Pole-Capping Ceremony Returns on Saturday, April 9; First Time in Three Years

March 26, 2022

That light at the end of the two-year Covid-19 tunnel for colonial marching units and their fans is getting brighter by the day. And it’s radiating from Willson Park, the triangle in Bedford Center where Route 62 breaks west from Routes 4 and 225.

Willson Park is the site of the annual liberty pole-capping, which the Bedford Minutemen will host on Saturday morning, April 9.

This will be the 56th event, which historically has inaugurated the season of commemoration for the battles that launched the Revolutionary War.

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But it’s the first pole-capping since 2019, and Jim Ringwood, captain of the Minutemen, said, “This has been a long time coming.”

The festivities begin at 10:30 with a parade from the Town Common to Willson Park. Ringwood said the response from area colonial marchers reflects the excitement engendered by the resumption of Patriots Day season events – he expects 15 units and about 250 participants. Some of the participating minuteman units will be familiar, others are from as far as New Hampshire.

The Bedford company will break away from the parade when it reaches Fitch Tavern, 12 The Great Road. According to historians, the Bedford volunteers of April 19, 1775, gathered there for breakfast before their three-mile march to North Bridge and the historic confrontation with British regulars.

Click this link to see the 2017 Liberty Pole Capping Photogravure (with links to even more pictures)

Once the other companies assemble around the triangle, the Bedford marchers will carry the liberty pole along The Great Road and erect it on the park’s grass.

Liberty poles adorned with red caps were signs of defiance of the crown during the colonial period in this region. The Bedford company’s re-enactment of this dramatic symbol is unique, beginning a year after the group was officially reconstituted in 1964.

The program then features an invocation and remarks from Select Board Chair Emily Mitchell, whose job description includes honorary commander, and Town Historian Sharon McDonald. Other guests from local and state government and Hanscom Air Force Base are expected to join them on the dais.

The Minutemen will then present a citizenship award to Bedford High School senior Bryan Aweh-Kisob. Ironically, it is the Bryan prize, named in memory of Marion Bryan, who as a longtime substitute teacher mentored hundreds of BHS students on the principles of citizenship. Mrs. Bryan died in December at age 95.

The award recognizes a BHS senior who “has done outstanding extracurricular activities, especially community service-related activities that would be noteworthy as an outstanding citizen and who has served his or her community well.”

The climax of the liberty pole ceremony is the pole-capping itself. Jim Griffiths will perform the honor for the third time, shinnying to the top with a red knit cap.

There are reports that when Griffiths finishes his descent, he will be “arrested” by a contingent from His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot in America. Col. Paul O’Shaughnessy, longtime quartermaster for the commemorative Redcoats, has been known to use the occasion to berate the colonials for their misguided ways, Ringwood said.

That concludes the event, and Bedford Minutemen will host their visiting counterparts for lunch in the BHS cafeteria.

There’s no time to relax for the Bedford contingent and some of the others, as pole-capping is always followed by ceremonies remembering the skirmish at Meriam’s Corner.

Meriam’s Corner is in Concord – Old Bedford Road at Lexington Road — but it has significance to Bedford’s history. As colonial volunteers ambushed retreating Redcoats on April 19, the captain of the Minutemen, Jonathan Willson, was mortally wounded. He was carried to Meriam’s Corner, where he died.

Ringwood encourages visitors to stop into the Bedford Free Public Library, where the original Bedford Flag resides, to view the only actual remnant of the historic battle.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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