August is here. The flowers are blooming, the garden is producing, fall sports practices become part of the routine – yet there’s still plenty of time to sit on the porch and enjoy the season.
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 town festival time.
It started last Saturday with Hampstead’s Summerfest, presented by St. Anne’s Parish. Next up is Sandown’s Old Home Days Aug. 13-14, followed by Londonderry’s Old Home Day celebration Aug. 17-21, Sandown’s Fall Festival Sept. 9-10, Chester’s Town Fair on Sept. 10, and Derryfest on Sept. 17. As you can see, Sandown can’t get too much of a good thing – it holds its traditional Old Home Day events in August, then puts on a spruced up festival in September around the Recreation Building.
But whatever the date or the name of the event, you’re treated to a back-to-basics festival with games of skill or chance, hearty food, parades, displays of old-time kitchen skills and the newest emergency vehicles, and often fireworks to cap off the evening. 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, and local historical societies make sure to harken back to the storied past.
Regardless of the hectic life we lead the rest of the year, the town festivals bring us together for a little relaxation. They get us out of our homes and our backyards and into the town center, and slow us down to relax 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 love of their real or adopted hometown, and a desire to make their town festival 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 they’re a great chance to get involved; without volunteers, the festivals will go the way of the dodo.
While our weekdays often require long hours in another community or state, summer encourages us to enjoy where we live.
So mark your calendar for your local festival and plan to celebrate. Make this the year to get better acquainted with your neighbors and your town history, and take part in a summer rite that is part of the heart of New England.