Patriotic crowd celebrates American independence at St. Paul’s Church
On a beautiful and picture perfect July 4th day, a near record crowd flocked to the old village green opposite St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site in Mount Vernon to celebrate their 135th Independence Day. It was one of the biggest crowds that has attended the yearly Independence Day ceremony at St. Paul’s Church.
Rosemarie Cornacchio, a longtime member of the Fourth of July Committee, acted as the Mistress of Ceremonies, as she has for the last several years.
The Peter Lawrence Band, a yearly regular at the popular event, played the national anthem, followed by a former Marine, Rev. Alfred Gordon, who provided the invocation.
Mayor Richard Thomas, looking sharp and dapper, spoke and then placed a wreath by the flagpole on the village green. The guest speaker, Bob Marrone, accompanied him.
As customary, David Osborn, the site’s administrator, addressed the audience and spoke at length about the history of St. Paul’s Church and the Revolutionary War.
Next on the program was the keynote speaker, Bob Marrone, who is the host of a radio show at WVOX.
“I am honestly touched for having been selected the keynote speaker for this important ceremony. I was really surprised when I was approached on the matter,” said Marrone.
During his speech, he sounded more like a historian and echoed some of the comments made earlier by Osborn.
Marrone touched on the subject of the church’s bell and the audience listened with great interest.
The church tower houses a bronze bell presented to the parish in 1758 by The Rev. Thomas Standard, long-time rector of the Eastchester church. It was cast in London at the same foundry as the famous Liberty Bell of Philadelphia. The bell, which is fairly small, hung from rafters in the wooden meetinghouse, and was hidden during the Revolutionary War to prevent its likely destruction by an army for military use.
Next, was the reading of the Declaration of Independence by John Banning, Jr., whose family has read the Declaration of Independence on July 4th for the last 134 consecutive years on the village green in front of St. Paul's Church National Historic Site. His son is expected to continue the tradition after him. He read from a tattered 1879 history book, which was passed on from his grandfather, who died in 1924. Scrawled on the book's back page was a note from his grandmother urging her son to continue the tradition.
Once he finished reading, there was a bell salute to the original thirteen states by Ulysses A. Bullock – a tolling of the Freedom Bell in the church tower.
This year’s program had a touch of melancholy to it since it was announced that Ulysses “Al” Bullock was tolling the bell in the St. Paul’s tower for the very last time. He has done it for over 20 years and he just celebrated his 90th birthday on July 3. “I think it is time to allow somebody else to carry on the tradition,” said Bullock.
At the end of the ceremony Bullock was presented multiple awards by the city.
Rev. Gordon ended the ceremony with a presentation of the benediction.
John Banning, Jr. reading the Declaration of Independence
Rosemarie Cornacchio was the MC
Davis Mayor Thomas (r) placing a wreath by the flagpole on the village green with Bob Marrone
Bob Marrone was the keynote speaker
The Peter Lawrence Band
Ulysses “Al” Bullock (c) being honored
A patriotic young lady proudly holding an American flag