NPR logo

HarborFest Celebrates Boston's Role In American Independence

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
HarborFest Celebrates Boston's Role In American Independence

Around the Nation

HarborFest Celebrates Boston's Role In American Independence

HarborFest Celebrates Boston's Role In American Independence

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Boston, the birthplace of the American Revolution, has kicked off its summer with HarborFest. The annual event provides work for lots of unemployed actors, who get to show off their faux British accents while wearing red-coat costumes. Other actors get to be revolutionaries in tri-cornered hats.


Many Americans are enjoying a long, four-day 4th of July weekend, and that means big crowds at Boston's Annual Harborfest. For more than three decades, it's offered a way to celebrate that city's role in American independence.

NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Boston's Harborfest has 200 events going on through the weekend. On Saturday, the USS Constitution will conduct a naval gun drill. There's a Tea Party scavenger hunt.

Earlier this week, Mayor Thomas Menino read to children in an armchair in front of city hall. And there's live music.


ARNOLD: Susan Park is the president of Harborfest, which she helped to start 32 years ago.

SUSAN PARK: A group of citizens in Boston got together and said: We ought to do something on an annual basis to celebrate our Revolutionary War and maritime heritage.

GARY FOREMAN: You can step on the foot-ropes here and get an idea what the sailors were doing back in the day when they had to reef the sail.

ARNOLD: Inside the museum next to the historic sailing warship the USS Constitution, Gary Foreman is a gallery manager. He pulls himself up onto a full scale model of a yard-arm that sails hang from, and you can hear the ropes underneath his feet groaning as he rocks back and forth.


ARNOLD: That's pretty cool. So people can get a real sense of what it was like to stand in the rigging, huh?

FOREMAN: Absolutely. And then you reach over, and you grab a handful of sail, and you haul it up.

ARNOLD: Across the harbor, Michael Szkoka is a local history professor. But today, he's dressed in a full British Red-Coat uniform and doing tours. He's stopped at a memorial to a particularly famous Bostonian.

MICHAEL SZKOKA: Samuel Adams, the consummate revolutionary. The government here - which is the British government - tries to bribe him to stop agitating, and he refuses the bribe, which shows he's single-minded and steadfast and incorruptible. But even though he could not be bribed, I must tell you, there's no strong evidence that he ever brewed beer.

ARNOLD: Not only did Sam Adams probably not brew beer, Szkoka maintains that the picture on the Sam Adams beer label may be based on a painting of Paul Revere, not Sam Adams at all.

SZKOKA: Now, that said, if you're from the Samuel Adams Brewing Company and you would like me to stop saying that - willing to pay me to stop saying it - I'll stop saying it. Samuel Adams cannot be bribed. But I can be bribed.


ARNOLD: On its website, the company says Samuel Adams did, in fact, brew beer. So the point appears to be a matter of historical debate.

Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

We no longer support commenting on stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.