‘Down with King George!’
Long before fireworks became the norm for celebrating the Fourth of July, the early Americans had a vastly different way of celebrating the birth of their nation.
This July, the Hickory Ridge will host its annual event, The Burning of the Effigy of King George, and the audience will be able to celebrate Independence Day just like the mountain pioneers.
The historic celebration will take place at the Hickory Ridge Homestead at 6:30 p.m. on both Wednesday, July 4, and Saturday, July 7. Darrell King, who plays the Rev. Isaiah Sims in “Horn in the West,” will lead the celebration.
This entertaining and patriotic event is intended for the whole family, as visitors are able to briefly travel back in time to the years surrounding the Revolutionary War. This traditional celebration reflects upon what was going on at the time of the war, as the colonies had to band together in the fight for independence.
A popular protest of the time was the burning of an effigy — a stuffed representation of a person. Throughout the 13 colonies, effigies of King George III were burned as the town celebrated.
Following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, celebrations went on for months as towns selected a respected man to read the document aloud so that the whole town could hear while the effigy burned. King noted that the war was not against the British people, but against their king, so the burning of the effigy depicted the colonists’ displeasure with him.
The Declaration logically detailed why the colonies needed to separate from England and called for other nations to come to their aid. Its power was used to band people living in separate colonies together under one cause.
According to King, this celebration at Hickory Ridge is able to give audience members a feel for the original American mindset. “Anyone from anywhere can take something out of it,” he said.
The event will begin with a reading of a selection of the Declaration of Independence by King. Then, select audience members will read 13 toasts, one for each of the original colonies. Each toast is followed by musket fire by Hickory Ridge volunteers.
“One toast honors fallen American military members from the Revolution to the present, who have fought to secure our freedom,” King said.
After the 13 toasts have been read, King will read a piece from one of the original Fourth of July celebrations that condemns King George III of England for his tyranny against the colonies. The effigy is then set ablaze, and the chorus and audience join together in song.
The current format of the celebration is based on suggestions by Hickory Ridge Living History Museum curator Dave Davis. It is a traditional celebration enjoyed by the earliest Americans, and Hickory Ridge supporters agree that it is an important tradition to continue into the future. Many characters from the “Horn in the West” outdoor drama will be involved in the celebration, joined by volunteer interpreters.
According to event organizers, “This celebration is a joyous event that brings everyone together in celebration of the birth of the America following the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”
The Hickory Ridge Living History Museum will be open from 5:30 to 8 p.m. before the showing of “Horn in the West” at 8 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to leave a donation during the celebration of The Burning of the Effigy of King George. For more information about “Horn in the West” or Hickory Ridge Homestead, call (828) 264-2120.