Have I been distracted by work? Here’s one way to tell: Yesterday was San Jacinto Day. And I forgot to note it here.
Fortunately, the celebration is set for April 26 — at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, near LaPorte, Texas. The battle reenactment is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. — be there early to get the benefit of all the exhibits, sideshows, and Texas cooking. (Press release on the celebration below the fold. Note the press release says admission is free, while the story from Houston’s KTRK-13 says there are admission charges.)
San Jacinto Day? April 21 is the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, where Sam Houston and the Texian Army got the drop on Gen. Santa Anna and his much larger force, and in the course of a half-hour put the well-trained Mexican regulars on the run, and won Texas independence.
It’s a time to remember — or puzzle about — the true story of the Yellow Rose of Texas, a woman to whom Texans owe a great deal, or one of the better hoaxes of history. It’s a time to fume over the way Anglo Texians pronounced the J as J in “Jacinto,” distancing Texas from a small part of its Spanish-language heritage.
Unfortunately, it’s also a day most Texas students get smothered with reviews from their teachers for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), the state exam that had just ended last year on this date, and looms in the future this year. Instead of learning Texas history, Texas seventh graders spend this great day reviewing what educators are supposed to teach them. Nuts.
Hey, Texas teachers: Download the teachers’ guide to the Battle of San Jacinto right now — have it ready for next year. The kids need a break to study real history. You know they will need that break next year, too.
The late Hoyt Axton sings “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” with John Hartford and others:
- On-line description of the battle, from the State Park
- On-line catalog of artifacts from the San Jacinto Battleground Museum (!)
- Lone Star Times, with Texans’ comments on the day
The San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment on Saturday, April 26 is a celebration of Texas’ independence that was won at the famous Battle of San Jacinto. On April 21, 1836–in 18 short minutes–General Sam Houston led his Texian soldiers to victory over the Mexican Army, officially securing Texas’ independence from Mexico and eventually leading to the addition of one million square miles of territory to the United States.
The admission-free San Jacinto Day Festival takes place from 10 a.m. – 6.p.m. on the 1,200-acre San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site at the San Jacinto Monument. There will be a full day of music, entertainment, food, games and fun set amidst living history.
The most poplular event of the day is the battle reenactment, one of the largest in the state that reenacts one of the most important battles of American history. The battle begins at 3 p.m. – complete with cannons, muskets, horses, pyrotechnics and hundreds of reenactors. They replicate the Runaway Scrape (Texians gathering the few belongings they could to flee the advancing forces of Santa Anna), the march of the Texas army from Gonzales to San Jacinto, the cannon duel, and the final battle between the two forces. The reenactment ends with the surrender of Mexican Army General Santa Anna to Texian Army General Sam Houston, followed by the laying of wreaths to honor the sacrifices of both armies.
The festival celebrates this special day in Texas history with entertaining and educational activities:
- Blacksmiths, basket weavers, weavers, spinners, quilters and other demonstrators will give visitors a full sense of how life was in the early 1800s. Sutlers (civilians who sold provisions to military posts) will be on hand to sell or show their wares.
- At the Main State, popular local and regional entertainers will perform. Liz Talley, the European Country Music Awards 2008 Female Vocalist of the Year nominee, will play traditional acoustic country with band members. K.R. Wood is a native Texan, singer, songwriter and historian. He brings along a historic chuck wagon and performs his “Camp Cookie” review and other western shows. During a ceremony at the Alamo, the descendants of Davy Crockett officially adopted K.R. for his dedication and continuing efforts to keep the Davy Crockett legend alive. He is a member of the Texas Commission on the Arts–one of only a handful of Texas artists chosen for this elite membership. From the Austin area, rising star Sam Sliva and The Good combines southern rock, Texas country and alternative music that is sure to entertain the audience.
- Texas Parks & Wildlife Department interpreters will offer guided tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. of the restored marshlands and answer questions about the wildlife inhabiting the park that includes otters, diamondback terrapins, peregrine falcons, wood ibises (storks), brown pelicans, reddish egrets, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, osprey, mottled ducks and American avocets. Guests can now more easily see the marsh due to the ADA-accessible boardwalk expansion project funded in large part by Shell Oil. Shell also provides volunteers to work on the building of the boardwalk area. The marsh is historically important in that it barred the escape of many of General Santa Anna’s troops during the 1836 battle.
- Last Chance Forever: Birds of Prey demonstrates magnificent birds such as hawks, owls, eagles, falcons and vultures.
- Members of the San Jacinto Descendants, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the Sons of the Republic of Texas will be on hand to share their history.
- Texas Independence Square Dancers–square dancers from various groups throughout Texas–will demonstrate square dancing and give lessons.
