Close to a thousand historical re-enactors and descendants of the original signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, including special guest U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, are expected to gather on the banks of the Brazos River next month to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the state’s independence.
The free, two-day festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 26-27 at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site to celebrate the birth of the Republic of Texas.
Sen. Hutchison, who will speak at the Sunday afternoon commemorative program in the park’s amphitheater, is a descendant of declaration signer Charles Taylor. Taylor was one of 59 men who attended the Independence Convention March 1-17, 1836, in an unfinished frame building in the heart of a growing Texas colony seeking independence from Mexico.
Highlighting the program, which kicks off at 1 p.m. with music from a contingent of the Fighting Texas Aggie Band, will be the dramatic roll call of each of the declaration signer’s names. A black powder salute by the Texas Army will follow. At 3 p.m., a giant, 72-panel reproduction of the original painting, “Reading of the Texas Declaration of Independence,” created in 1936 by Charles and Fanny Normann, will be unveiled. When complete, the segments painted a number of different artists, will be assembled to create a reproduction of the painting three times the original size. Afterwards, the traditional Texas-sized birthday cake will be sliced and served.
Throughout the day on Saturday, park visitors will be able to witness a re-enactment of key moments of the convention, including the arrival of Texian Col. William Travis’ famous letter announcing the siege of the Alamo, as well as the reading and signing of the Declaration of Independence.
“Texans and others who seek a better understanding of the state’s unique legacy should visit this year during the annual celebration,” says Scott McMahon, the park’s lead historic interpreter. “This is our 175th birthday at the place where Texas was born and the last capital of the Republic of Texas.”
McMahon will portray Daniel Boone McMahon, a pioneer who lived just across the Brazos River from the pre-Republic burg of Washington. His relative joined the Washington Guards, a local militia that acted as the rear guard for Texian Gen. Sam Houston during the Runaway Scrape and fought during the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.
The two-day celebration at the 293-acre park along the Brazos River transports visitors back to the time when Texas was a sovereign nation. Costumed re-enactors and members of the Texas Army, along with skilled craftsmen and talented musicians, fill the park as the Lone Star State commemorates its inception. Re-enactors portraying statesmen of the era, such as Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, will be on hand to explain the importance of Texas independence. On both days, vendors will be selling food and drinks.
Both Saturday and Sunday, visitors will be able to enjoy a performance of “The Texas Convention: The Birth of a Republic,” by the Navasota Theater Alliance in the park amphitheater.
During the weekend, park visitors will be able to stop in at a river overlook campsite and experience a slice of what daily life was like for those who volunteered to fight for Texas independence as a member of the Texian Army. There also will be small arms and artillery firing demonstrations at the overlook and the Washington House behind the Star of the Republic Museum. The museum will be opening its news exhibit, “Fifty-nine for Freedom,” that explores the contributions of each delegate through various artifacts and historical documents.
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site features three attractions that are open year round: Independence Hall, the Star of the Republic Museum and the Barrington Living History Farm. The event is made possible through funding from the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association, Exxon/Mobil Corporation and Bluebonnet Electric Co-op.
Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is located between Brenham and Navasota off State Hwy. 105 and FM 1155, approximately one hour northwest of Houston. For directions or more information, call (936) 878-2214.
A schedule of other upcoming Texas 175th anniversary events, such as the San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment on April 16, are available at: http://txindependence175.org.