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Queen, president to recognize Jamestown's 400th, soon after tragedy

Queen, president to recognize Jamestown's 400th, soon after tragedy

President George W. Bush is coming to Jamestown. So is England's Queen Elizabeth II, albeit a week early.
The centerpiece of the 18-month commemoration of the 400th anniversary of America's first permanent English settlement finally is almost here after a decade of planning, and visits by those dignitaries will give organizers two of their biggest wishes.
But the "America's Anniversary Weekend" extravaganza May 11-13 now will be taking place less than a month after a gunman killed 32 people, then himself, 270 miles (435 kilometers) across the state on the campus of Virginia Tech. And the weekend coincides with Virginia Tech's commencement on May 11, so the tragedy still will feel very fresh.
With that in mind, a moment of silence or some other tribute to the victims will be added to the anniversary program, said Kevin Crossett, spokesman for Jamestown 2007, part of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, a state agency that runs two history museums and is coordinating commemoration efforts.
"One thing I can say about this state is that we're resilient," Crossett said. "Most people know that this could happen anywhere. Unfortunately, it happened in Blacksburg. It's not an indication of what this state is like."
Slightly less than two-thirds of the 90,000 tickets for the weekend remain unsold.
Organizers expect many people won't decide whether to attend until closer to the weekend, Crossett said, noting that Jamestown is a "short-haul destination" _ an easy drive from many places, from Philadelphia to the Carolinas.
Single-day tickets cost $30 (euro22) and sales will be capped at 90,000 _ 30,000 for each day.
Judy Randall, president and CEO of Randall Travel Marketing in Mooresville, North Carolina, said she doesn't think the shootings will have a negative effect on the Jamestown weekend, or on Virginia tourism in general.
"The tragedy is very significant, but the shooter is no longer there, so you basically have an issue that is resolved," Randall said. "People consider the tragedy that happened at Virginia Tech isolated unto itself. I don't think there's a feeling of people feeling unsafe in the state of Virginia."
Ticket sales could get a boost right before the weekend, especially if the weather is good, because many people make getaway plans at the last minute, she said.
Travel expert Pete Yesawich also does not expect the shootings to affect anniversary weekend turnout.
A bigger factor is that history is a hard sell, as historical attractions that have seen flagging attendance can attest, said Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell. The Orlando, Florida, marketing agency's National Travel Monitor tracks travel trends.
Families with children are seeking more interactive kinds of entertainment, and those children are having more influence on the decisions parents make about vacations, Yesawich said.
"Entertainment has taken on a whole different form and dimension in the digital world," he said.
The Jamestown anniversary events will include concerts, fireworks and appearances by the famous, but at its heart it is a commemoration of an important part of American history.
Jamestown was founded as a business venture under a royal charter. The settlers arrived at a swampy peninsula on the James River on May 13, 1607, going ashore the next day.
Hunger and disease nearly wiped out the settlers in the early years. Later, tobacco exports helped Jamestown survive financially.
The first Africans brought to America arrived at Jamestown in 1619 and probably were treated as indentured servants. They were from Angola and had been captured during war with the Portuguese.
Jamestown was Virginia's capital until 1699. Its population dwindled, and Jamestown ceased to exist as a town by the mid-1700s.
Virginia has recognized Jamestown's birthday with big bashes every 50 years since 1807. Queen Elizabeth II visited Jamestown in October of 1957, the year of its 350th anniversary, and she's returning 50 years later, a week before its quadricentennial.
The queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, are scheduled to arrive in Richmond on Thursday, May 3, the same day she is to address a special joint session of Virginia's General Assembly at the Capitol.
The General Assembly traces its origins to the House of Burgesses, which first met in Jamestown in 1619. It is heralded as the oldest continuous lawmaking body in the New World.
The public can gather at Capitol Square to view the Queen's walkabout to the Capitol. The square also will be the site of "Virginia's Royal Welcome." Virginia musicians including bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley will perform for free to celebrate the queen's visit.
On Friday, May 4, the queen is to visit the Jamestown Settlement living history museum, which opened in Williamsburg for the 1957 anniversary, then go to the nearby Historic Jamestowne, the site of the settlers' original triangle-shaped fort and of an ongoing archaeological dig.
The monarch also will visit the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. King William III and Queen Mary II granted a royal charter to establish the school in 1693.
The anniversary weekend, financed by $4.7 million (euro3.45 million) in private and public funds, gets under way a week later. This is the first Jamestown commemoration to focus on all three cultures that converged there: English, native Indians and Africans.
Thousands will gather at Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown Settlement and Anniversary Park, across from Jamestown Settlement.
Among the highlights:
_On May 11, The Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra will perform separately and then combine for the first time to premiere works written for the commemoration.
_Bruce Hornsby will headline a concert at Anniversary Park on May 12, and R&B singer Chaka Khan and bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs will join the Williamsburg pianist and songwriter.
_President Bush will participate in ceremonies on May 13.
_The weekend will conclude with the performance of a 400-piece orchestra and a 1,607-voice choir created for the commemoration and representing most of the United States.
Sprinkled throughout the weekend will be a variety of other performances, including concerts by school choirs and orchestras, folk musicians, a band that plays instruments made from gourds and a musician who plays the bowed musical saw; a ballet by an African heritage group; a dance by a Polish folk troupe; and a magic show featuring 16th- and 17th-century illusions.
The weekend also includes cultural demonstrations featuring Indian, European and African works; an artisans' village where blacksmithing, glass blowing and other crafts that sustained Jamestown will be performed; guided tours by costumed interpreters at Jamestown Settlement, which also has a new exhibition on the "World of 1607;" and military drills, cannon firings and dramatic readings.
Of course, there also will be fireworks.