Over 120 men assembled in March of 1775 for the Second Virginia Convention - an influential gathering that would primarily be remembered for Patrick Henry's immortal words "I know not what course others may take, but as for me: Give me liberty or give me death!" His compatriots cheered. His opponents argued. The event is re-enacted for Liberty Day at the Starline Factory in Harvard. (Photo provided)

HARVARD – What began as a family gathering in 1999 to commemorate the anniversary of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty” speech has grown into a two-day celebration of the nation’s freedom.

Harvard resident Roger Erber’s family had an interest in the nation’s past, often visiting historic sites on vacations. Erber’s children were particularly interested in Henry, a Revolutionary War figure whose “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech was presented March 23, 1775, before the Second Virginia Convention of 1775.

As a way to mark the anniversary, the family shared famous speeches, sang songs and read poems.

“The idea was to stir our hearts to consider the liberty we have in America,” Erber said.

When Erber told others about what the family had done, they wanted to join in the celebration.

“It grew out of simple interest,” he said of the event that in years past has drawn 1,100 attendees.

Today, the Liberty Day event spans two days, this year beginning March 7 at the Starline Factory in Harvard.

The centerpiece of the celebration is a costumed re-enactment of the Second Virginia Convention of 1775, featuring Henry’s famous speech. The opposing views also will be presented to give audience members a richer understanding of the debate of the day.

“We try to put the drama amidst the audience,” Erber said. “You feel you are one of the delegates. The debate is happening all around you.”

From 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, a concert by Philadelphia baritone Charlie Zahm and Baltimore fiddler Tad Marks will feature Celtic, Maritime and Early American music.

“I really enjoy the history in that music,” Erber said. “It tells us something more about the history and the people.”

Saturday’s festivities will open with the Liberty Day Conference from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Paul Jehle of Plymouth, Mass., will discuss the foreign policy of the Founding Fathers, current policy and what the Bible has to say about it.

“They had a biblical eye on these issues,” Erber said of the Founding Fathers.

Jehle is the education director for the Plymouth Rock Foundation, the founder of Heritage Institute Ministries, the founder and principal of New Testament Christian School, and the pastor of New Testament Church.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, the Liberty Day Celebration will include entertainment, a costume parade, the re-enactment and a dance featuring the Virginia Reel and other historical dances. The dances will be “called” and taught so that all can join in.

Participants are encouraged to dress in period costume if they would like, Erber said.

“It’s a family-friendly event,” he said.

What: Liberty Day 2014

When: 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 7, concert with Charlie Zahm and Tad Marks; 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 8, Liberty Day Conference; 6 p.m. Liberty Day Celebration, featuring entertainment, a fashion show, a reenactment of the Second Virginia Convention of 1775, and a dance.

Where: Starline Factory, 300 W. Front St., Harvard

Cost: $35 a person / $60 a family

Information: www.libertyday.net or call 815-245-8741

By Joan Oliver - editorial@nwherald.com