By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 11, 2007 9:50 PM
Jamestown, Va. - With a procession of flags and the world premiere of a symphony saluting the English settlement of North America, the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown kicked off tonight.
Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine,( D)., welcomed the thousands of visitors gathered on the Jamestown's Anniversary Park grounds to what he predicted "will be a magical and memorable weekend."
Also held tonight, in Blacksburg, Va., were commencement exercises at Virginia Tech, site of a mass slaying Apr. 16 that left 32 people dead. In his remarks at Jamestown, Kaine noted the "difficult and emotional roller coast that the state of Virginia has been on in the last month."
The governor led the Jamestown audience in applause to salute the Virginia Tech community.
The Jamestown ceremony began under clear skies with the sun setting over the James River. Feared thunderstorms held off. "I cannot imagine that the colonists first evening 400 years ago could be any more glorious than tonight," state Sen. Tomas K. Norment, R-James City County, official host for the event, told the audience.
Sales of tickets to the weekend have been lower than expected, and there were empty seats and plenty of room on the grass at the park, which is near the site where the Jamestown fort was built along the James River by settlers who landed here in May 1607. About 8,000 tickets were sold today, added to 8,500 in advance.
But the mood of the crowd was buoyant, and speakers hailed the spirit of the Jamestown settlers in facing hardships and unknown. "The seeds of our country were in many ways planted here," said Sen. James Webb, D-Va..
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the honorary chair of the event, spoke of Jamestown's role in developing the rule of law that would create the foundation for the United States.
The evening featured the first-ever combined performance by The Richmond Symphony Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. They played a series of pieces commissioned for the occasion, including one called "Jamestown Hymn" and another entitled "Indian Spirits," honoring those here when the English arrived