In 1609, an ambitious and spirited explorer by the name of Henry Hudson came to the head waters of our beloved river and set off a chain of events that have led us to "The Center of the World," as author Russell Shorto stated so aptly, in his eye-opening book on the origins of New York City and our Valley.
In 1909, New York boasted that we were staging the biggest celebration in the world for our 300th anniversary of Hudson's discovery. The theme was to celebrate the past and embrace the future of "Light and Flight." The Wright brothers were on hand to show off their new invention, flying over water for the first time and paid by New York State a dollar a mile for their trouble. Thomas Edison was also on hand to help light the banks of the river and harbor shores, again, another first in New York history.
Now, in 2009, facing a multi-billion dollar deficit, global climate change and a rising tide, we see more than ever the importance in embracing our great and proud history, to inspire us to shoulder the challenges of the future. We see the inevitable theme of this Quadricentennial to be one of "economic and environmental sustainability," so that we can ensure our 500th celebrations in 2109.
The planning of this year's commemoration has been accomplished through a great partnership of the valley communities, the Big Apple, the people and government of the Netherlands, and our state agencies. New York State and its many communities have planned over one thousand events that are now listed on our website at www.exploreny400.com. New York State's contributions include the New York State Quadricentennial Legacy Projects, all with the sustainable theme at their heart.
New York State has also spearheaded the planning of the first annual River Day, which will feature the signature event, the Great River Day Relay Flotilla. The grand spectacle will start the morning of June 6th with the boat and yacht clubs of Manhattan coming 'round the Statue of Liberty, led up the river by our New York State heritage flagships including the Onrust, Clearwater, Woody Guthrie, Mystic Whaler and the Half Moon. The events and activities along the river at the boat and yacht clubs, the cultural institutions and museums, and all of the waterfront parks will appeal to everyone as the summer begins an entire season of celebration.
Throughout our valley, we are working to unite all of our communities and constituencies to come together with this common embrace of our great history, as well as working for a sustainable future. To help create a visual thread linking us all together, we are delivering "The 400th!" flags to every school, town, village, city and county, library, historic and cultural institution in New York City, and the Hudson and Champlain Valleys.
Of special interest to wine lovers, we also will have a special Quadricentennial Commemorative Wine Label available to brand the wines of this special year with the spirit of a centennial moment in history.
Please join us in our big embrace of this rare privilege to celebrate an extraordinary bond of history unlike any other in our lifetime. We will all have wonderful stories to tell!
See you there.