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New York, Vermont celebrate French explorer

Image: Champlain Memorial Lighthouse
The Champlain Memorial Lighthouse is seen in Crown Point, N.Y.Mike Groll / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The sculpture of Samuel de Champlain gazes up the lake he explored 400 years ago this summer, opening the way for Europeans who made extensive use of the waterway during their 200-year struggle for control of North America.

The bronze statue, flanked by a crouching Huron Indian and a French soldier, is perched on the lake side of the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse, overlooking the strait separating New York and Vermont at Lake Champlain's southern end.

Nearly a century ago, the original 1858 lighthouse was turned into a monument to Champlain after New York and Vermont officials decided during 1909's tricentennial celebrations that a permanent memorial to the French explorer was needed.

Work on the memorial began during a period when Champlain's legacy was being re-examined by American historians, said Sylvie Beaudreau, associate professor of history at Plattsburgh State College. Renewed interest in his exploits resulted in several monuments being built in his honor in the Champlain Valley, joining the nation's "landscape of memory," she said.

"By building all these monuments, what Americans did was make history visible," said Beaudreau, one of the featured speakers at a Champlain symposium scheduled for Burlington, Vt., in early July.

This year, New York and Vermont are commemorating the 400th anniversary of Champlain's exploration of the region with five months of public events around the lake's shoreline. They range from kid-friendly festivities such as parades and "pirate" festival and to lake tours and concerts.

New York is nearing completion of a more than $2 million refurbishing of the Champlain monument and a nearby pier, both located on the state-owned Crown Point campground. The project is expected to be completed by July 4, and visitors will once again be able to climb the lighthouse's interior staircase to the narrow observation deck offering views of the Vermont shore, the Adirondack Mountains and the neighboring Crown Point State Historic Site.

Here are some of the events, along with listings for museums and historic sites hosting related activities and exhibits. For a more extensive list, check the state's Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission Web site, or New York's Clinton, Essex and Washington counties' site, or Vermont's official site.

, Whitehall, N.Y., May-October — Cruise the lake's southern end aboard the 60-foot "Carillon" as it retraces some of the routes taken by historical figures from 1609 to the War of 1812. Dinner cruises offered in July and August.

, May-October — Discussions and readings of new book "Lake Champlain: A Natural History" at 10 locations in Vermont and one in New York, sponsored by the Burlington-based Lake Champlain Committee. Events will explore the geological, physical and biological forces at work in Lake Champlain watershed.

, Vergennes, Vt. — Current exhibit: "Lake Champlain's First Navigators," detailing 11,000 years of native culture, the pivotal year of 1609, and the 400 years since Champlain's visit. Events include Kids Pirate Festival (June 6-7) and Native American encampment (June 13-14).

, Middlebury, Vt., May 6-Oct. 23 — Exhibit: "Mapping Champlain's New World." Focuses on Champlain skills as a cartographer, featuring an extensive private collection of maps chronicling the evolution of the Lake Champlain region, Vermont and the U.S. from 1640 to 1911. Museum located in the 1829 Federal house.

, Crown Point — Site in the 1700s of French and British fortifications. Events include reopening of site's museum (May 15), 18th century military encampments (American Revolution, July 25-26, and French and Indian War, Aug. 8-9), Festival of Nations (Sept. 18-20).

, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington, Vt., May 18-19 — "Our Hidden Heritage: 1609 and Lake Champlain" tells the story through Abenaki dancers, 17th-century French explorers, period attire and methods in a celebration of the region's multicultural history.

, Ticonderoga, May 21-Oct. 20 — Reconstructed 18th century fort on bluff overlooking lake's southern end, marking 100th year as tourist attraction. Events include Scottish Festival and Black Watch Memorial (June 20), French and Indian War encampment (June 27-28), annual fife and drum corps muster (Aug. 1), Revolutionary War encampment (Sept. 12-13).

, Burlington, Vt., June 5-14 — Jazz, blues, funk, swing, and Latin music performances across the city, from Waterfront Park to neighborhood clubs, with concerts, dances, street parties, cruises, meet-the-artist sessions and workshops.

Franco-American Heritage Festivals, St. Albans, Vt., June 18-20 and Vergennes, Vt., July 17-18 — Music, dancing, historical exhibits, re-enactors, arts and crafts, French food, more.

, June 25-July 4 — Performances of French, American and aquatic-themed music at 10 outdoor locations around Vermont.

Champlain Burlington International Waterfront Festival, Burlington, Vt., July 2-14, 2009 — Music, comedy, film, theater, dancing, new technology, lake ecology, and special events including history forums, lakeside tours and waterfront activities. Parade and fireworks display, July 11.

, Burlington, Vt., July 2-5 — Champlain College hosts international academic symposium on the explorer's achievements and their social, cultural and ideological impact. Featured speakers include Pulitzer Prize winner David Hackett Fischer, history professor at Brandeis University and author of last year's "Champlain's Dreams".

Sailboat racesSamuel de Champlain Cup Race at Rouses Point, N.Y., July 4, and 32nd annual Mayor's Cup Regatta at Plattsburgh, July 11.

— Based at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, the 88-foot-long full-scale replica of a 19th-century sailing canal boat will take part in events in Burlington (July 6-13), Plattsburgh (Aug. 11-12), Crown Point (Sept. 18-20), and other locations. Ship's three-month cruise will include participation in Hudson quadricentennial events in the Albany area.

, Clinton Community College, Plattsburgh, July 8-10 — Festival celebrating Native American and French-American heritage, with speakers, artwork, crafters, Iroquois dancers.

, Port Henry, Aug. 1 — A celebration of Champ, Lake Champlain's version of the Loch Ness Monster, featuring sidewalk sales, vendors, music, and other special events.

, Westport, Aug. 8 — Celebration of 400 years of boating on the lake, with antique boat parade and appearances by the canal schooner Lois McClure and the Philadelphia II, a full-scale replica of the American gunboat sunk on the lake by the British during a 1776 battle.

, Plattsburgh, Sept. 11-13 — Events include parade, fireworks, military encampments and re-enactment of War of 1812 land and lake battles fought in September 1814, .