- Inside the lobby of the Monument an exhibit of recently restored artifacts will be on display. The exhibit includes historic artifacts that have recently been restored thanks in part to funding provided by the Summerlee Foundation, Mrs. William T. Kendall, Betty and Bill Conner and the San Jacinto Museum of History Association. The display is free to the public and includes military uniforms believed to have been worn at the Battle of San Jacinto, a 19th century rifle used by Jesse Walling who served under Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto, and Thomas Jefferson Chambers’ dress uniform. There will also be a display of several recently acquired printed items showing the Mexican point of view of the Texas Revolution. Funds to purchase these items came from the Damon Wells Foundation.
- Visitors can browse through the vendor area to admire unique hand-crafted items and Texas history crafts.
- Music from the North Harris County Dulcimer Society will entertain folks as they walk along the reflection pool.
- Instead of 1836 fare such as possum and cornmeal mush, the Texas-style food and beverages offered for sale will be more pleasing to today’s palates.
- Battleship TEXAS, the first battleship memorial museum in the U.S., is open for visitors. (fees are listed below.)
The Children’s Area is sponsored by Rohm & Hass Texas Incorporated and Deer Park ISD. A stage with family entertainment sponsored by H-E-B Tournament of Champions will offer shows all day. Activities and shows in the Children’s Area include:
- Phydeaux’s Flying Flea Circus, which is a “family-friendly, audience-interactive, historically accurate, educational street theatre” performed by the Flea Meister in period costume. The performance consists of “snake oil, comedy, tall tales, breathtaking feats of Phydeaux’s world famous acrobatic fleas and shameless hyperbole.”
- Two young entertainers–Kalei Dodson from Seguin on accordion and singer Caitlyn Norris from Houston–will perform separately to dazzle kids and adults alike.
- A 55′ train complete with train whistle and Texan and American flags ($2 fee).
- Make-and-take history activities and crafts for children will be available, created by Gifted/Talented specialists from Deer Park ISD. Volunteer teachers from DPISD and student volunteers from San Jacinto College will assist in the craft area.
- The Houston Zoomobile, Armand Bayou Nature Center and Bar Mollys Place will be on the grounds with native Texas animals, interesting demonstrations and nature games.
- Marsha’s Petting Zoo brings in animals for an up-close and personal look at nature.
- Children can hunt for artifacts at a dig site hosted by the Houston Archeological Society.
During the day visitors can wander freely among the Mexican and Texian camps to learn what the soldiers of that day were doing prior to the battle and to see how civilians lived in 1836. In the military camps, visitors will learn how to perform the close order drills of the day. A few lucky children will be chosen to stand with the cannon crew and pretend to load the cannons, and will be presented with cannon soot to wear on their noses as a badge of honor.
The historically correct encampments and the Battle Reenactment are presented by hundreds of members of the San Jacinto Volunteers and other living history organizations from across the state. These groups allow families new to the state as well as native Texans celebrate the history of this great state.
The admission-free San Jacinto Day Festival runs from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on the 1,200-acre San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site at One Monument Circle, La Porte (just 22 miles east of downtown Houston). Visitors are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and/or blankets to the festival and reenactment; the reenactment occurs at 3 p.m.
“We appreciate Presenting Sponsor H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Rohm and Haas Texas Incorporated and the San Jacinto Day Foundation whose financial support allows us to offer this celebration of Texas’ independence free to the public,” says San Jacinto Museum of History Association President Larry Spasic. “Each year we work hand in hand with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to coordinate this event, and this year members of the Texas State Guard will also assist us. They are the current day version of the Texian Army who fought for our independence in 1836!”
Visitors enjoy free admission to the festival, reenactment and the exhibit in the Monument lobby. For a modest fee, festival goers can take the famous 489-foot elevator ride to the top of the Monument and enjoy the digital presentation Texas Forever!!: The Battle of San Jacinto. Combo tickets can be purchased: $12 for adults, $8 for children. Fees for the Battleship TEXAS are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for school and youth groups with a reservation, and children 12 and younger are free.
The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is located just minutes away from downtown Houston–take Highway 225 east to Battleground Road north, approximately 3 miles from the freeway.
For more information about the San Jacinto Museum of History or the San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment, please call 281.479.2421 or visit www.sanjacinto-museum.org. For more information on the Battleship TEXAS, please contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at 281.479.2431.
COMMEMORATIVE CEREMONY: Each year on April 21 the official State of Texas ceremony marking the anniversary date of the San Jacinto Battle takes place on the steps of the San Jacinto Monument at 11:00 a.m. The commemorative ceremony is open to the public.