The shots heard ’round the world will be fewer in number this year, as federal budget cuts have prompted the Minute Man National Historical Park to cancel its annual Battle Road reenactment on the Saturday before Patriots Day.
The change will not affect the traditional reenactments in Lexington and Concord marking the events of April 19, 1775, but rather the one commemorating the skirmishes with British troops that occurred along Battle Road — which runs through the middle of the park — on the day the American Revolution started.
Beginning in 1999, the park had sponsored the annual reenactment during the weekend before Patriots Day, which is observed on the third Monday of April. It focused on the skirmishes between the redcoats and the local militia along the road from the Bloody Angle battle site to the historic Hartwell Tavern.
But securing a half-mile of parkland for a battle reenactment doesn’t come cheap, and after last year’s federal budget sequester and this year’s cutbacks, the park’s staff decided to cancel the event for this spring.
Paul O’Shaughnessy, commanding officer of the Tenth Regiment of Foot, and webmaster of www.battleroad.org, said most members of the reenactment community understand why the event was canceled, but are still disappointed.
“The initial emotional reaction is that this is a shame, and in the end it’s counterproductive,” he said. “This isn’t just a party. It’s history, education, and it’s important that kids growing up are able to witness and see what the battles of Lexington and Concord were like. We take the history off the page of the book and try to give it some life.”
His website notes that reenactors will be present at several locations in the park over the weekend, and provides a schedule of planned activities.
Lou Sideris, chief of planning and communications at Minute Man National Historical Park, said he and his colleagues had to choose between paying for the Battle Road events and keeping more of the park open the rest of the year.
“It was a choice. We do this one thing for a few hours, but then we can’t open as much of the park all through the summer and fall. It was a hard decision in terms of the trade-off. Basically, though, there’s still a lot going on,” Sideris said.
He said the park doesn’t keep concrete numbers on how much the event costs, but the tally includes site preparations, historic weapons inspections, securing the weapons firing range, traffic and parking management, emergency services, and importing safety officers familiar with handling black gunpowder from other parks.
“We had a lot of volunteers, too, but it was over half a mile of Battle Road. To secure the whole perimeter, it took a lot of manpower,” Sideris said.
In the past, reenactors would start the day at the Bloody Angle or Hartwell Tavern in Lincoln, O’Shaughnessy said. They would interact with the public in the morning, then hold the tactical demonstration, with the British marching along Battle Road and Minutemen attacking from the sides.
Later in the morning, the reenactors would reconvene for a battle at Parker’s Revenge in Lexington, also the site of a famous skirmish. And at 4 p.m., they would meet at Tower Park on Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington for another reenactment. Of those events, only the Tower Park battle will take place this year, he said.
Sideris said the park may resurrect the Battle Road reenactment as its budget allows.
Reenactor Graeme Marsden, a member of the First Foot Guards regiment, said the park offers an important gathering place for enthusiasts.
“We have been doing this event for many years, so we’re disappointed,” he said.
“It’s a very large event for the reenacting community. One comes to rely on it,” said Marsden, who said he had participated in the event for more than 10 years. He added, “People will still turn up, I’m sure, but they will be disappointed.”
Local government officials also bemoaned the cancellation of the park’s reenactments.
“We’re having a smaller event that day, but that whole event ties it all in together with the residents coming to that area,” said Kevin Paulsen, cochairman of Concord’s Public Ceremonies Committee and a former Sudbury Minuteman. “It’s a terrific experience, and they’ve had very large crowds in the past, and it’s unfortunate that they’re doing away with it this year.”
Most Patriots Day events will still take place this year, including the annual Sudbury Companies of Militia and Minute march to North Bridge in Concord on April 19.
On the morning of April 21, the official Patriots Day holiday this year, there will be the reenactment at Lexington’s Battle Green, and a commemoration of the Battle of Concord by reenactors at the North Bridge.
The national park is providing a listing of local Patriots Day observances on its website, www.nps.gov/mima .Emily Cataneo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.