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National

HarborFest Celebrates Boston's Role In American Independence

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Many Americans are enjoying a long, four-day 4th of July weekend, and that means big crowds at Boston's Annual Harborfest. For more than three decades, it's offered a way to celebrate that city's role in American independence.

NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Boston's Harborfest has 200 events going on through the weekend. On Saturday, the USS Constitution will conduct a naval gun drill. There's a Tea Party scavenger hunt.

Earlier this week, Mayor Thomas Menino read to children in an armchair in front of city hall. And there's live music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARNOLD: Susan Park is the president of Harborfest, which she helped to start 32 years ago.

SUSAN PARK: A group of citizens in Boston got together and said: We ought to do something on an annual basis to celebrate our Revolutionary War and maritime heritage.

GARY FOREMAN: You can step on the foot-ropes here and get an idea what the sailors were doing back in the day when they had to reef the sail.

ARNOLD: Inside the museum next to the historic sailing warship the USS Constitution, Gary Foreman is a gallery manager. He pulls himself up onto a full scale model of a yard-arm that sails hang from, and you can hear the ropes underneath his feet groaning as he rocks back and forth.

(SOUNDBITE OF CREAKING NOISE)

ARNOLD: That's pretty cool. So people can get a real sense of what it was like to stand in the rigging, huh?

FOREMAN: Absolutely. And then you reach over, and you grab a handful of sail, and you haul it up.

ARNOLD: Across the harbor, Michael Szkoka is a local history professor. But today, he's dressed in a full British Red-Coat uniform and doing tours. He's stopped at a memorial to a particularly famous Bostonian.

MICHAEL SZKOKA: Samuel Adams, the consummate revolutionary. The government here - which is the British government - tries to bribe him to stop agitating, and he refuses the bribe, which shows he's single-minded and steadfast and incorruptible. But even though he could not be bribed, I must tell you, there's no strong evidence that he ever brewed beer.

ARNOLD: Not only did Sam Adams probably not brew beer, Szkoka maintains that the picture on the Sam Adams beer label may be based on a painting of Paul Revere, not Sam Adams at all.

SZKOKA: Now, that said, if you're from the Samuel Adams Brewing Company and you would like me to stop saying that - willing to pay me to stop saying it - I'll stop saying it. Samuel Adams cannot be bribed. But I can be bribed.

(LAUGHTER)

ARNOLD: On its website, the company says Samuel Adams did, in fact, brew beer. So the point appears to be a matter of historical debate.

Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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