Washington College to host 1st Maryland 250 Commission event ahead of Tea Party Festival

CHESTERTOWN — To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Chestertown Tea Party, and the inaugural program of the statewide Maryland 250 Commission, Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience will host a commemoration of what has been described as “Chestertown’s most famous Revolutionary moment.”

Co-sponsors are the Chestertown Tea Party Festival and the Maryland 250 Commission.

The Thursday, May 23 event — which begins at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public — will be held on the historic riverfront, outside the Colonial custom house at 101 S. Water St.

There will be remarks by state and local officials, including two members of Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s Executive Council — Secretary of Planning Rebecca L. Flora, who lives in Chestertown, and Secretary of Service & Civic Innovation D. Paul Montiero Jr.

A talk on the history behind the Chestertown Tea Party, musical performances, and food and drink also are on the docket for the evening.

Special musical guests The High and Wides will kick off the event and play during the post-event reception.

In case of rain, the activities will be held under a tent in Wilmer Park.

Flora and Monteiro are members of the Maryland 250 Commission, which is organizing statewide commemorations of the nation’s semiquincentennial, culminating in 2026.

The Chestertown event will be the first public program anywhere in the state to be sponsored as an official event of the Maryland 250 Commission.

Introduced by Washington College President Mike Sosulski, the celebration will include a talk by Adam Goodheart — the Starr Center’s director and a best-selling historian — on what actually happened in 1774.

According to a news release, Goodheart “will reveal a newly discovered 18th-century document that sheds new light on the fate of the famous tea.”

Steve Meehan, president of the Chestertown Tea Party Festival, will be honoring Chestertown Mayor David Foster with a commemorative plaque to be on permanent display at Memorial Park.

In addition to the people listed above, others who are expected to attend include Kent County Commissioners, Chestertown council members, state delegates and senators, past winners of the Edna Ross Award for community service and past grand marshals of the Tea Party Festival parade.

In May 1774, a ship carrying British tea arrived at the port of Chestertown and met resistance. Local tradition has long held that on May 23, citizens stormed the ship and hurled the tea into the Chester River, much like their brethren in Boston six months earlier.

For many years, an annual Chestertown Tea Party Festival celebrating and reenacting the event has brought thousands of people to town each Memorial Day weekend.

Founded in 1782 as the first college chartered in the newly independent United States, under the personal patronage of George Washington, Washington College has always had a special connection to the American Revolution. According to the news release, many participants in the 1774 tea protest later served as founding donors and trustees of the college.

For more information on this event and the rest of the Chestertown Tea Party Festival, visit chestertownteaparty.org.

On Saturday, May 25, the college’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience will offer exhibits at the Chesapeake Heartland: An African American Humanities Project mobile museum truck from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The truck will be behind the custom house at 101 S. Water St.

Additionally, a walking tour of local African American history will start at 11 a.m. in front of the custom house.

Washington College also intends to have representatives in the annual Tea Party Festival parade.

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