History comes alive with Once Upon A Nation

Jeff Fusco

The past comes alive in Philadelphia more than in most cities in the country. With such a strong tie to the Revolutionary period and beyond, it only makes sense that the city’s streets be lined with the stories of the individuals and moments that made it. One way that Philadelphians can enjoy a walk down memory lane is with The Once Upon A Nation Storytelling program. 

The program comes from Historic Philadelphia, the organization behind the Betsy Ross House and Franklin Square events. For Once Upon A Nation, they partnered with Independence National Historical Park and Valley Forge Historical Park. According to a release, the program brings history to life with stories about real people and events which occurred in Philadelphia’s historic district and in Valley Forge. Professional storytellers share these stories, using scripts that are built on careful research to assure accuracy. They cover a variety of topics, including some which speak to issues that connect past experiences with contemporary events and interests.

Jeff Fusco

Philadelphians who are looking for ways to connect the past with their own future have three opportunities to do so at Independence Square — behind Independence Hall — Franklin Square and the Betsy Ross House sponsored by the George C. and Esther Ann McFarland Foundation. The award-winning Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches are within Philadelphia’s Historic District, telling the riveting and true stories of our nation’s history in the places where they actually happened. Each story is timed to be about 3-to-5-minutes performed by a specially-trained, uniformed storyteller. 

The Independence Hall and Franklin Square program runs from July 2 to September 6 on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (also July 4th, Sept 5th and 6th) while the Betsy Ross House program runs on 11 .m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday from  July 2 to September 6.  

In addition, visitors and Philadelphians can also check out the Valley Forge storytelling bench located at the park’s Visitor Center on Saturdays or at General Washington’s Headquarters on Sundays. Storytellers, trained at the unique Benstitute, share riveting stories of the encampment, and how it became a turning point in the Revolutionary War. Short stories are told for free at the signature 13-foot curved bench.

The historic festivities don’t end there.

Recently, the Betsy Ross house celebrated Flag Fest, which dates back to 1891. The Betsy Ross House hosted its first Flag Day event on June 14th about two centuries ago and has long been the site of the city’s official commemoration. In 2008, the star-spangled celebrations of the early 19th century were revived and, since then, the House has hosted a full slate of events.

M Kennedy

The House also hosts a daily flag-raising from July 2 until September 6. The raising of the 13-star flag happens everyday in the courtyard at 10 a.m. 

On top of everything else being offered, there are also opportunities to join in on the Free Quaker Meeting House through September 6. These meetings will happen on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., and while there, Philadelphians can meet a History Maker and learn about their impact on Colonial Philadelphia in this historic house of worship. 

History Makers, the costumed interpreters from Philadelphia’s past, will also hold meet-and-greets on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the summer at Independence Visitor Center, 599 Market St., and around the Independence Hall area. 

For more information on Historic Philadelphia and all of its events, visit historicphiladelphia.org

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