Want to stump guests at Thanksgiving dinner this year? Ask them where the 102 Pilgrims on the Mayflower landed when they arrived in the New World in 1620. Chances are, unless your guests are from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, they won’t know the answer.
The Pilgrims first landed and spent an estimated five weeks in what is now Provincetown, MA, where they created one of the most famous documents to frame American Democracy. With their ship anchored in the town’s harbor, the Pilgrims drafted and unanimously adopted the Mayflower Compact, America’s first declaration of equality and justice for everyone. Today, that same spirit of freedom and independence is the hallmark of the town known as America’s first destination.
To commemorate this historic event, The Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association chose a design submitted by Willard T. Sears of North Carolina, himself a descendant of the Mayflower Pilgrims.
Construction of the monument Sears envisioned began in 1907, and President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the cornerstone ceremony after arriving in Ptown (as the locals call it) in his presidential yacht, aptly named the Mayflower. Workers at the time used stone exclusively from Stonington, Maine for construction, and President William Howard Taft dedicated the 252-foot tower nearly three years later. Believed still to be the tallest all-granite structure in the United States, the monument marked its 100-year anniversary in a special ceremony on August 5, 2010.
The Pilgrim Monument can be seen from nearly everywhere in Ptown, reminding residents and visitors alike that they are walking in the footsteps of the country’s forefathers. Today the eclectic shops along historic Commercial Street, the towering sand dunes and beautiful beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore, the intimate art galleries of America’s longest continuous artist colony, and Ptown’s eclectic and fine dining, quiet inns and popular events attract a diverse and loyal visitor base. Vacationers often decide to extend their stays thanks to the town’s relaxed, friendly and vibrant atmosphere.
The Pilgrim Monument itself continues to be a popular attraction. It encourages visitors to take the 10 minute climb up its 116 steps and 60 ramps, pausing along the way to have a look at the 175 plaques adorning the inside of the structure, which mark the contributions of several towns formerly composing Plymouth Colony that donated stones for the monument’s construction.
The annual « Lighting of the Monument » is a free ceremony that takes place Wednesday, November 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. The lights are considered « Landing Lights, » and they will remain shining until January 6, 2014, symbolizing the approximate amount of time the Pilgrims stayed in Provincetown before moving on to Plymouth, MA. Admission is free, and the Provincetown Business Guild will provide refreshments, while entertainment by Peter Donnelly and John Thomas will be offered. For a small donation, you can help support the traditional lighting of the Pilgrim Monument. More information is available at www.pilgrim-monument.org.
Another special lighting ceremony takes place Saturday, November 30 in what is known as « Lighting the Provincetown Lobster Pot Tree 2013 » ceremony, now in its 9th year. Provincetown artist Julian Popko and family build a unique lobster pot tree right in the heart of Provincetown’s Lopes Square. Stacked with over 100 real lobster pots borrowed from local lobstermen, the tree rises up over 2 stories and is lit with thousands of holiday lights. Come be a part of the lighting, where cookies and hot cocoa will be served at 5:30p.m. There will be a big crowd counting down as the giant tree topper is lifted and then lowered onto the tall ‘tree’ in the center of town.
History buffs will appreciate another of the town’s famous monuments to American Democracy. Ptown is home to a bas-relief of the writing and signing of the Mayflower Compact sculpted by Cyrus Dallin, who is famous for many bronze sculptures commemorating the important moments and individuals in American History.
Between attending ceremonies and soaking up American lore, visitors can get a little action in on the tables by attending a Casino Night benefit for the Provincetown Business Guild on November 29. The event takes place 8 p.m. until midnight, and there is no cover charge. The Provincetown Business Guild has a list of places, events, specials and more that will be a part of Thanksgiving 2013. Visit http://www.ptown.org/Thanksgiving.asp for more information.
Stay an extra weekend or come back to Provincetown to take part in Holly Folly 2013, which runs Dec. 6-8. This LGBT holiday festival features a Santa Speedo Run, Drag Bingo, a Shop Hop, Drag Brunch, the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus Concert plus Ptown’s clubs and dance halls. Support your special cause at the annual Snow Ball. More information about the celebration may be found at ptown.org/HollyFolly.asp.
Provincetown for the holidays is a perfect place for solitude or bringing in the New Year with a roar!