On Feb. 13, thousands of elementary school students will descend on Savannahs streets, dressed in their best colonial finery. The Georgia Day Parade begins at 10:30 a.m. at Forsyth Park, winding up through the Bull Street squares to City Hall. Its just one of many events in Georgia Days 2006 designed to encourage a better understanding of Georgia history.
The purpose of Georgia Days to to celebrate the founding of the Colony of Georgia, says Christine Wilson, development and events coordinator for the Georgia Historical Society, which sponsors the two-week celebration.
The parade involves thousands of local elementary students dressed in costume, she says. Their teachers are given a packet of information beforehand to start telling the students about this years honoree.
Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe founded the Colony of Georgia at Savannah on Feb. 12, 1733. The very first celebration was on the first anniversary of the founding on Feb. 12, 1734, Wilson says.
Each year, Georgia Days honors a historic figure who was instrumental in the states history. This year, naturalist William Bartram is being honored.
The William Bartram Exhibit can be seen Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Feb. 28 at the Massie Heritage Center, 207 E. Gordon St. It features work from several private collections and presents Bartrams artwork. Admission is free.
Bartram, born in 1739 in Philadelphia, was the son of John Bartram, Americas first professional botanist. At the age of 26, William accompanied his father on a botanical expedition to the Florida territory in 1775. Florida had been acquired from Spain in 1763, and John Bartram had been commissioned as the Kings Botanist to explore the territory.
While traveling with his father, William fell in love with Florida. He tried to become an indigo farmer, but although this experiment failed, he remained in Florida for a time. In 1773, William visited the Georgia coast, where he learned of a meeting between representatives of the Creek and Cherokee Indian nations that was to take place in Augusta in two months. William decided to stay in Georgia so he could attend the meeting and record its proceedings. He explored the Georgia coast in the meantime, visiting Savannah, Midway and Sunbury.
In addition to learning about Bartram, students also participate in other activities to learn about colonial life.
Theres a colonial clothing competition, Wilson says. The students can actually make their own costumes.
Following the parade, the Georgia Day Luncheon will be Monday at noon. This years keynote speaker will be U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Reservations are required for the luncheon. The cost is $30 per person, or $350 for a reserved table of 10.
The luncheon is traditionally held at the Hyatt Regency, Wilson says. This year, there will be a performance by the Savannah Arts Academys jazz band.
Another Georgia Day event has become a tradition in its own right. The Georgia Birthday Bash, Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m., is a reception in the Alida Harper-Fowlkes House on Orleans Square, which is rarely open to the public. The cost is $60 per person.
In conjunction with Georgia Days 2006, Super Museum Sunday will be held Feb. 12 from noon to 4 p.m. Savannah-area museums will open their doors to the public at no charge. See which museums at www.georgiahistory.com.
An hour-long recital of 18th century music will be Sunday, Feb. 12 at 3 p.m. at Hodgson Hall, home of the Georgia Historical Society, 501 Whitaker St. Music of the Georgia Colony will be presented by Anne Acker, who will play colonial-era music with period instruments to accompany soprano Lucinda Schultz. This concert is free.
For more information or to make reservations for the Birthday Bash or the Georgia Day Luncheon, call 651-2125, Ext. 20, or e-mail email@example.com.