Travel Treasures Close to Home: Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial

by Tom Reed
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Story filed August 16, 2013

Put-in-Bay is usually bustling with activity during holiday weekends, and it’s expected to be busier than ever this Labor Day weekend with the kickoff of the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial.

The event will be commemorated on the actual anniversary date, September 10. But the celebration will begin almost two weeks earlier, when 17 tall ships arrive for the Labor Day weekend. They will be docked at Put-in-Bay, Port Clinton, Catawba Island, Middle Bass Island, Kelleys Island, and four ports in Canada until Labor Day (Monday, September 2) when most of them will take part in a reenactment of the battle, a turning point in the War of 1812. An American fleet commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry defeated the British navy, capturing six of their ships, and inspiring Perry’s famous message of his superiors: “We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.”

Visitors will be able to see the ships, and take day sails on some of them, in the ports listed above. The reconstructed brig Niagara and two other vessels will be docked at Put-in-Bay. The Niagara played a key role in the battle 200 years ago. After Perry’s flagship, the Lawrence, was disabled Perry boarded the Niagara, raised his “Dont Give Up the Ship” battle flag, and led his force to victory. (No, there’s nothing wrong with our spell-checker. The flag didn’t use an apostrophe.)

The reenactment on Labor Day will take place near the original battle site and will not be visible from the shore. Private boats will be allowed outside a 500-yard perimeter, and the Jet Express will provide a special excursion, which is sold out.

Although the tall ships will be gone, many special events are planned for the September 7-8 weekend, including a Grand Parade and Military Tattoo on Saturday. On Tuesday, September 10, a commemorative program and concert will close out the bicentennial celebration.

Whether or not you attend the bicentennial events, you can learn more about the battle at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. The last three words call attention to the 200 years of peace and friendship between the U.S. and Canada. View historical exhibits and watch a 15-minute video at the visitor center. And for a magnificent view of the Lake Erie Islands, go to the top of the 352-foot tower.

For more information on the bicentennial:

There are a couple of other places where exhibits will continue after the anniversary date. The Niagara will return to its home base, the Maritime Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania. Here’s their website:

And an exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art will continue through November 10. In addition to paintings, it includes other artifacts and documents relating to the battle.

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