Destination Sunapee: Newbury’s Old Home Day a New Hampshire tradition with a local spin

  • Scenes from Newbury Old Home Day in 2018. —Courtesy of Pam Bryk

  • Crowds gathered at the Newbury Old Home Day in 2018 watch street performers like jugglers and acrobats, as well as shopping the craft and book sales, listening to live music and tasting all sorts of food. Photos courtesy of Pam Bryk

  • Scenes from Newbury Old Home Day in 2018. —Courtesy of Pam Bryk

  • Scenes from Newbury Old Home Day in 2018. —Courtesy of Pam Bryk

  • Scenes from Newbury Old Home Day in 2018. —Courtesy of Pam Bryk

Monitor staff
Published: 6/13/2019 9:34:38 AM

‘I wish that in the ear of every son and daughter in New Hampshire, in the summer days, might be heard whispered the persuasive words: ‘Come back, come back!’ ” Frank Rollins lamented in 1897.

On July 13, the town of Newbury will heed the call of New Hampshire’s 47th governor with its annual Old Home Day celebration, culminating in the “best fireworks over Lake Sunapee.”

Newbury hosted its first Old Home Day in 2005 to recognize an addition to the town office and the creation of a time capsule. Town administrator Dennis Pavlicek recalled that the inaugural event featured a pork roast and drew a crowd of around 700 attendees.

Fourteen years later, the festivities have only expanded, encompassing a food truck festival with offerings from Thai to shaved ice, various concerts and musical entertainment and, as Pavlicek noted, “everything from puppy kissing to street performers.”

But the unchallenged highlight of the celebration is the evening fireworks show on the lake, which dazzles the upward of 1,000 attendees over a week after the Fourth of July.

If the breadth of entertainment is not attractive enough, all events are free, with minimal costs restricted to food.

The annual bash is a crucial opportunity for Newbury to “build up social capital in the town and in the area,” Pavlicek shared.

The idea that Old Home Day bolsters the life of the community harkens back to the purpose of the tradition as it originated in the late 19th century.

With the opening of the Western frontier and the onset of the Industrial Revolution, more and more New Hampshire natives sought agricultural work in the West and factory employment in big cities, decimating the populations of small New England towns like Newbury.

Upon taking office in 1899, governor Frank Rollins instituted Old Home Week in August of the same year, a days-long celebration that beckoned “every son and daughter in New Hampshire” to return home and remember their roots.

The practice is still observed annually in about 30 towns across the state.

Now an integral part of life in Newbury, Pavlicek noted that Old Home Day has “a little bit of everything for everyone.” A library book sale, a petting farm and interactive performances by circus groups and Faneuil Hall street artists are all on the agenda.

Town administrative assistant Pam Bryk shared that planning for Old Home Day begins early in the year, and sometimes even in the latter months of the previous year.

Because organizers work to keep a variety of new and returning acts and food trucks in rotation, much of the preparation involves contacting performers and vendors and arranging contracts.

Bryk added that recently, organizers have begun to be contacted by interested participants, a testament to the growing popularity of the “fun, family event.”

Despite its increasing size, Bryk noted that Old Home Day remains a celebration of Newbury’s community, from year-round residents to summer visitors. The times may have changed, but this New Hampshire tradition is as relevant as ever.

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