August has arrived. The flowers are blooming, the garden is ripe for the picking, fall sports practices are starting soon, and there’s still plenty of time to sit on the porch and enjoy the fine weather.
Summer is in full swing, and that means it’s time for town festivals.
Hampstead gets a two-fer – in late June it holds its Independence Day celebration, and last weekend it was home to St. Anne’s annual Summerfest. Whether’s it’s Sandown’s Old Home Days Aug. 9-11, Londonderry’s Old Home Day celebration Aug. 14-18, other versions of hometown gatherings with different names – Chester’s Town Fair on Sept. 7 and Derryfest on Sept. 21 – 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, displays of old-time kitchen and craft skills, and often a fireworks display to cap the evening. Special activities geared to seniors or children abound, along with concerts, audience participation and good old down home fun.
Regardless of what kind of hectic modern life we lead the rest of the year, these events bring us all together.
The celebration doesn’t come packaged and ready to go, it’s the work of a multitude of volunteers and a variety of groups, all sharing one thing – 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 plan for and return to every year. That’s the heart of what these old-fashioned summer festivals are all about.
And while our weekday lives often require long hours in another community, sometimes in another state, summer still beckons with its slower pace, and persuades us to get outside and chat with our neighbors.
So mark your calendar for your town’s homecoming festival and prepare 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.