From The Editors
As the Perry 200 draws to a close, we reflect on our proud past and question the direction of our bright future.
Over two years ago on a bright, warm June morning, two of our editors — Adam Welsh and Ben Speggen — joined a hundred and fifty or so people piled into a conference room at the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel. At that time, the Reader was still in its infancy with just three months of publishing under its belt, and at that time, Adam and Ben were there to both hear about the storied history of Erie and to see how the future would be shaped in the next two coming years.
They were there for the first public meeting of the Perry 200 Commemoration.
Back then, pageants and fireworks were just a thing of talk. The Grand Patriotic Parade was just an idea, and Erie's docks sat unoccupied by any Tall Ships save for one — the Niagara.
We tell so much of our story around that ship. And much of our story draws inspiration from it. In that room, more than two years ago, County Executive Barry Grossman shared an account of how just witnessing the Niagara sail by in all her glory seamlessly shifted a meeting of the minds from that of bemoaning to that of jubilance.
The Niagara, the ship that Oliver Hazard Perry climbed aboard after abandoning the Lawrence, wields that power over us, as our history often has the means to freeze us in a moment of time, because for if only a moment, we can reflect back to when the word "Erie" was on the tip of the nation's tongue.
Fast forward over two years from that meeting. The pageants and fireworks and parade have all come and gone, and the sun is setting on our two-year celebration. And throughout that time, the Reader has continued to champion Erie's success stories while also remaining critical of certain missteps taken along the way to moving our city forward.
So it's fitting and appropriate that we conclude our commemoration of Perry's victory over the British with a festival centered around the ship herself — a bold emblem and icon of our city's success. And it's fitting and appropriate to tell the story of that battle, the Battle of Lake Erie, which propelled The Flagship City to the forefront of the nation's mind and to the forefront of the future of America.
In this issue, Jay Stevens offers a comprehensive feature of the battle, the ship, and what both mean to Erie and how they've shaped both our past and our present and how our appreciation and recognition of such will carry us through the future.
But what does lie ahead?
Dr. William Garvey, president of the Jefferson Educational Society and chairman of the Perry 200 Commemoration often labels this experience as Erie's "Brigadoon" moment — that moment when the people of our city emerge from the mist, join in grand celebration, and then slip back into time's fog, only to wait to surface again years later; in our case, another fifty.
So now that we've emerged from the haze of time and paid reverence to our past, it seems right that we'll slide back through the ether of the present and await the future. But we cannot recede into the plumes of the past and ignore the future, a destiny we are tasked with shaping. Our attention should now be focused on the remaining question: What will those who return fifty years from now celebrate?
We then must ask ourselves: What will we have done in the next fifty years to cause a stir amongst future generations? What will we accomplish to warrant such exaltation five decades from now?
There's a Native American proverb that goes something like this: We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
So let us enjoy this last celebration, this last moment before our time to revel in the past draws to a close. But let us not forget about our city's bright future, the future we must chart and leave for the next generation to commemorate in fifty years.
That future will be determined by the path we take from here, the steps we embark on after the sails are lowered this September and after the city returns to a forty-nine-year life without such deliberate purpose to celebrate. In these years, we will leave tracks, divots in the Earth that will undoubtedly be examined by those commemorating in 2063. We must now decide what type of tracks we wish to leave: one worthy of celebration or one our children might wish to erase, or perhaps worse yet, ones our children can't see at all.