Stand-in for George Washington faces competition

As Gen. George Washington, John Godzieba checks conditions at Washington Crossing during a reenactment of the crossing of the Delaware. (Washington Crossing Historic Park)
As Gen. George Washington, John Godzieba checks conditions at Washington Crossing during a reenactment of the crossing of the Delaware. (Washington Crossing Historic Park)
Posted: September 14, 2012

It's time for a new George Washington to lead the colonial troops across the Delaware on Christmas Day to defeat the Hessians - or maybe not.

The three-year term of John Godzieba, the volunteer who portrays George Washington in the annual reenactment in Upper Makefield, Bucks County, is drawing to a close, with auditions for the role scheduled for Thursday.

But, as Washington did in 1792, Godzieba is seeking a second term.

There's one big difference: Washington ran unopposed, but Godzieba has 10 challengers.

"I've really enjoyed my time. The actor serves as the face of the park and the organization," Godzieba said, referring to the Friends of Washington Crossing, the nonprofit group that hosts the reenactment and other historic and educational events. "You put in a lot of time and effort."

When he's not portraying Gen. Washington, Godzieba is a lieutenant in the Bristol Township Police Department. Like all the reenactors, he supplies his own uniform and accessories and researches the role.

"You're always going to get that odd question, like the names of Washington's dogs," said Godzieba, who had to look up that answer after being caught unprepared.

Godzieba also is president of the Friends of Washington Crossing, but he said he kept out of the planning of the auditions, which traditionally were conducted on a Saturday and were open to the public and media.

The group shifted the auditions to Thursday morning and is making them private "to raise the level of professionalism," said Joan Hauger, site administrator for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which runs the park.

"That's the way professional auditions are done in the theater," Hauger said. "They're not done in front of the general public."

The applicants have varied backgrounds, including some actors and reenactors, she said. Some live in the immediate area; others come from New Jersey and New York.

An independent panel of seven judges "will pick the person who can best fulfill our needs, who is knowledgeable about events at the site in 1776, events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War, and the military structure," Hauger said. "He needs to have accurate garb, the demeanor that Washington showed, to make a good presentation, and to speak well in public and extemporaneously."

The winner will be announced in early October and will take over immediately, she said.

Godzieba may have a leg up on the competition - he knows that Tippler and Sweet Lips were two of Washington's dogs.


Contact Bill Reed at 215-801-2964, wreed@philly.com, or follow @breedbucks on Twitter. Read his blog, "BucksInq," at www.philly.com/bucksinq.

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