CROWN POINT - Crown Point Central School students wanted to be part of history. That's why the entire school - about 400 students, teachers and staff - made the trek to the Crown Point State Historic Site to participate in Champlain Quadricentennial events Sept. 18.
"We decided to take the entire school because of the unique opportunity it (the quadricentennial) presented," explained Shane Thelan, a social studies teacher. "Crown Point is a community school. We felt it was important for all students to be involved in this unique community event."
The celebration, which continued Sept. 19 with the re-dedication of the renovated Champlain Memorial lighthouse, marked the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain's discovery of the lake that bears his name.
At the same time the annual Festival of Nations was taking place at the site.
The Festival of Nations celebrated the cultural heritage of the nations which, during the 1700s, left a lasting imprint on the Lake Champlain Valley: Canada, France, Great Britain, Native American Indian tribes, and the United States. It featured music, crafts, food, dance, games, family activities, clothing, folk life and customs.
Crown Point students took part in a variety of grade-level appropriate activities during their visit. To prepare for the adventure students read about de Champlain.
Students were able to see the Lois McClure, a replica schooner docked at Crown Point Reservation Campground's renovated steamboat dock. They also met "Samuel Champlain," portrayed by Don Thompson, and heard vocalist and instrumentalist Linda Russell perform music familiar to Lake Champlain inhabitants during the 1700s.
Highlighting the Sept. 18 activities was the re-dedication of the Champlain Memorial lighthouse.
Taking part in the re-dedication were Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis and French Ambassador Pierre Vimont.
A bust by French sculptor Auguste Rodin adorns the front of the lighthouse, and was a gift to the people of the Champlain Valley from France when the lighthouse was originally dedicated. It was built in 1858 and converted into a monument to the French explorer and dedicated in 1912.
The work by Rodin, called "La France," was recently removed, restored and replaced on the lighthouse with enhanced security measures. It was part of a $2 million renovation project at the lighthouse and adjacent pier.
"We are honored to dedicate this magnificent sculpture," Vimont said. "This was an attempt to build a memorial to Samuel de Champlain and his amazing adventure. This piece of art is not a small token."
As part of the re-dedication the Champlain Valley String Orchestra, under direction of Laurel Rule, performed Crown Point Suite.
The group consists of 15 local string students, adult string players and teachers from six towns in Essex and Clinton counties.
Crown Point Suite is an original composition for string orchestra by Westport resident and cellist Laurel Rule.
Throughout the day there were performances and presentations by Martin Sexton, The U.S. Merchant Marine Corps Band, Piers Faccini, Justin Jones and the Driving Rain, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Hackett Fischer, Stephane Wrembel, Bear Tracks, Tim Jennings and LeAnne Ponder, Darren Bonaparte and a screening of the soon-to-be-released documentary Dead Reckoning.
As part of the quadricentennial events, the Crown Point Post Office offered a special pictorial cancellation, "Quadricentennial Champlain Celebration."
Saturday concluded with a fireworks display over Lake Champlain.
The weekend events concluded Sept. 20 when filmmaker Caro Thompson introduced a one-hour showing of her Emmy Award-winning documentary, Champlain: The Lake Between.