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American Independence Festival puts a spotlight on Exeter

Revolutionary capital of New Hampshire, Exeter boasts a rich history that is often overlooked, which serves as a source of motivation for Florence Ruffner, longtime sponsor of the annual American Independence Festival.

“I take every opportunity I can to promote this beautiful, vibrant town, which is why I believe in this festival,” said Ruffner.

Scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 13 throughout downtown Exeter, the festival celebrates the town’s historic roots, many of which run through both 18th century structures of the American Independence Museum, which serves as host.

Recently presenting the museum with a $1,500 check as the festival’s George Washington parade sponsor, Ruffner said she has fulfilled many roles at the nonprofit institution through the years.

“I have served on the board, I’ve purchased a legacy step, been a sponsor through Ruffner Real Estate, and now serve as an ambassador,” she said. “I love the museum and appreciate how it brings people to our town.”

Featuring live music, beer, food trucks, games for kids, traditional artisans, art and craft fair, and colonial battle re-enactments, the 29th Annual American Independence Festival is expected to attract 4,000 attendees.

“It’s a huge day for us and the town,” said museum executive Director Emma Bray, who said festival attendees can also view an original copy of a Dunlap Broadside printing of the Declaration of Independence.

“It’s here for just one day as are two original working drafts of the US Constitution,” she added. “We really appreciate Florence and the role all our sponsors play in helping us put a spotlight on a town with an incredible history–and the festival is a chance to experience it.”

In addition to Ruffner Real Estate, other major festival financial supporters include presenting sponsor Newburyport Bank, New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, RiverWoods Exeter, and Exeter Hospital

Tickets for the festival are available online until 3 pm on Friday, July 12 and “at the door” on the day of the event on Saturday, July 13. To learn more about the American Independence Festival or museum, a National Historic Landmark Property, visit

American Independence Museum to host 29th American Independence Festival

On Saturday, July 13, thousands will descend upon downtown Exeter, NH, former capital of the Granite State during the Revolutionary War, for the 29th Annual American Independence Festival. 

Celebrating the arrival of an original copy of the Declaration of Independence in town on July 16, 1776, the festival features a variety of entertainment, including music, battle re-enactment, tradition artisan working village and more. 

One of the festival’s most unique highlights, however, is within the museum’s Ladd-Gilman House, which will feature one of the few remaining copies of the Declaration of Independence. Its arrival in Exeter is recreated at 11 am with a horseback delivery of the document that is then read by Greg Gilman. He is the direct descendant of John Taylor Gilman, who read the Declaration of Independence to the townspeople of Exeter on July 16, 1776.

“This is a unique opportunity to participate in a recreation of a seminal point in our state’s and nation’s history,” said museum Executive Director Emma Bray.

Presented by Newburyport Bank, the festival is additionally supported by New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, RiverWoods Exeter, Ruffner Real Estate, Exeter Hospital, Historic Motor Sports, Mitchell & Monti and Proulx Oil & Propane.

“This is a wonderful community event that educates, entertains and, we hope, inspires others to learn more about our nation’s history and its continued importance today,” added Bray.

Other highlights of the festival include colonial-inspired beer brewed by Cisco in Folsom Tavern from 12 to 6 pm, a craft and art fair and local food.

Tickets for the festival, which takes place from 10 am to 4 pm, are $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6 to 18, and free for children under 6 and museum members. Courtesy of Chinburg Properties, free admission is also available to active/retired military, veterans, and their immediate families. All proceeds benefit the American Independence Museum and support future festivals. 

Children, Families the Focus in July at American Independence Museum

In July, children and families are a big focus at the American Independence Museum in Exeter.

On Tuesday, July 2, The Provident Bank is sponsoring free admission for residents of any age from SAU 16, which includes Brentwood, East Kingston, Exeter, Kensington, Newfields, and Stratham. On Saturday, July 6, free admission will also be made available to SAU 16 residents, courtesy of Kennebunk Savings.

“Both banks are also sponsoring the free admission for SAU 16 residents on the first Tuesday and Saturday in August, respectively,” said museum Executive Director Emma Bray. “This is a wonderful opportunity for local residents to see first hand the improvements we have made within our museum as well as our new exhibits.”

Presented by Exeter Hospital, a special patriotic sing-along edition of Revolutionary Story Time! takes place on Thursday, July 4 from 11am to 1 pm.  At this event, families and guests of all ages are invited to Folsom Tavern to celebrate Independence Day with song led by a colonial reenactor, patriotic cake, and colonial games. The event is free and part of a year long series, which takes place on the first Thursday of each month through December.

The largest event annually hosted by the museum, the American Independence Festival takes place on Saturday, July 13 and is expected to attract thousands. Presented by Newburyport Bank, the event features everything from traditional craft demonstrations and battle re-enactments to a beer garden, live music, games, local food, art and craft marketplace, and more.  

The Festival also marks the conclusion of the museum’s Revolutionary Kids Camp, which begins Tuesday, July 9. In this full-day living history experience, youth (ages 9 – 12) immerse themselves in the past and assume the role of a real 18th century Exeter resident, complete with colonial clothing.  At the Festival, youth show off what they have learned in camp, which concludes Friday, July 12.

