Ben Franklin presents at 10th annual historical reenactment

Benjamin Franklin signs an award certificate for Graham Worley, student at Riverside Presbyterian Day School, one of five essay contest winners

Benjamin Franklin signs an award certificate for Graham Worley, student at Riverside Presbyterian Day School, one of five essay contest winners

It’s fitting that for the 10th anniversary of The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Florida’s historical reenactment, Benjamin Franklin was the honored guest. After all, Mr. Franklin kicked off the first reenactment in 2007.

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Head of School David Farace accompanied students from Bolles Whitehurst campus to the 10th anniversary Colonial Dames historical presentation at the Jacksonville Main Library Jan. 20. Joining Franklin on stage were Farace, Abby Gratz, Brooke Saye, Aidan Curran, Michael McGrath and Josh Alley (back).

In the years that followed, the Dames sponsored George Washington (twice) and Thomas Jefferson – one time with Alexander Hamilton – Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Lewis and Clark, as well as John and Abigail Adams. Their performances were underwritten by the Roger L. and Rochelle S. Main Charitable Trust.

The annual two-day presentation at the Main Library for nearly 1,600 Duval County fifth graders is also an opportunity to sharpen pencils and write essays about the historical speaker. This year two of the five winners included Graham Worley of Riverside Presbyterian Day School, and Ben McCormick of St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School.

Worley wrote about Franklin’s invention of the lightning rod for his winning essay.

Barry Stevens, aka Benjamin Franklin, with essay contest winner Graham Worley, student at Riverside Presbyterian Day School

Barry Stevens, aka Benjamin Franklin, with essay contest winner Graham Worley, student at Riverside Presbyterian Day School

“It’s just awesome,” he said of his award. “I worked so hard, I’m so glad I won…that my hard work paid off. I wrote about how the lightning rod helps us, how it developed over the years and the ways and why Benjamin Franklin invented it.”

Philip Little, coordinator for Duval County Public Schools, was charged with selecting the winning entries. When asked if there were other essays, which didn’t win a prize, that were  particularly memorable, Little mentioned the composition written by Isabel Leonard of St. Marks Episcopal Day School. A student of Mrs. Bast, Leonard wrote a piece about Franklin’s invention of the flexible urinary catheter.

“I wasn’t aware Franklin had invented the catheter so I had to look it up,” Little said. “I just loved her essay. It made me laugh,” he said, sharing one sentence from Leonard’s essay, which particularly made him smile: “If it wasn’t for the urinary catheter, hospitals would be more loud than quiet.”

Franklin, portrayed by Barry Stevens, a professional actor from Arlington, Virginia, signed each winner’s award certificate with a flourish and presented each winner with a red kite, symbolic of his work with electricity and the invention of the lightning rod, among others.

Stevens has been presenting Franklin for over 10 years, although he was not the first Franklin reenactor presented by the Colonial Dames in 2007. The first performance was given by Dean Bennett, who passed away in 2014.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News
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