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The "Living History Crew of the USFS OLYMPIA" visits

Montpelier, Vermont, to Celebrate Admiral Dewey's Return from the Philippines!

by Jack L. McSherry, Jr.
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The Living History Crew of the OLYMPIA was invited to perform at the celebrations celebrating the centennial of Admiral Dewey returning to his hometown of Montpelier, Vermont. This is an account of that Experience.

The Living History Crew of the USFS OLYMPIA band

The band at Montpelier

(front row, left to right: Steve Williams, John Smith, Steven Williams, Bert Burrell, Jared Brooks. Rear row, left to right: "Admiral Dewey," Brian Miller, Ken Brooks, Jack "Pops" McSherry, Dale Burrell, Gregg Reinsmith, Matt Williams and John Williams). Admiral Dewey was not part of the band! (image courtesy of Ken Brooks)

The Account:

On the weekend of October 9, 10 and 11, 1999, the City of Montpelier, Vermont had festivities to celebrate the centennial of the homecoming of Admiral Dewey.  Even though the war had been over for many months,

 As a part of the town's celebration, City representatives contacted the USFS Olympia Brass Band and asked if it would attend and participate in the festivities.  After several weeks of mulling it over, all members of the band, except one, decided to go. The representatives in Montpelier were overcome with delight in the band’s decision to attend. Schedules for band practices were made, and members practiced diligently so that the band would do justice to the name of the Olympia.

The one member of the band who did not attend was Patrick McSherry, who got married on October 9th. Not knowing his priorities, Patrick went on his honeymoon rather than going with the band to Montpelier.    Since some of the band members attended his wedding on the 9th, the band did not go to Montpelier until the morning of the 10th of October.  Accompanying the band on the trip were many spouses and children of the band members.

After deciding to take part in the event, the band’s next step was to determine its means of transportation to Montpelier, to inquire about lodging and determine the concert schedule. All of these items were resolved, and the band chartered a bus from Krapf's Coaches of West Chester for the trip.  This turned out to be a good choice, since the bus was punctual, comfortable, and the driver was very accommodating and cheerful.  Furthermore, since some band members would be tired after the wedding, and everyone would be tired for the home trip, none of band members had to drive.  Everyone just relaxed and let the driver do all of the work. The band left Lancaster at 7:00 AM, Sunday, October 10th.

At Montpelier, the band members were very busy.  As soon as they arrived, at about 4:00 PM Sunday, members were shown to their lodgings in the dormitories of Vermont College.  The rooms were excellent and a boxed lunch was served.  As soon as the band finished eating, the members rode the bus downtown and played an evening concert on the porch of an historic building adjacent to the town square.  The band played a large repertoire of Spanish American War era music, and Sousa Marches which lasted for at least 45 minutes.  In addition, four members of our band, the Williams family, entertained the audience with renditions of music on the fifes and drums.  The crowd’s reaction to their music was with loud cheers and applause. This concert seemed to us to be a complete success. This opinion was verified when our families, our greatest critics, told us that we sounded exceptionally good.

After a night's sleep and breakfast in Dewey Hall served by students of the culinary school, the bus took the band to the opposite side of town to the High School for another concert.  This cross-town trip was not very far, since Montpelier, although the State's Capitol, only has a population of about 8400 people. Blended into the concert were talks by Admiral Dewey (Portrayed by a native of Montpelier), and a very animated and interesting first person talk by Fireman Ken Brooks concerning his presence in the boiler room of the Olympia during the battle of Manila Bay.

After the high school concert, at 11:00 am, the band participated in the re-dedication of a veterans' memorial. The band played the “Navy Hymn,” and a rousing “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The Williams group played several numbers on the fifes and drums.

After this ceremony, the band went downtown and attended a Rotary Club meeting which was dedicated to the celebration of Dewey's homecoming.  After lunch was served to all present, the band played a concert for the Rotarians.

Upon completion of the festivities at the Rotary Club, the band traveled by bus to Barre, a small town several miles south of Montpelier, where it played a concert for the residents of an elderly care facility.  The residents appreciated the band’s efforts very much, and upon completion of the concert, they served the band cider, cookies and cake.

After walking around the business section of town for about a half-hour, and purchasing various souvenirs, the band boarded the bus for the return trip home, leaving Barre at about 6:30 pm on Monday, October 11, and arriving in Lancaster at about 2:30  AM, Tuesday morning.

The trip was a complete success.  The people in Montpelier appreciated the band very much and were very happy that it attended.  As for the band members and their families, everyone enjoyed the trip.  There were no complaints, and everyone had a good time.  The band and their families were truly good ambassadors for the Olympia.

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