AUBURN | No one can say they walked in Harriet Tubman's shoes.

But on Friday evening, about 50 people pounded 2.6 miles worth of pavement in the abolitionist's honor during a ceremony memorializing her incredible life.

The Harriet Tubman Memorial Highway Walk preceded a ceremony officially rededicating Route 34 to the former slave and kicking off the 2013 edition of Auburn's annual Founders Day weekend.

The sign-unveiling ceremony came on the heels of a three-year-old law.

In 2010, former Gov. David Paterson signed in a piece of legislation officially designating Route 34 — a nearly 100-mile state highway that stretches from Oswego County to Tioga County — as Harriet Tubman Memorial Highway.

And for many of the attendees who joined the walk and dedication ceremony, the recognition was beyond well deserved.

As a caravan comprised of Tubman descendants, community members, local politicians and state officials completed a 1.3-mile exodus down South Street from City Hall to the Harriet Tubman Home.

Michael Reiff, of Auburn, said he his parents — who ventured to the city from Kenmore — were more than happy to dedicate their evening to honoring a woman who led so many former slaves to freedom.

"It's due time to put more emphasis and thought into a staggering American figure," he said.

Michael's mother, Janet Reiff, agreed, stating she hoped the highway dedication would draw more awareness to Tubman's legacy and a proposal to create a national park in her honor.

"Harriet Tubman is one of the finest people in the United States, and it's fine time — long overdue — to recognize her," she said.

As attendees sipped on water and cooled off under a tent before the start of the ceremony, Tory Glover Sr. held his young daughter, Mya, and drank in the crowd gathered to honor his great-great-great aunt.

"It's a wonderful thing for us to carry on her legacy, and the way we're doing it is tremendous," he said.

The Rev. Paul Carter started off the dedication ceremony with an invocation, asking God to inspire all who drive down the Harriet Tubman Memorial Highway to help others.

"Harriet was one who had so little, but did so much," Carter said, "when we have so much but do so little."

Karen Hill, the Tubman House's CEO, said the highway dedication will be noted in Washington, D.C. That, she said, will hopefully help bring momentum to the next step in preserving Tubman's legacy: bringing a national park to Auburn.

"This is the only place ... only in Auburn," Hill said. "Only in Auburn can you come to this hallowed place where Harriet Tubman walked and did her good work."

Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at 282-2282 or samantha.house@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @Citizen_House.

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