Beneath a bright blue sky, with French and American flags flying and surrounded by reenactors in historical regalia, Newport Mayor, Jeanne-Marie Napolitano awarded the Keys to the City of Newport to the Alliance Française de Newport (AFN) and to the National Park Service on July 9, 2022 at the Rochambeau Monument in King Park. The event was held to commemorate the landing of French troops under the command of Comte de Rochambeau and to honor a 242-year special bond between the people of France and the United States.
Mayor Napolitano said that grandeur of the Monument “was due to the untiring efforts of the Alliance Française de Newport which raised $250,000 for its 2019 restoration.” Mary-Gail Smith, past President of the Alliance Française de Newport, accepted the Keys to the City on behalf of AFN.
When awarding the Keys to the City to Johnny Carawan, Trail Administrator of the Washington- Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, Mayor Napolitano commented that “the City of Newport is very proud to be recognized by the National Park Service as the Origination Point of the trail where Comte de Rochambeau and nearly 6,000 French troops, plus an additional 7,000 sailors landed in July 1780.”
Johnny Carawan presented awards from The National Park Service to Alliance Française de Newport member, Charlotte Johnson, for her many years of service to the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W3R) and to Thierry Chaunu, President of the American Society of Le Souvenir Français for his leadership including his work in planning the weekend’s events.
The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W-3R) preserves and interprets over 680 miles of land and water trails taken by American and French soldiers beginning in Newport and ending in Virginia with the victory over British forces at the siege of Yorktown in 1781.
Mike Warren, Vice-President of the Alliance Française de Newport, said in his remarks, “Every year at this time, AFN presents a wreath in honor of the French who died establishing our country.” He introduced Captain Nicholas Brown, USN retired, Thierry Chanau, President of the American Society of Le Souvenir Français, and Lawrence Abell, Chairman of W3R-US ,who laid wreaths at the base of the Pyramid. AFN member, Smidgie Reid, made one of the wreaths with flowers from her garden, honoring a tradition begun by the late Cindy Dressler, a past President of AFN.
Lawrence Abell, Chairman of W3-R US, praised both the City of Newport and the Alliance Française de Newport for restoring and maintaining an exceptional Monument at the beginning of the Trail. Historical reenactor, Matthew Mees, in a protrayal of Comte de Rochambeau, provided a glimpse into the conditions in Newport at the time of the troops’ arrival. Rochambeau’s Aide de Camp was portrayed be Norman Desmarais of Le Régiment Bourbonais. The uniformed members of the Newport Artillery saluted the French troops. There was representation also from Le Régiment Soissonois.
The mission of the Alliance Française of Newport is to promote an understanding and appreciation of the language and culture of France and French-speaking people and our nation’s historic and continuing relationship with France by providing educational and cultural programs for members and the general public. www.AllianceFrancaiseNewportRI
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