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UK weekly edition, Wednesday, May 2, 2007

BURY ST. EDMUNDS

You won’t have to be in Virginia to celebrate the state’s 400th anniversary in style. The hometown of the founder of Jamestown is throwing its own bash here.

Four hundred years after a British explorer left Suffolk on a trans-Atlantic trip that culminated in the founding of Jamestown, this historic market town is joining forces with the U.S. Air Force to celebrate.

The “America 400” celebration will include vintage vehicles, a Wild West show and plays detailing the history of Bury St. Edmunds. The Air Force plans to showcase itself with scheduled F-15 flyovers as well as military working-dog demonstrations, vehicle and weapons displays.

“It’s definitely a family fun day,” said Sharon Fairweather, Bury St. Edmunds Tourist Centre manager. “We’re going to celebrate our connections with the United States past and present, and we’re trying to get as many of you guys over here to enjoy our gardens.”

The Air Force Junior ROTC will be on hand alongside the honor guards from both RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath while the Lakenheath High School and the Bury St. Edmunds Sea Cadet bands are scheduled to perform.

That’s a lot of pomp to honor one man: Bartholomew Gosnold, the Cambridge-educated son of a country squire who was born in a humble Suffolk village and died in the New World.

Gosnold was an intrepid sailor who explored the New England coast in 1602, and named Martha’s Vineyard for his daughter who died during infancy in Bury St. Edmunds.

Four years later, and more than a dozen years before the Mayflower departed Plymouth, Gosnold sailed on the Godspeed for five months across the Atlantic Ocean and ultimately settled, albeit against his wishes, in Virginia.

Gosnold perished several months later of malaria, but today is credited with founding the first permanent English-speaking settlement in the New World.

For the people of Suffolk, who treasure their rich seafaring history, the “America 400” celebration is a chance to honor their past and reinvigorate a bond.

“This event has been organized to celebrate the unique and special relationship which our borough has shared with our American neighbors for many years,” Deborah Cadman, chief executive of St. Edmundsbury Borough Council, said. “It will bring together families from both communities to share our heritage while marking an important anniversary in America’s heritage.”

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