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Virginia Thanksgiving Festival at Berkeley Plantation
By Jim Newtown

VAThank imageLast Sunday the Berkeley Plantation was the scene of a grand event. It was the annual celebration of the first Thanksgiving in the New World dating back to 1619. In 1618 four Englishmen, William Throckmorton, Richard Berkeley, George Thorpe and John Smyth formed a business enterprise known as The Virginia Company of London. King James granted to said company 8000 acres along the James River west of Jamestown settlement, said land area being thought to be much more conducive to growing crops than the land surrounding Jamestown. John Woodlief was commissioned to lead the expedition. "The Good Ship Margaret” left Bristol, England on September 16, 1619 with 36 men on board. The ship having been well stocked with food, clothing, utensils for agriculture, seed for planting, beads for trading with the Indians, weapons and bibles. The ship encountered several bad storms but after much prayer for a safe trip, the ship finally entered the Chesapeake Bay on November 28, 1619 and layed anchor on December 4, 1619 at the Berkeley site. The men came ashore and at the command of Captain Woodlief, they knelt down on the grass and prayed the following: "We ordaine that this day of our ships arrival, at the place assigned for plantacon, in the land of Virginia, shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.” Said day of thanksgiving coming almost 2 years before the pilgrims celebrated their thanksgiving feast with their Indian friends in Massachusetts.

This years festivities took place under cloudless skies and slightly cool, 62 degree temperatures. The parking areas were jammed with cars, people having come from all over Virginia. The big event had something for everyone. The event was kicked off with a parade consisting of a fife and drum corp, horse drawn carriages, and festival participants in costume. There was a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving held in 1619. There were the Chickahominy Tribal Dancers, colonial period games for the children and period music performed on the "Great Lawn”. For those willing to wait in line, a Thanksgiving celebration dinner consisting of smoked turkey legs, brunswick stew, BBQ, and Virginia Ham biscuits was served all day. Rounding out the day were arts and crafts, candle dipping and a silent auction.


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