Friends of Lafayette to host four-day event in LaGrange

Published 8:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2023

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The American Friends of Lafayette (AFL) are coming to LaGrange for a weekend filled with events that celebrate all things Lafayette.

AFL was started by a group of enthusiastic admirers of General the Marquis de Lafayette in 1932 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. When the society has their annual meetings, it’s typically in Boston or New York, but for the first time they’re having their meeting in LaGrange, said Lafayette Alliance Chair Richard Ingram.

AFL will have events throughout LaGrange from Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 11.

“We have over 100 people coming from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts, nearly all of them out of state, and they’re going to descend on LaGrange Thursday,” Ingram said.

As the namesake of LaGrange, Lafayette has a special connection to the city, from the downtown square that bears his name to his statue in its center. Lafayette indirectly provided the name for LaGrange when he was traveling nearby and remarked that the area looked like his home in France, Château de la Grange-Bléneau. The group will visit Fort Mitchell on their tour where Lafayette made the comment.

The opening reception on Thursday night at Del’avant will feature dueling scholars, who will debate Lafayette’s intentions when he first came to America.

John Beyers, pastor of First Methodist Church, and James Goodlet, pastor of First Presbyterian, will square off as dueling scholars to debate the two philosophies about why he came to America. Beyers will argue that Lafayette came to America because he was 19 years old and just wanted to get out of town, and Goodlet will contend that he came to America with purpose.

The event will also stage the early life of Lafayette with 50 community members who have volunteered to perform. The performance will be directed by LaGrange College Professor Kim Barber-Knoll.

“They’re costumed in French outfits. It’s really spectacular,” Ingram said.

Ingram said the event opening reception will not be open to the public due to space concerns inside Del’avant.

The public is invited to come to First United Methodist Church on Friday at 12:30 p.m., where Linda McMullen, Business Department Chair at LaGrange College, will give a talk on Lafayette and abolition.

Right afterwards, Price Theatre will host a staged performance of Lafayette’s life from the time he lived in America at 19 until he died at the age of 76 in 1834. The show will include 14 cast members including community members and experienced actors.

The performance will start at 2 p.m. on Friday and is open to the public.

Following the performance, the public is invited to the Lamar Dodd Art Center, where retired LaGrange College Professor John Lawrence has curated a gallery of art highlighting Lafayette’s life.

Mayor Willie Edmondson is set to proclaim Saturday, June 10 as American Friends of Lafayette Day in LaGrange.  Throughout the day on Saturday, the public is invited to Lafayette Square downtown for trolley rides, snow cones and actors portraying Lafayette and his comrades.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., parents, children and visitors are invited to come to the square downtown to take a free ride on the Lafayette Trolley. The trolley will make a loop around downtown, go down past the skate park at Southbend Park and then loop down Main Street and go by Hills and Dales before returning to the square.

From 10 a.m. to noon, professional Lafayette reenactor Ben Goldman will be on the square. From noon to 2 p.m., an actor performing Lafayette’s wife, Adrienne (played by Tara Laurel Little), will be on the square followed by James Armistead (played by Zeke Weldon), an African American that Lafayette recruited to spy on Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown from 2 to 4 p.m. Other cast members from both dramatic performances are expected to appear as well.

Visit LaGrange will also be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to host an exhibit on Lafayette.

The group will close out the weekend with breakfast at Hills & Dales.