Liberty Weekend lives on in Bensonhurst

The Revolutionary War era came to life at Bensonhurst’s New Utrecht Reformed Church during the Liberty Weekend celebration, June 1 to 3, sponsored by Friends of Historic New Utrecht.

Reenactors in period garb greeted attendees on the lawn of the landmarked church as they entered, passing the black fence surrounding the property. Hundreds of attendees then explored the ancient grounds surrounding the sanctuary, which also include the parish house and cemetery, and enjoyed demonstrations by the reenactors including people representing British soldiers, American soldiers and George Washington himself, demonstrating arms, showing off their encampment and talking about soldier’s lives.

In the front of the church stands the sixth iteration of the famous Liberty Pole. This year marks the 235th anniversary of the raising of the 106-foot high pole — ceremoniously topped with a metal eagle weathervane — at the end of the Revolutionary War. The pole is the only one of its kind remaining in the original 13 states.

On Saturday and Sunday, tours led visitors through Old New Utrecht Cemetery, which dates back to 1654 and is only open to the general public for Liberty Weekend.

“They could see the monuments and actually read about the people who lived there,” said Friends of Historic New Utrecht President David Elligers about the cemetery tours. “We even have a man who was second in command in the King’s County militia.”

An important part of the weekend event is education. Elligers said, explaining, “We have students from local schools on Friday to come to talk to reenactors about history.” In addition, Maria Grillo delivered a lecture on medicine, surgeons and midwives at the time of the revolution.

Money raised from a bake sale held during Liberty Weekend goes towards restoration of the building, which dates back to 1828, and which numbered members of prominent Dutch families among its parishioners. Currently, work is underway on the church’s organ alcove, including reinstallation of the instrument. On display for visitors are historical pictures, artifacts and student crafted dioramas.

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