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Chatham celebrates tercentennial

A downloadable e-tour covers three miles from downtown to Chatham Lighthouse.

Vincent DeWitt for the Boston Glob/File 2007

A downloadable e-tour covers three miles from downtown to Chatham Lighthouse.

Chatham is being anything but terse about its tercentennial.

This scenic Cape Cod town was founded on June 11, 1712, and its celebration of 300 years won’t end with this weekend’s Founders Day activities, which include Great Gatsby-themed festivities Sunday and are capped by Monday’s barbecue and unearthing of a time capsule.

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“Our celebration actually lasts 300 days, and it started back in March,” said Danielle Jeanloz, a member of the steering committee.

Flanked by water on three sides, Chatham has long held sway with artists and fishermen, and its historic downtown is among the most popular destinations on the Cape. But even longtime visitors might learn something about the town’s past.

VINCENT DEWITT FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/FILE/2007

Chatham Light Beach is a busy and favorite summer spot, and it is open year round.

“People would be surprised to know that this is the third location for downtown in our history,” said Jeanloz. “Chatham started as a farming community, then it was a whaling port, a fishing village, and now we have a major tourism industry.”

The town has put together a series of downloadable e-tours for smartphones at etour
chatham.org, including a highlights tour with 50 points of interest. There is also a shorter “loop” tour that covers the 3-mile area from downtown to Chatham Lighthouse, which was commissioned in 1808 (the current light dates from the 1870s). A Google map on the website pinpoints tour locations, and there is also a 90-minute driving tour on CD, which is available for $10 at the town Chamber of Commerce and at several local businesses.

“You can follow the e-tour on your smart phone, or go online and watch it,” said Jeanloz. “The town is a 4-mile-by-4-mile area, on the elbow of Cape Cod, and there’s a lot more to it than just downtown.”

The driving tour, called “Chatham Beyond Main Street,” details areas away from the center of town. Visitors are encouraged to discover the downtown on foot.

The town’s renowned Fourth of July parade will continue the historical theme, with organizations being asked to turn back the calendar and have their floats and displays reflect the period when they were founded.

Residents and visitors are also contributing memories of Chatham past, along with recollections of what drew them to the town, in a feature on the chatham300.org website called “Find Your Way Here.” Among the contributors is Norma Bassett Avallar, a 14th-generation Cape Codder who traces her ancestry to three passengers on the Mayflower.

The 300 days of festivities will include an Art of Charity Foundation event on June 30, a Labor Day weekend highlighting the town’s artists, fall activities marking its long maritime history, and conclude with Chatham’s First Night celebration.

For more information and up-to-date event listings, visit chatham300.org.

Ron Driscoll can be reached at rkdriscoll@comcast.net.
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