SOMERSET — People who attend the 18th Century Gala at the Bluffs in Pierce Beach Park on July 29 are going to be transported back to a time when Somerset was just starting to be established. There will be actors portraying the town's founders who will be walking around. People who come to the event are being encouraged to wear 18th century style dress, although it is not required to attend. There will also be a full buffet and entertainment that Saturday night as people participate in the fundraiser that is meant to bring in money for historic preservation in Somerset.
"It's a rare theme," said Selectman Holly McNamara who has formed the new group The Friends of Somerset Historic Preservation that is sponsoring the gala. "It's something you don't see very often. It's a very old era, but it's important to the history of the town, so I thought it would be fun to create awareness about it."
McNamara said the reason for the theme of the fundraiser has to do with when Somerset was founded and when the Quaker meetinghouse, which The Friends are raising money for to fix the roof, was built.
"We thought it would be very fitting to represent that time period and show people what it was like back then," McNamara said.
People in the community are coming together to reenact some of that history for the fundraiser. The Somerset Berkley Regional High School Drama Department, along with Mastermind Adventures, a Swansea business that is owned by Somerset residents Krysten and Jason Callina, are working with Mary Ann McDonald, an author of a book about Somerset history, to provide actors who will portray Patience Brayton, a well-known abolitionist who was once a minister at the meetinghouse, Jerathmael Bowers, a man who helped to bring about the separation of Somerset from Swansea, the town's first constable and others.
"It will make people more aware of Somerset history in a very enjoyable way," McDonald said of the gala.
McDonald, who is the chair of the The Friends of Somerset Historic Preservation, said the actors portraying the founders of the town will not be making presentations, but will be mingling with the crowd and talking about what life was like back in the 1700s and what they were like back at that time.
"It's a celebration of Somerset history," McDonald said. "I think people will enjoy it because it's never been done before. It's a new way of celebrating the town. We are celebrating well over 300 years of history."
"We're one of the oldest towns in the United States," McDonald said. "We go back to six months after the Mayflower landed. There were two passengers who were on the Mayflower who walked through Somerset and wrote about it and their work was published in England in 1622."
McNamara said she is planning to wear 18th century period dress for the gala but could not say how she would dress yet. There will be prizes at the gala for the best costume. There is no dress code for the event.
LaFrance Hospitality will be providing the food for the gala. Simcock Farm will be serving ice cream. There will be a cash bar.
McNamara said the area of the Bluffs where the gala will be held will be decorated with an 18th century theme. She said Somerset resident Eileen Costa, who is a wedding planner, has given a lot of input on the decor for the event.
"We're going to have a huge white tent with makeshift chandeliers and lighting," McNamara said.
The gala will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Bluffs on July 29. A string ensemble will provide entertainment during the first hour and a half of the event and then popular music will be played the rest of the time. The rain date for the gala is Aug. 5. The gala is for people who are 21 years old and older.
Tickets for the gala are $45 per person and can be purchased at the Somerset Public Library, located at 1464 County St. Tickets will soon be available to purchase online and those who would like information about how to buy tickets that way can email a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
McNamara said there has been a resurgence in interest in preserving historic structures and landmarks in Somerset and said the work that The Friends of Somerset Historic Preservation is doing is a way to accomplish that without spending tax money.
"We are trying to find creative ways to fundraise to preserve historic structures in Somerset with a priority on the Quaker meetinghouse," McNamara said as she talked about why the gala is being held.