Well, regardless of what direction you are coming from, you’ll want to end up at Fort Roberdeau tomorrow for what executive director Peggy Goodman has called “a one-time opportunity” to see a revival of a musical production called “Eastward, Ho!”
Three afternoon performances are scheduled at the Fort on Tuesday along with other Fourth of July activities.
The performances are a revival of The Wagon Train Show of the Bicentennial Pilgrimage to Pennsylvania.
This year marks 30 years since a nationwide trek wound up at Valley Forge as part of the country’s 200th birthday celebration in 1976. Members of Penn State’s music and theatre departments put together the show.
According to a release from the Fort, the Conestoga wagons in the wagon train were constructed in Pennsylvania and one was presented to each of the other states. During the Bicentennial celebration, the wagon trains traveled from the western states to the east. The five segments converged and the final destination of the journey was Valley Forge.
At the request of Pennsylvania’s Bicentennial Commission, Dr. Bruce Trinkley, a professor at Penn State University, wrote an original musical, “Eastward Ho!” for the wagon train project. It was performed in the towns where the wagons stopped for the night. The Fort’s press release said the original cast members “will reunite to bring this show to life again.”
In addition to Trinkley’s music, the lyrics were written by Roger Cornish and Don Tucker.
In a recent interview with The Daily Herald, Trinkley called the show, “a piece of Americana.”
He said, “As I revisited the music, been with the cast and talked to people who saw the show, I (feel) it is still relevant today.”
He said the show was written and cast in less than a month. Trinkley explained the show traveled from west to east in 1975 to 1976 with five wagon trains traveling about 20 miles a day and then performing in the towns they stopped in. Along the way, a wagon train was added from each state along with hundreds of people who wanted to make the trek eastward.
Local talent performed during encampments along with dinner that might consist of a fish fry or barbecue. The performances would conclude with The Wagon Train Show. The show played more than 2,000 performances throughout the United States in 1975 and 1976.
The performances at the Fort are scheduled for tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 4 p.m. The show will also be performed today at 6 p.m. at Esber Recital Hall at Penn State. The performance is free of charge.
Regarding other Fourth of July activities at the Fort, the press release said festivities will begin at 11 a.m. with a concert by the Morrisons Cove Community Band, followed by a flag raising. Other musical performances will continue throughout the day.
At 1:15 p.m., the musical group Heartstrings will perform at the Fort. The Hollidaysburg Youth Folk Ensemble is scheduled to perform at 3 p.m.
There will also be a proclamation from Blair County Commissioners designating the Fort’s celebration as the County’s official Independence Day celebration. The Fort will also have “costumed interpreters” to inform visitors of the history and background of the Fort.
Goodman urged people in the area to “come spend all day or a little time here.”
She said, “It’s the perfect place to celebrate because this is our link to the American Revolution. It is the only reconstructive military-bastioned fort that’s been rebuilt in Pennsylvania. It is quite an honor we have this close by.”
Goodman said the Fourth of July celebration at the Fort is a “donation day.” Goodman pointed out the Fort had recently added 180 acres and still had obligations to meet regarding a mortgage and other expenses.
“Any donations people can give that day would go toward making those payments and toward protecting a really significant resource,” said Goodman.
Visitors are invited to bring a picnic basket or may purchase food at the Fort.
The Fort, is located in Sinking Valley, eight miles northeast of Altoona. For more information, contact Fort Roberdeau at 946-0048.