As the state of Virginia prepares for the Jamestown 2007 celebration, so too does Kent, England. This very historical county has partnered with the Virginia Tourism Corporation to promote the shared heritage of Kent and the Eastern Seaboard, in particular Virginia. Many Americans forget that the first settlers at Jamestown were from the Kent area, and the county of Kent is celebrating its connection to Virginia for the Jamestown 2007 celebration.
One of the events leading up to the 2007 celebration was held last week at Mount Vernon. The Kent Tourism Alliance (KTA) and Mount Vernon hosted a reception to introduce the origins of America's first permanent English settlement. About 40 people from the Kent and Suffolk counties representing hotels, travel agencies, restaurants and tourist groups came to Mount Vernon to meet with members of the media, Mount Vernon representatives and local tourism representatives.
Guests met for a reception with hors d'oeuvres and cocktails in the Mount Vernon Inn Complex's Vision Lobby and then entered the Smith Auditorium for a program which included the debut of an original "playlet" written by Mount Vernon’s "George," Bill Sommerfield.
“On Wednesday, November 2, officials from Kent County, England, visited Mount Vernon for tours and the debut of a play featuring the characters of George Washington and Sally Fairfax,” said Emily Coleman Dibella, assistant director of marketing for Mount Vernon. “Kent, the ancestral home of the first settlers to Jamestown, also claims the residence of the Fairfax family, Leeds Castle, as one of its crown jewels.
“The purpose of the trip, which included stops throughout Virginia, was to experience the heritage tourism of the commonwealth in anticipation of the 400th anniversary of America at Jamestown. Initiated by the British Committee to Commemorate 2007, the exchange of representatives in the fields of commerce, trade, agriculture, education, and tourism was one in a series of meetings designed for economic development and increased tourism between Virginia and East England.”
“WE’RE HAVING A BALL,” said Jill Dai. “We’ve brought 30 people from Kent. Most people don’t even know that Pocahontas is buried in Kent. We’re going to have a festival and celebrate with Virginia Indians. We represent a whole region — we’re only 30 minutes away from London.”
Another representative from Kent, Andrew Salter said, “As a team we want to get people more interested in their ancestry.”
Sandra Hayworth is with the Abode Hotel in Canterbury and said, “We’re the only hotel in the Old City. There is a wealth of history within the county — it’s one of the reasons we’re over here.”
Prior to their visit to Mount Vernon, Hayworth and the others spent time in New York City; from Mount Vernon they were going to Williamsburg.
“We want to increase awareness of Kent and the surrounding areas. It’s easy to have seven days in England,” Hayworth said. “Kent seems like a million miles away, but it’s only an hour — there’s so much history.”
Representing Lincolnshire Tourism was Mark Hibbert. He said that Lincolnshire was an hour from London by train — on the East Coast. Their claim to fame is that Capt. John Smith was born in Willoughby. St. Helena’s Church still contains the same font where he was baptized. They also have a copy of Smith’s birth certificate there.
Celia Butcher represents the local producers in England — those who make wine, jams, breweries and local growers. They are putting together gift baskets with these local items.
Lisa Moore, vice-regent from Virginia, spoke to the group gathered in the auditorium about her visit to Leeds Castle, saying, “I believe it must be the loveliest castle in the world.”
She compared Leeds and Mount Vernon, saying that they are both historic sites with over a million visitors them. “Happily we learn from each other.”
Moore also spoke about the garden exchange between Virginia and England
Alicia Bailey, pres. and CEO of Va. Tourism Corp., expanded on the connection, saying, “The ties we keep exploring are phenomenal. We’re so excited about all the opportunities.”