August has arrived. The flowers are blooming, the garden is producing, fall sports practices will be starting, yet there’s still plenty of time to sit on the porch and enjoy the fine weather.
It’s the heart of summer – even if you can’t help but catch a glimpse of fall some evenings – and that means it’s time for town festivals.
Whether’s it’s Sandown’s Old Home Days this coming weekend, Londonderry’s Old Home Day celebration Aug. 13-17, Chester’s Town Fair on Sept. 6 or Derryfest in Derry on Sept. 20, it’s time to get over to the park or the green or the common in the center of town and meet and greet friends and neighbors.
Whatever the date or the name of the event, you’re treated to a back-to- the basics festival with games of skill or chance, festival food, parades, displays of old-time kitchen skills and the newest emergency vehicles, and often a fireworks display to cap off the evening. Special activities geared to seniors or children abound, along with concerts, audience participation and good old down home fun. What’s new is often what’s old too, as long-ago games of tug of war and sack races catch the attention of today’s youngsters.
Regardless of what kind of hectic modern life we lead the rest of the year, the annual town festivals bring us all together. They get us out of our homes and our backyards and back to the center of town, and slow us down to share in fun with our neighbors.
But celebrations don’t come packaged and ready to go, they’re the work of a multitude of volunteers and a variety of groups, all sharing a couple of things – a love of their real or adopted hometown, and a desire to make their town festival a fun-filled event with something for everyone – and something everyone will want to schedule and come back to every year. That’s the heart of what these old-fashioned summer gatherings are all about.
And while our weekday lives often require long hours in another community, sometimes in another state, summer encourages us to get outside and chat with our neighbors.
So mark your calendar for your town’s homecoming festival and plan to celebrate where you live. Whether you’ve chosen your town or it’s where you were born, it’s a big part of your life and a big part of who you are. Make this the year to get a little better acquainted with your neighbors and your town history, and take part in a summer rite that is part of what living in New England is all about.