When I was in my twenties, I rented a small house that sat across the road from Washington Crossing Historic Park. It was a prime location, as you can imagine. I could be walking through the park, along the banks of the river, or on a picturesque stretch of the towpath within a matter of minutes.
I savored every day of my brief stay there. Every day, that is, except for Christmas. That morning, sleeping late, as I was prone to do on weekends and days off, I was startled awake by the sound of cannon fire. I jumped out of bed, pried open the blinds, and spotted a calvary of colonial reenactors marching down the road toward the bridge.
Of course, I knew about the annual Christmas-day reenactment of the George Washington-led crossing of the Delaware, but I was young and self-absorbed. And so, it slipped off my radar. It didn’t for thousands of others that year, reenactors and observers alike, and just about every other year. For many, it’s a long-running tradition. They’d sooner skip Christmas dinner than miss the crossing.
Which made the news last month all that much harder to believe, even at the end of a year that’s been unrelenting with the unbelievable news. On October 2, park officials posted the following message on Facebook:
Out of concern for public safety and due to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ crowd-size restrictions related to COVID-19, the two public Delaware River crossing reenactments will not be held in December at Washington Crossing Historic Park.
We are as disappointed as you are that this much-loved annual event cannot be held in the traditional manner this year.
To keep the tradition alive, we will debut a special pre-recorded crossing video on Christmas Day. You can watch this video here on the park’s Facebook page and on our YouTube channel. Please stay tuned for more details.
Thank you for continuing to support the staff, volunteers, and reenactors at Washington Crossing Historic Park.
The reaction was immediate and overwhelming. Much of it was supportive. Some was defiant. What’s one more cancellation? The thing is, each new cancellation redraws the finish line for the pandemic. At first, most of us felt pretty put out by the prospect of having to spend a week or two at home. And then, of course, that became nothing.
Even without an end in sight, there was hope that the crossing would go on. It’s an outdoors event, after all. And while the actual crossing portion has been called off lots of times before because of the weather or the river’s condition or both, the reenactment has always pressed on without interruption. Until it couldn’t this year.
All is not lost, though. The park will stream a video of the reenactment that was filmed this fall. So, yeah, we’ll miss out on the camaraderie, but, on the upside, we’ll get a prime view from the comfort of our cozy homes. And, if there’s a silver lining to 2020, it’s this: Streaming events, like this one, seem to be reaching even larger audiences. If that holds true, next year’s crossing could be the biggest one yet.