Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

City Point Celebration
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Oct 14, 2013, 14:13

CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Members of the Bowld Sojer Band took to the streets of City Point as they played Civil War era music Saturday.

HOPEWELL — Despite the government shutdown and the rainy weather, the City Point 400th anniversary celebration went on as planned. Though there were changes in venues and performances, a crowd still gathered in the streets of City Point to take a walk through 400 years of history.

The all-day celebration took place on Saturday at St. John’s Episcopal Church and in the streets of the City Point neighborhood. With the recent government shutdown, the celebration had to be moved to the streets as it was originally planned to be held at Appomattox Manor, a National Park Service property. The Fort Lee 392nd Army band could not perform due to the shutdown and furloughs, and the Petersburg Symphony Orchestra also canceled their performance.

Though there were cancellations, others still came out to help tell the story of 400 years, including members of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia. Visitors to the event gathered in the sanctuary of the church to watch Beth Roach, a tribe member since 2009, tell the story of Turtle Island and Earth’s creation.

“It’s powerful in a sense that it really makes me feel more alive and it really makes the whole story itself seem alive,” Roach said of her performance on Saturday afternoon. “Seeing people’s reaction is always a delight and allowing people to take a look at things differently and become involved. I think it’s important just to share different perspectives and take something away with them.”

The tribe also had a display under a large, white tent located across the street from the manor where visitors were able to learn about the history of the tribe as well as take a look at a few artifacts. Stefan Calos, of Hopewell, roamed the streets with his daughter Lexi, 17, and said the tribal exhibits were one of his favorite aspects of the day.

“City Point has such an amazing history. Really the history of the whole continent is here,” Calos said. “I think just when we walked down the street and saw the exhibits of the arrowheads dating back 10,000 years ago and then seeing the Indians who are representative of their forebears; to look at them and realize they probably haven’t changed much at all.”
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Beth Roach, member of the Nottoway Indian Tribe, tells the story of Turtle Island, during the 400th celebration.

The event was also attended by visitors from Richmond, such as Valena Dixon. She said the celebration not only allowed her to take in 400 years of City Point, but also gave her the chance to experience Hopewell.

“It was a nice sampling of the various historical treasures in Hopewell,” Dixon said. “It whet my appetite to come back and get more.”

History of the 400 years was also told through artwork as Henry Kidd, a historical reenactor, sat in the church and worked on a painting of Gen. Robert E. Lee accepting command of Virginia forces at the state capital.

Kidd, who said he has been painting all his life, has been working on the piece for over a month and was working on the piece as visitors walked by, stopping to watch his brushstrokes onto the canvas.

The celebration also included Civil War era music, played by the Bowld Sojer Band, and the music filled the streets as the band walked down Cedar Lane from the church to the gates of the manor. The band, directed by Stephen Rockenbach, PhD, also held an educational program for visitors.

“What intrigues myself, and the other band members, is how the music still speaks to us. ... ,” Rockenbach said. “I like that these songs are kind of familiar to us. They speak to us with what they’re about — love, sorrow, fear — but also that it’s music that I find people of all ages singing along and joining in with us.”

Rockenbach, who plays the banjo in the band and has been playing for over 30 years, explained that during the Civil War music was one of the primary forms of entertainment and it was also a way of telling a story, stories that were told on Saturday, hundreds of years later.

“Also during the Civil War, music was a way to express important political ideas, a way to protest,”  Rockenbach explained, noting that many soldiers wrote songs telling of their homesickness and war weariness. “Sometimes we forget that the best way to understand people and they think is important and what their concerns are, especially in the 19th century, is to listen to music.”

With banjo in hand, Rockenbach said one of his favorite songs to play, which he strummed on his banjo at Saturday’s celebration, is a song that dons the band’s name, “Bowld Sojer Boy.”

“That song sums up, not just for the American Civil War, but for a lot of young men, the experience of soldiering, the excitement, and fear all combined,” Rockenbach said.
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Larry and Connie Clowers, portraying General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, stood and talked to visitors during the 400th celebration.

Whether it was the music in the street, lunch with George Washington, a story told by General and Mrs. Grant, or a story from the Nottoway Indian Tribe, the celebration gave visitors a glimpse of 400 years.

Christina Luman-Bailey, city council member and member of the Four Centuries Committee, was pleased to see the celebration taking place, despite the obstacles that had been encountered along the way.

“It’s very gratifying seeing it happen, seeing the presenters, get in the spirit of things, kind of like no matter what, they’re in spirit,” Bailey said. “And having the music, the Civil War musicians, playing in the streets really brightens up the atmosphere, even if it’s drizzling, it makes you feel cheerful. No wonder they used them all the time during the war, to raise the morale.”

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