocca, 35, of Rumson attended to “celebrate the true meaning of the day” and try “to share a little bit of history with my son,” Mac, 3.“We talked about it on the way over,” said LaRocca, saying she talked about how people got together in the 1700s to provide for our freedom.“It’s tough to explain history to a child,” LaRocca said. “You try to show it to them.”People stand in line, awaiting their turn to read a part of the Declaration of Independence July 4 in Shrewsbury.The event came to be through a discussion between LaSardo and Pati Githens, executive assistant at the county Historical Association. They were looking to do an event at Allen House.“An idea sprung up over breakfast,” LaSardo said. “We were hoping for 50 people last year and got 200.”“Last year was a shocking success,” said Jones, also a county Historical Association trustee.Freehold Borough’s reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 is the only other public one of its kind in Monmouth County organizers of the Shrewsbury event were aware of, Jones said.The event kicked off with Christ Church ringing its bell 13 times for the 13 colonies at the time the Declaration was signed in 1776.Lillian G. Burry, a member of the county Board of Freeholders, began the reading, “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands, which have connected them with another…”“It’s just so meaningful to me,” Burry said. “I think it’s a wonderful tradition, so much meaning behind it. This is all where the Revolution occurred.”Borough Mayor Donald Burden read the last paragraph. Burden is co-author with Rick Geffken of Farmingdale of the recently released book, “The Story of Shrewsbury Re-Visited, 1965-2015.”People attended, expressing “patriotic spirit and the incredible history that surrounds us in Monmouth County, particularly regarding the Revolutionary War,” Bricker said.On display was an 1880 printing of Benjamin Owen Tyler’s 1818 published version of the Declaration. F. Neal Warner of Freehold Township had donated the 1880 printing to the county library.While the Declaration remains very alive, certain lines were cringe-worthy for Kingsberry and Ciongoli – such as “that all men are created equal.” And they noted blacks did not have equal rights in 1776.The ceremony was over in about an hour.“It’s not heavy-duty,” Weythman said. “At the same time, (it was) kind of inspirational.”last_img

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