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Liberty Weekend returns to New Utrecht

A Brooklyn blast from the past.

The Friends of Historic New Utrecht will once again sponsor the annual Liberty Weekend at the New Utrecht Reformed Church in Bensonhurst. These two days of events will both entertain and teach families the history of the area.

The weekend will include historical displays and presentations, such as Revolutionary War re-enactors, a lecture and more.

“We started it in 1997,” said David Elligers, president of the Friends of Historic New Utrecht. “We wanted to focus more on educational events and the church campus. The reformed New Utrecht Church has been a part of the community since the settlement.”

Since its inaugural year, Brooklynites have embraced the event that showcases the borough’s roots.

“I think it’s important,” Elligers said. “It helps people remember that all of Brooklyn was a farm community. Farmers and fisherman made up the entire New Utrecht community, including Flatbush. We do have a long history. These sites — the church and the cemetery — are among the few places where we can remember that history.”

One of the highlights of the event is a special presentation for local students, which took place a week before the festivities open to the public.

On Friday, June 3, hundreds of kids, mostly fourth and fifth graders, came to the church to meet the re-enactors.

“They talk to kids each for about 20 minutes. It’s a new group of kids each year but they’re always enthusiastic,” Elligers said.

On Saturday, June 4, attendees will see one of the members talk about the Liberty Pole which is a long-standing community tradition that goes back to 1783.

Other re-enactors will represent George Washington, and American and British soldiers and officers.

Events will take place on the church grounds and in the parish house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Revolutionary War re-enactors will interact with the public on the church lawn.

“Saturday is the open house for anybody from the community,” Elligers added. “The re-enactors will be there. Michael Callahan of the National Parks Service will give a talk about fighting in upstate New York and the aftermath of the Battle of Saratoga. Our focus is to keep the New Utrecht tradition alive.”

Callahan’s lecture will be held at 2 p.m.

In addition, during the weekend, Elligers will conduct tours of the New Utrecht Cemetery that goes back to 1781 from 11:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. “We will talk about a number of people buried there and share information about New Utrecht’s history,” he said. “It’s the only time of the year when members of the community that are curious about it can visit it. It’s not open to the public.”

Food and other items will also be for sale from 12 to 3:30 p.m. “Church members will be involved. There will be a bake sale and all of the bakers are excellent. We will also sell costume jewelry,” Elligers said.

A ceremony honoring the 233rd anniversary of the raising of the first Liberty Pole on the site at the end of the Revolutionary War will be conducted at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 4.

“It’s an opportunity to meet a great group of re-enactors. People can talk with their characters,” he said. “The actors are very knowledgeable about who they represent. It’s a great experience to talk to them one on one.”

The festivities begin Saturday, June 4 at New Utrecht Reformed Church, 1827 84th Street. All events are free. For more information,  call 718-256-7173, visit www.historicnewutrecht.org or Facebook.com/FriendsofHistoricNewUtrecht.

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