A Spectacular Setting for Old Home Day
October 2, 2015
by Lynne Ober and Doug Robinson
The weather was spectacular for Pelham Old Home Day, and many were looking for something fun to do outside on this day. This year the road closing made it safe to quickly cross between the main grounds and the auction and white elephant tent. As a result, the area seemed much bigger as there was a constant stream of people going between the two areas.
Long before the 8 a.m. 5K start time, Pelham buzzed with excitement as walkers and runners warmed up, chatted with friends, and waited for the starting gun.
The race benefited the Special Olympics, which supports five million athletes worldwide, and many chose to raise funds rather than pay the entrance fee. This year, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte joined the race and finished in 27:22. “I think Special Olympics deserves all of our support and I was thrilled to be able to participate this year,” she said after the race.
Starting at Meeting House Park at the Pelham Common, the race wound through mainly flat neighborhoods. Participants were able to run the 5K race or join with friends and walk the 2.5-mile route. Every year this race grows in size, and this year 234 participants crossed the finish line.
Sixteen-year-old Pelham resident Allan Vallante was the fastest finisher with an overall time of 16:45, a pace of 5:24 per mile, but he was closely followed by Pelham resident David Niemaszyk, who finished in 17:32. The first female finisher was Pelham resident Shaylyn Harrington, who completed the race in 21:07 or a pace of 6:48 per mile.
After Ayotte cooled down from the 5K, she joined the visitors at Old Home Day and was seen chatting and wandering through the grounds.
By 9 o’clock people had gathered for the reading of the auction rules and soon there was lively bidding with the winning bidders wearing big grins throughout the day. If an item was up that you weren’t interested in, a quick trip to the adjoining white elephant tent provided a bargain lover’s picnic of goods.
The kids’ games entertained the younger visitors, and kids of all ages visited the various food booths and the Country Store for Homemade Goodies.
Entertainment also began at 9 a.m. and was kicked off by the Muldoon Park Band, who played popular songs from the ‘60s through the music of today. By 10:30 the seats in the audience were filled for the entertaining and fast-paced karate demonstration by Family Martial Arts.
O’Halloran Irish Step Dancers followed and kept the audience’s toes tapping. Irish step dancing originated in the 1750s and is still very popular today. The O’Halloran Irish Step Dancers is a non-competitive dance troupe where all ages and both male and female can learn, enjoy and perform. The troupe is non-profit and entertains at community events for free. The dancers wear costumes that are very elaborate and beautiful.
There were more vendors and more things to see and this year than ever before. Kids built sand sculptures or decorated Frisbees. Some got their faces painted or a henna tattoo painted on their hands and arms. Many people were buying things – some for Christmas.
Keith Humphrey followed the dancers and entertained with an unplugged acoustic Indie-pop concert. He played songs from his recently released CD. By the time he started, the seats in the audience were filled with people having a snack, drinking something cool and resting their feet.
He was followed by the dancers from Dance Concepts, a competitive dance troupe that has performed all over, including at Disneyland. Their performance was lively and the music was again lively and toe-tapping.
Pies were dropped off for the Pretty Pie contest later, and the kitchen was filled with energetic cooks preparing for the supper that would be offered in the evening.
As morning changed into afternoon, new people arrived. Many of them were looking for lunch and a chance to hear the Liberty Band before the parade started.
As it drew closer to parade time, people began to claim their best viewing seats along the route. After the parade it was definitely time to sit in the audience, listen to the Windham Band and then do a bit more shopping before it was time for supper. Once again a successful Old Home Day that has brought together the community for more than a century.
A 109-Year-Old Tradition Thrives in Pelham
For 109 years, the First Congregational Church of Pelham has hosted the Annual Pelham Old Home Day. This year’s theme was “Hand in Hand with Those Who Serve.”
The year was 1906 when the New Hampshire governor asked for a “statewide celebration of Old Home Days. The first Old Home Day was celebrated in Pelham on August 18, 1906.”
August was selected as the month to celebrate Old Home Days “because the farming communities were between harvests. Farmers were not known for having summer vacations. Pelham was championing its place on the new Electric Railroad System between the points of Lowell, Mass., and Canobie Lake/Salem, N.H. Wednesday was an excellent day for this event.”
According to Pelham Old Home Day history, “Businesses closed in Lowell for the afternoon and their day in the country benefited the people of Pelham. The first celebration in 1906 reunited the Greeley Singers. A souvenir book with ads and pictures was available. It was a time of speeches and a dinner at the Pilgrim Hall sponsored by the ladies of the Congregational Church. Several years later a parade and sporting events were added to the venue. The Lowell Symphonic Orchestra would come to play in the evening at 6 p.m. Mrs. Bigelow, choir director at First Congregational, was instrumental in bringing the Lowell Symphony to Pelham.”
Today, the event has grown to cover many town blocks with many town businesses, organizations, and volunteer groups participating. From a craft fair, to an auction, 5k race to a pie eating contest, a parade and a church supper, the day has always been dedicated to family.
While kids were amused with games and rides, parents searched white elephant tables, the penny sale, while enjoying the entertainment of the Muldoon Park Band, Family Martial Arts, Third Stone Odyssey, and of course, the jazz band.