“It’s a busy month for us and one in which I hope we see many new faces,” added Bray.  “We want people to see the museum as ‘their’ space.”

Home to a world-class collection of 3,000 historic artifacts, American Independence  Museum welcomes more than 5,000 visitors annually and distinguishes itself with educational school programs and events that make history fun and relevant.

Newburyport Bank to present American Independence Festival

History is often seen as a sequence of events that resides in the past, which is only partly accurate and serves as a subtle theme that underscores the American Independence Festival on Saturday, July 13.

“Our Revolutionary history provides a unique and relevant glimpse into who we are today as Americans,” said Emma Bray, executive director of the American Independence Museum, which hosts the festival. 

This theme recently caught the attention of Newburyport Bank, which presented Bray with a $5,000 check  at their new branch in Exeter to sponsor the festival.  

“We are so enthusiastic about this partnership and the connection between our two organizations,” said Bray. “It is clear we both value and honor the importance of history.”

Lloyd Hamm, Jr., president and CEO, Newburyport Bank, agreed and described himself as “a strong enthusiast of history.”

“I love seeing it energized and want to thank the museum for bringing history to life for the citizens of our communities,” he said.

At the American Independence Festival, visitors experience everything from traditional craft demonstrations and battle re-enactments to a beer garden, live music, games, local food, art and craft marketplace, and more.

In serving as presenting sponsor of the festival, Hamm, Jr.  said he believes Newburyport Bank takes an important step to supporting the greater Exeter community.

“I so appreciate that our Bank, which is new to the Exeter community but active in the region since 1854, can share in this important opportunity for inspiration and learning,” he said.

The festival also serves to conjure within Hamm, Jr. fond memories of a childhood experience in which he participated in the 1976 bicentennial celebrations as a member of the Town of Upton, MA militia. 

“For me, it was a vibrant instrument for understanding and enjoying history,” he recalled. “I  remember bounding through fields of New England with my 75 caliber Brown Bess in hand, battling the British 10th or 54th regiments. It was so much fun to see the looks of awe and enjoyment on the faces of the crowds as our nation’s important history was brought to life.”

It is precisely this kind of experience that Bray said visitors can experience at the festival, which features more than 100 colonial re-enactors, most of whom stay in character throughout the day.

“The festival literally brings history to life,” she said. “We are so thankful to partner with Newburyport Bank to present this unique and engaging experience for people of all ages.”

The American Independence Festival takes place on Saturday, July 13 at the American Independence Festival from 10 am to 4 pm with the beer tent open until 6 pm.

Festival tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for ages 6 to 18; and free for children under 6, active and retired military, veterans, and Museum members. 

To learn more, or purchase tickets, visit

Ruffner Real Estate invests in Exeter and the American Independence Museum

When Emma Bray, executive director of the American Independence Museum, first arrived in Exeter in March of 2017, one of the first people she met in town was Florence Ruffner of Ruffner Real Estate.

“It was clear she not only knew this area well, but loved it and especially the museum,” said Bray. “I realized right then that she is an important part of Exeter.”

Recently, Ruffner Real Estate contributed $1,500 to support the museum’s American Independence Festival, which saw more than 4,000 people visit downtown Exeter on Saturday, July 14. For Ruffner, the sponsorship reflects her love of the museum and what is one of the largest events in the area.

“I love to see people here at the festival, taking in the sights and sounds of a town I truly love,” she said. “Exeter is a town with a wonderful art and music scene, culture, shopping and restaurants…I want people to come visit us and discover why this town is so special and unique.”

For Bray, Ruffner’s vision of a vibrant, culturally rich Exeter aligns with that of the museum.

“The museum is just as concerned about the town as it is its own operations,” she said. “In order for us to thrive, the town must thrive, too, and vice-versa…We need to work together as businesses to maximize Exeter’s potential.”

Ruffner, whose office is just across the street from the museum’s Ladd-Gilman House (c.1721) and Folsom Tavern (c.1775), said she is enthused at Bray’s leadership and vision.

“I appreciate Emma and her ability to see the potential of this town and act on it,” she said. “This town has such an incredible, rich history and an even brighter future. It’s important we seize opportunities.”

One opportunity is a rich arts and culture scene, which she said the museum is helping to encourage with collaborations with numerous agencies, including TEAM (Town.Exeter.Arts.Music).

“We need vibrancy in this town in multiple ways, and so enhancing our local arts and culture scene is important to our town’s future,” Ruffner said. “With a beautiful space right in downtown Exeter, the museum is part of that, which I completely support.”

Bray added, “I am so thankful for Florence and what she has done for the museum through the years and in my time here,” she said. “She is a wonderful part of our museum.”

Home to a world-class collection of 3,000 historic artifacts, the museum welcomes more than 5,000 visitors annually and distinguishes itself with educational school programs and events that make history fun and relevant. Located at One Governor’s Lane in Exeter, the museum is open 10am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.