Sail Boston vs Bunker Hill Day: Sacred Ceremonies Moved Back to Avoid Impacts

April 29, 2017
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By Seth Daniel

There are thousands of reasons to love the idea of Sail Boston if one lives in Charlestown.

But there’s one reason to have some concerns.

The date, June 17.

While the Bunker Hill Parade Day will be a week earlier, on Sunday, June 11, the official National Park Service and Bunker Hill Associates commemoration at the Monument will coincide directly with the massive Parade of Sail day for Sail Boston.

June 17 is about as sacred a day in the Town as one can get as it is the official Bunker Hill Day. In times past, when the Parade was always on the 17th, people in Charlestown planned their year around June 17. Of course, the Parade this year will not be on the 17th, but the reason for the Parade and the solemn remembrance of the soldiers, both Colonial and British, that died on the grounds of Bunker Hill and Breeds Hill and the Rail Fence, does take place on June 17.

With upwards of 10,000 or more spectators expected to be flooding the Navy Yard at the same time, Bunker Hill organizers wondered aloud how that was going to work.

Bunker Hill organizers said this week they weren’t all that happy about it at first, but they have agreed to move the ceremony up to 9 a.m. to accommodate Sail Boston crowds – which are expected to arrive as early as 7 a.m.

“We were disappointed that it had to be on the same day,” said Arthur Hurley, long-time organizer of the Parade and the official ceremony. “The Tall Ships is an exciting and great event, but that said, Bunker Hill is an important event in American History. It’s the first battle of the Revolution. I suppose the planning of this was in the hands of people in Boston, so we have agreed to move the time of our ceremony back an hour.”

Bob Gillen, another organizer, added that any potential controversy has been put to rest with the move.

“We usually start the program at 10 a.m. on June 17, but we’ve moved it back to 9 a.m.,” he said. “As far as any conflict on the 17th, there is none because we’re moving the timing to accommodate Sail Boston. There’s no conflict with the timing. The ships will not even come into the Harbor until 10:15 a.m. and we’ll be done by the time they get here…We are very amenable to moving our event back to help Sail Boston.”

The National Park Service, which plays a large role in the Sail Boston event and the Bunker Hill Commemoration, said it believes it will have the staffing and the ability to handle both events on June 17.

Hurley said they expect to have the small Parade from St. Francis Church to the Monument unimpeded before the ceremony.

He did say there is still some concern about parking and getting all of the re-enactors and participants into the Monument. There will likely be no parking available as people are expected to be taking up spots in the Town to go to the Navy Yard.

“As a resident of Charlestown, I know that there are no parking restrictions outside of the Navy Yard, so there’s not going to be any parking for our event,” he said. “You won’t be able to come and go and have parking in any part of the Town. I believe the parking is going to be non-existent.”

Meanwhile, as far as Parade planning is going for June 11, Hurley and Gillen said things are ramping up, with a Navy Band secured and several floats already entered into the mix. There will be a significant Boston Fire component this year, and the sailors from the USS Constitution will be there again.

“We’re going to have a great Parade this year,” said Hurley.