The Ark and the Dove reached Maryland shores in the year 1634. Soon after the passengers came ashore at St. Clements Island, a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated. The date was March 25, 1634, and each year on that date Marylanders celebrate the state's birthday.
The occasion will be marked with much pomp and ceremony on the site of Maryland's first settlement, at St. Mary's City, Saturday and next Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first settlement was built on grounds bought from the Yeocomico Indians, and it became the state capital until 1695, when the capital was moved to Annapolis.
"Maryland Days" will be filled with pageantry and living history, entertainment, food, arts and crafts, and activities for the whole family. Much of it will take place on Governor's Field, where you can visit a 17th century military encampment and watch the St. Maries Citty Militia practice tactical drills. There will be free horse-drawn wagon rides to the site of the Great Brick Chapel, where archaeologists will be at work in the digs and you can learn about recent discoveries made at this site. Down by the Maryland Dove an entertainer will sing sea chanteys. Fresh seafood and other Maryland fare will be available.
The historic schooner Pioneer, a museum ship from New York's South Street Seaport, will take visitors for cruises on the St. Mary's River. This 102-foot vessel was built in 1885 as an iron cargo schooner, and it is one of the last of such American-built freighters. The one-and-a-half-hour cruises will depart each day at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The cost is $8 for adults; $6 for children, senior citizens and students with an ID.
On Sunday morning a Toastmasters' Club will hold a tall tales competition at 11:30 a.m., and at 2 p.m. the official weekend ceremony will take place. School children from each of Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City will participate in a flag ceremony. There will also be a militia drill, speeches, an awards presentation and, at the conclusion of the ceremony, a wreath will be placed on the grave of Leonard Calvert.
The weekend also features a variety of musical entertainment, including barbershop, bluegrass, country-western and gospel. On Saturday evening a program of maritime music will be performed by Simon Spalding, an internationally known chantey man and fiddler. The concert is one in a series of "Tavern Nights" held at Farthing's Ordinary. It runs from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., and admission is $5 per person.
Maryland Days coincide with the season opening of Historic St. Mary's City, the state's outdoor living history museum. Situated on 800 acres of parkland, the re-created colony includes such exhibits as the square-rigged Maryland Dove, a reproduction of the ship that brought Maryland's first settlers; the Old State House of 1676; Farthing's Ordinary, a re-created 17th century inn; the Godiah Spray Tobacco Plantation, a working farm of the 1660s, and several archaeological sites. The exhibits will be open to the public free of charge all weekend. Shuttle buses will take visitors from the parking area to Governor's Field and the Spray Tobacco plantation. There is a $2 charge for parking.
Historic St. Mary's City will be open Wednesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of November. Regular admission is $5 for adults; $3 for senior citizens, and $2 for ages 6 to 12. The Visitor Center, which is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round, has orientation exhibits, an archaeology exhibit hall and gift shop.
The first-person interpretive programs at Historic St. Mary's City are based on the change of seasons. In March the spring program opens with "The Planting Season" and preparation of the fields. In summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, "Publick Times" depicts the market and court days in the old capital. Finally, in the fall "The Harvest Season" focuses on the gathering of crops and the preparations for winter in the colony.
A number of events appear on the museum's 1992 calendar. They include Charter Days, with special events to celebrate the 25th anniversary of St. Mary's City Commission, June 13 and 14; and the Tidewater Archaeology Dig, hands-on activities at St. Maries Chapel archaeological site, Aug. 1 and 2.
St. Mary's City is on state Route 5, 6 miles below Lexington Park in Southern Maryland. For information, call (301) 862-0990.
Maryland Day will be marked on Wednesday at St. Clements Island, landing site of the state's first settlers. Ceremonies will take place at St. Clements Island-Potomac River Museum at Colton's Point. The program begins with a flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony at the historical marker commemorating the landing of the first Maryland colonists.