OSWEGO – What do Fort Ontario, World War I and the author of the “Madeline” series of books have in common?
Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the popular children’s books about the little girl named Madeline, served as a Private in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Ontario in 1917.
The 10-day Bemelmans Festival, May 12-21 will celebrate Bemelmans’ time in Oswego with a Madeline-themed Art Exhibit, a play, “My War with the United States,” adapted from his book of the same name, and a full day of free family events at Fort Ontario.
What began as table conversation two years ago between Paul Lear, Fort Ontario Historic Site Director, Jennifer Emmons, Office Manager at Fort Ontario and Rick Sivers, President of the Oswego Players, about adapting the book into a play, soon grew into a collaboration of city organizations planning a series of events over a 10-day period.
Coming together to form the festival committee have been representatives from Fort Ontario, Friends of Fort Ontario, Oswego Players, Art Association of Oswego, the Children’s Museum, Safe Haven Emergency Refugee Shelter Museum, and the Oswego YMCA.
At the core of the festival will be a new comedy by Rick Sivers, “My War With The United States,” adapted from Bemelmans own hilarious account of his exploits while stationed at Fort Ontario in 1917.
At the time, Fort Ontario was the largest Army hospital installation in the United States with the 19-year-old Bemelmans serving as an orderly in hospital units and at other locations around the fort.
The Oswego Players’ production will be staged in the Frances Marion Brown Theater in the Oswego Civic Arts Center, the former Quartermaster Building, on May 13, 14, 20, and 21.
The festival will begin on May 12 with a talk by Jennifer Emmons, who is currently office manager and park supervisor at the Saratoga Spa State Park.
She will tell how her research has revealed some interesting information about Ludwig Bemelmans and his time in Oswego.
Lear and George DeMass, of the Safe Haven Museum, will conduct a walking tour of World War I and Bemelmans associated sites on May 17.
On May 20, there will be a day of free events on the fort grounds.
The Children’s Museum is organizing a children’s parade where everyone will be invited to come as their favorite Madeline character, followed by an ice cream social inside the fort.
Kite Fest will be happening outside the fort, as well as kite-building, period games for children, book readings, self-guided walking tours of fort buildings associated with Bemelmans, the art exhibit, and free admission to Fort Ontario.
Food trucks will be on site and the afternoon will culminate in a barbecue fundraiser at the YMCA Recreation Center known as the Ponzi Building.
Anyone seeking more information can contact Rick Sivers at 315-312-0111 or by email at [email protected]