Hyde Park to celebrate 75th anniversary of “hot dog summit”

King George VI, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada leaving St. James Church after attending morning services in Hyde Park on June 11, 1939. (FDR Presidential Library)

The tale of the British royals’ bemusement as the American president and first lady defied all customary protocol to feed them hot dogs at an official state picnic at Top Cottage used to be a nugget of quirky local lore known to mid-Hudsonites and serious history buffs alone. But now it’s a story familiar to a much wider moviegoing audience, ever since Hyde Park on Hudson hit the cinemas in 2012. The annual commemoration of the 1939 event has come to epitomize the “common touch” that contributed so much to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s political success.

Adding to the appeal of the Hot Dog Picnic on Wednesday, June 11 is the fact that this will be the 75th anniversary of the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth that combined American working-class cuisine with strategic talks about potential US involvement in the resistance to Nazi expansionism in Europe. And how often do you get offered a full meal free of charge? All you need to do is preregister at (845) 486-7745 and show up at 5:45 p.m. at the Roosevelt Library’s Henry A. Wallace Center.

The “picnic,” consisting of hot dogs, salads, coffee and other beverages, followed by strawberry shortcake, will actually be served indoors in the Wallace Center, rain or shine.

Also scheduled for the day of the anniversary festivities are two book-signings related to the historic picnic. A presentation by Leslie Kimmelman and Victor Juhasz, author and illustrator of the children’s book Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic, begins at 5 p.m. in the Wallace Center. And at 7 p.m. in the same building, Will Swift will discuss his book The Roosevelts and the Royals: Franklin and Eleanor, the King and Queen of England, and the Friendship that Changed History. Again, admission is free, but preregistration is requested at (845) 486-7745.

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