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July 20. 2013 8:00PM

A colonial moment

Festival celebrates Exeter's role in the founding of the nation

Hady Alawa, 5, of East Hampstead, a member of the Lincoln Minute Men, adjusts his hat during remarks by Gen. George Washington during Saturday's American Independence Festival in Exeter. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

EXETER - History came to life once again in downtown Exeter Saturday as crowds gathered to watch and learn about the town's role in the Revolutionary War era.

The 23rd annual American Independence Festival brought Colonial militia and British troops together to battle on Swasey Parkway in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, a procession was held when Gen. George Washington and the Declaration of Independence arrived on horseback.

The event, hosted by the American Independence Museum, is always held about two weeks after Independence Day because that's how long it took for the Declaration of Independence to arrive in Exeter and news of the document's signing to be shared.

The event featured historic role-players, including music from the Lincoln Minute Men Fife and Drum, cannon firings, a military muster, musket firing, tactical maneuvers, Colonial games and demonstrations, an artisans village, and other activities designed to both educate and entertain.

One of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence produced by Philadelphia printer John Dunlap was also on display.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, an Exeter resident, was among the speakers at the festival.

Derek Wyskiel of Exeter came for the second time with his wife and three boys, ages 9, 7, and 5.

Even in the heat, Wyskiel said he still got the chills when he heard the Declaration of Independence being read from the cannon stage.

"I think it's pretty well done. It's a powerful event and a reminder of where we came from," he said.

The event is just as educational and exciting for those who dress up for their roles.

Maan Alawa, 17, of East Hampstead played the drums with the Lincoln Minute Men Fife and Drum. It's a role he took on in 2009 with other family members. The latest to join was his younger brother, Hady, 5.

Alawa was dressed in traditional garb that included a wool vest. He enjoys playing with the others, but admitted the experience isn't quite the same when it's 90-plus degrees.

"It's nice, except for the sweltering heat," he said.


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