Stars and Stripes 200: The American Bicentennial

1976 was an exciting year for the United States. 

Across America, communities were preparing a whole year’s worth of events to celebrate the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. The theme was “The Spirit of ‘76” and Betsy Ross flags, tri-corner hats, and history lectures were making their way  from classrooms to holiday celebrations.

The “Stars and Stripes 200” Northport-East Northport Bicentennial Committee, led by Northport couple Sherry and Stuart Learned and student Stephen Banzer, started laying plans a year in advance for local festivities. The pinnacle of the celebrations came in the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, the nation’s birthday. 

Here’s how more than 5,000 Northporters and visitors celebrated.

A Visit from Operation Sail Ships

Northport played host to sixty yachts brought over from Germany as part of Operation Sail ‘76, an international exhibition of tall ships in New York Harbor organized to celebrate the bicentennial. They were escorted from Port Washington by the Northport Flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard and brought around Eaton’s Neck. Mayor Jack D. Campbell and Northport Harbormaster Jamie Quinn welcomed yacht Fleet Commodore Karl Bielenberg of Hamburg to a beautifully decorated harbor, complete with a large banner and red, white, and blue bunting. Both the Northport and Centerport Yacht Clubs volunteered to help with the launch and entertain visitors. Hundreds of Long Islanders came to see the action.

The Parade

Celebrations were opened with a parade, with floats and marching bands from the fire department and high school. The Northport Chamber of Commerce was represented by a reproduction red 1931 Model A Ford ‘Phantom’, while Century 21 Real Estate volunteers threw bicentennial seed packets with American flags attached. Representatives of the Northport Historical Society dressed in outfits from many decades of American history, including a 1920’s flapper. 

Colonial Canoers

Another high point of the day was the arrival of the Colonial Canoeists. Starting on June 17th, the group paddled 400-miles down the Connecticut River to recreate colonial river trading routes; their travels culminating with their arrival in Northport.

The group consisted of Northporter Stan Sherman, and East Northporters William Frank and Frank Garza (Choctaw).

Other Town of Huntington residents, including Dr. Sanford J. Forrester, Robert Mealey, Charles Squires, and Red Thunder Cloud (Catawba), who was curator of the Montauk Indian Museum. Whenever possible on their journey the team used the food and dress of the colonial period. Their goal was to trade bicentennial coins and other commemorative materials with New England towns along their route.

The Photo Collection

Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan