Company pledges $400,000 for Washington's river trek

Funds should keep re-enactment afloat

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WASHINGTON CROSSING, N.J. -- George Washington brought along a tourist for his Christmas Day ride across the Delaware River this year, and technology manufacturer Lockheed Martin brought its checkbook.

After months of financial uncertainty, the 57th annual re-enactment of Washington's daring Christmas 1776 crossing of the river -- the trek that turned the tide of the Revolutionary War -- took place without problems yesterday.

Thousands of spectators came out to hear Washington's stand-in deliver stirring words to the troops and watch three boats make the crossing from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. The role of Washington was played by John Godzieba, a Pennsylvanian who has been a re-enactor for 17 years.

It was the first time in three years that re-enactors were able to cross in boats. The past two years, the re-enactment was thwarted by bad weather and high water levels, which forced re-enactors to walk across a bridge.

During the crossing 233 years ago, boats ferried some 2,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 18 cannons across the river, and the troops marched 8 miles downriver and fell on Hessian mercenaries in the streets of Trenton. Thirty Hessians were killed, and two Continental soldiers froze to death on the march, but none died in the battle.

The victory electrified the struggling nation and led to further military successes in Trenton and Princeton.

Officials, businesses and residents had been scrambling to pay for this year's re-enactment since they found out that state budget cuts imperiled it.

Money problems likely will be less of an issue in years to come. At the event, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., of Newtown, Pa., pledged to donate $400,000 to the Washington Crossing Historical Park.

The park is visited by more than 100,000 tourists each year, but state budget cuts have closed the visitor center on the Pennsylvania side of the river.

Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager Marshall Byrd also pledged a five-year commitment of volunteer support from the company's 13,000 employees in the Delaware Valley area for park maintenance and operations. The company, which also has major operations in Denver and in Sunnyvale, Calif., specializes in human space flight systems, communications satellites and missile defense systems.

Other Washington crossing fundraising campaigns included an auction by the new nonprofit Friends of Washington Crossing.

Home builder Thomas Fischer, of Newtown, won the auction and paid $3,500 for the right to don period garb and take a seat in the lead boat for the re-enactment.



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