The City of Presidents celebrates its holiday

John Carroll (center) spoke to visitors of the Adams crypt in the United First Parish Church, where John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as their spouses, are buried.
John Carroll (center) spoke to visitors of the Adams crypt in the United First Parish Church, where John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as their spouses, are buried. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The City of Presidents honored its namesakes Sunday with a daylong celebration worthy of kings that included music, a puppet show, and a fire-eater.

Musical performances, table-top games, and historical tours of the United First Parish Church were also featured.

The Quincy Presidents’ Day Family Winterfest provided an opportunity for parents to take children out for a brisk day in the sun — with a historical bent.

The United First Parish Church, also known as the Church of the Presidents, offered tours of the the crypt below it, which holds the final resting places of Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and their wives. Replicas of American flags from the era were draped over the two presidents’ tombs.


“It was cool,” said 10-year-old Grant Morse after he toured the tombs. “It was not what I was expecting, but cool.”

Grant said he had thought it would be more modern, but, “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Grant’s mother, Marie Morse, who grew up in Quincy, said it was great to show her son the same places she saw as a child, but she was enjoying her first visit to the tombs.

“It was interesting come here to the crypts and show him some history,” she said.

Church historian Bill Westland has been giving tours of the church for more than 30 years.

“We almost had three presidents,” he said.

When Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, ran for vice president in 1848, he ran on the Free Soil Party ticket rather than the Whigs’, because he felt the Whigs did not have a strong enough antislavery platform, Westland said. He ran with the Free Soil Party, Westland said, although he had a good chance at winning the Whig’s nomination.

“Well, then the Whigs won and President Taylor died in office, and Vice President [Milliard] Fillmore became president,” Westland said. “It could have been Adams.”


The Anthony family, who live in Scituate, were visiting the festival in Quincy, where they have deep family ties.

Emily and Bryan Anthony married at the church in 2008.

“It means a lot to share the history with our boys,” said Emily Anthony, whose father, Graeme Marsden, is a local historical reenactor.

“It’s very gratifying that they’re interested, and that they want to know history,” said Marsden, who works with several reenectment groups, including the First Foot Guards. “It is our history after all, and there’s a lack of this in the schools, so you have to enrich yourself.”

Outside, food trucks lined around the park, where ice princesses walked on stilts.

At one edge of the park, people admired a statue of John Adams, the nation’s second president, and sat on its steps eating snacks and sipping beers and sodas.

With pop music blaring from speakers inside white tents on the grass and the 215th Army Band of the Massachusetts National Guard playing classical music selections inside the church, Quincy’s Winterfest encapsulated the city’s ability to be old and new at the same time.

Aimee Ortiz can be reached at aimee.ortiz@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @aimee_ortiz.