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Despite stormy weather, Independence Day celebrations prevail

Families and friends from around the country gathered in Boston to celebrate the holiday weekend.

Drummer Nick Johnson and the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums marched into the Old North Church for a performance Saturday.
Drummer Nick Johnson and the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums marched into the Old North Church for a performance Saturday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Dripping umbrellas and damp raincoats didn’t dim Fourth of July weekend festivities Saturday, when people of all ages set out to explore the city’s rich history.

Outside the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, children waved bright red, white, and blue pennants as they walked a section of the Freedom Trail in the North End of Boston.

Inside the gates of the burying ground, couples and families stood somberly before tombstones as some whispered bits of history to curious children. One man from Charlestown, who declined to give his name, said he walks the Freedom Trail every day on his way to work. But on Saturday, he said, he decided for the first time that he would stop at every site on the trail and photograph each telltale gold star.


”People walk the trail every day, but you see a lot more on Independence Day,” he said.

Just down the street, the Old North Church had planned a day of mixed indoor and outdoor festivities to “celebrate Independence Day early,” according to its website. Despite the rain and cloudy skies, a steady stream of people flooded into the church — another Freedom Trail stop — shortly after 10 a.m.

”It’ll be busy, and if the weather were cooperating, we’d be even busier,” said Catherine Matthews, director of education at the church. People shook droplets from their jackets and slipped into pews as the MIT Guild of Bellringers played a series of melodies based on mathematical patterns.

Derrick Barrett brought his family all the way from Vermont to visit the historic church and spend the day in Boston.

”We drove four hours to get here, so we were coming rain or shine,” he said, laughing.

His wife, Lisa Barrett, said she had lived briefly in Woburn before moving to Vermont but never visited the church until Saturday. Even with the rain, she said, the church looked beautiful, adding, “when you’re determined to have fun, you have fun no matter what.”


Derrick Barrett said that the last time the family had come to celebrate Independence Day, they visited the Colonel James Barrett Farm in Concord. Barrett said that as one of the fifth great-grandsons of the colonel, he wanted to show the heritage site to his two children.

”This year, we’re sticking around here,” he said.

Across from the church on the Paul Revere Mall, a small crowd huddled around a table beneath a tree, listening to a woman tease music out of a glass harmonica.

The modern arrangement of glass bowls was designed by Benjamin Franklin, explained Vera Meyer, who said she was “addicted to” the instrument. In honor of Independence Day, Meyer asked each person who stopped to listen where they were from, responding to the name of every country by playing the tune of its national anthem.

”It fits perfectly into the historical component of Boston,” she said. “That’s why I love being here.”

Further south, people lined up outside to pay a visit to the Paul Revere House, home of the patriot known for his fictional shout of “The British are coming!” Two families exited the house and headed straight for the front gate, snapping photos underneath the welcome sign.

”We were planning to walk the whole Freedom Trail, but we got too cold,” said Erin Martin, who had come from Chicago to the East Coast with her daughter for the holiday. They met up in Philadelphia with the Wilford family and took a history-filled road trip up the coast, stopping in New York before arriving in Boston.


”It’s the first time we’ve ever done a big family trip like this,” said Madison Wilford, whose family hails from New Orleans. Wilford said that the families wanted to do something special to celebrate the holiday this year.

Meanwhile, inside Faneuil Hall, people wearing Colonial hats and patriotic attire gathered around the Printing Office of Edes and Gill. Known as the city’s “only Colonial printing experience,” the nonprofit hand prints historic documents on 18th-century printing presses, according to its owner, Gary Gregory.

Gregory, a self-proclaimed history buff, regaled the crowd with the story of the Declaration of Independence’s complex printing process. Its final edition was printed in 1777 by Mary Katharine Goddard, who, he said, dared to add her name to the bottom, the only woman alongside the founding fathers.

“Women don’t get enough credit in history, so that’s why I’m printing this edition,” he said. “And also it’s just a wicked cool document.”

Back at the church, festivities concluded that afternoon with a reading of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that recounts Revere’s midnight trip to Lexington in 1775, followed by a book signing with the Nancy Schön, author of Ducks on Parade and the artist behind the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture in Boston’s Public Garden.


More than a hundred people slid into pews by twos and threes to watch the performance, filling the church with applause as the costumed speaker concluded his oration.

”Sharing this site and its stories, and watching people’s faces light up when they witness a place so filled with history, that’s the best,” said Matthews. “People are thrilled to be here, and I’m thrilled to be here with them.”

Ivy Scott can be reached at ivy.scott@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.