In Pittsfield, an attempt to mend divisions with a talking slice of pizza

Monitor columnist
Published: 9/16/2021 6:03:34 PM

In an odd scene scheduled for Friday night, a walking slice of pizza will help restore some normalcy at the public park in Pittsfield.

Remember, though, that these are not normal times.

This pizza, a local mascot, will hand out pieces of himself to those in attendance. The pizza will represent business, in this case, Rustic Crust Pizza, reminding residents that in-house dining is alive and well.

It will signify fun, in this case Pittsfield’s annual Homecoming Day Parade, plus a few other tidbits tossed in to make up for events lost to the pandemic this year and last.

Billed as a community fair, the public is invited to Dustin Park following the float-filled parade down Main Street, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at Pittsfield Middle High School.

The park will feature a smorgasbord of stuff. Businesses looking to recruit, crafts waiting to be made, free food ready to be eaten. There will be fire trucks and police cruisers to see, games to play. Like Cornhole.

This is the first installment of the town’s one-size-fits-all spectacular, creating a scene – lots of people together again, having fun – we all love.

It’s an attempt at a return to normalcy, but with the new variant we keep hearing about, there are no guarantees.

“We’re taking pieces of other events that have not been held in a while and putting them together on Friday,” said Leslie Vogt, the director at Josiah Carpenter Library. “We’re just doing it in a smaller way because of COVID.”

Ah, yes, COVID. What would an event like this be without mentioning the pain-in-the-butt pandemic that has brought sadness and anger and frustration and irritability to new heights?

Friday’s event, in fact, will feature free vaccinations. Yep, that’s become the new normalcy in some corners. Step right up and have a hot dog. Grab the wheel while sitting in a real police cruiser.

Get a shot.

Pittsfield’s event is outdoors. Event officials believe that changes the landscape.

“The social distancing will be in effect,” said Andi Riel, a member of the Homecoming Committee. “And the booths that you can visit will be spread out, socially distanced. I think everyone is cautiously optimistic.”

Pittsfield is joining recent events around the country. Just on a smaller scale. Sports stadiums are filling to capacity – with 100,000 fans shoehorned into the University of Michigan’s football stadium for a game against Washington last Saturday.

The seats were bathed in a corn-maize glow, the school’s colors. Masks were around, too. Here and there.

“COVID came into play and affected this in a few different ways,” said Louie Houle, who’s been on the Homecoming Committee for nearly 50 years.

“We were going to use the school as a backup in case it rained,” he continued, “but the school has moved onto mask-wearing, so we thought that it would not be a good idea to use it in that way.”

That means if it rains, the event is canceled. No place to go. Summing up his thoughts, Houle said, “COVID is still on the minds of a lot of people, especially mine. I still mask up.”

That’s a separate, ugly issue. The manner in which mean-spirited rivalries between political groups have surfaced. Over masks. As though the decision to wear or not can represent pure evil to each of the warring sides, depending on your view.

And so, fairs and good times are needed. Music, crafts, barbecues, Cornhole are vital. Staging something outdoors removes much of the bite from the issue. And in this case, on Friday in Pittsfield, social distancing will be easy.

“After a stressful year, we all have hope that we can enjoy the festival,” Riel said. “Everyone is still cautious. The social distancing will be in effect. The booths to visit will be spread out.”

And, town officials are hoping, the rekindling of a free spirit will be everywhere you look.

This is a wounded town. Wounded by COVID. Pittsfield’s annual Balloon Rally was canceled last summer and again this summer, a major blow to the community’s already fragile psyche. There was no Homecoming Parade last fall either.

The parade is back, combined with other events and items and presentations for the first time. “It happened organically,” Vogt said.

She said members of the Library Committee were “sad” after their scheduled presentation – to display the restored paintings of library founders Josiah and Georgiana Carpenter, who funded the building in 1901 – had to be postponed due to COVID.

The project was funded by the New Hampshire State Council for the Arts. The couple, looking young and fresh these days, will greet you Friday night at the festival at Dustin Park.

The fair-like event was organized by the Pittsfield Police Department as part of its annual National Night Out campaign, promoting camaraderie between the public and the police.

“We thought we could have something in the fall so people could come to see the portraits,” Vogt said. “We reached out to the municipal department. The police said they could delay their National Night Out event and we could wait until September, then we could do something all together.”

Vogt said other key contributors included the Suncook Valley Rotary Club and the Pittsfield School District. Their final product will close down Main Street as students from Pittsfield Middle High School pass, many in homemade floats.

Then they can visit Dustin Park, hang with friends, play Cornhole, even watch an animated Walt Disney flick, The Emperor’s New Groove, once darkness comes.

It’s an opportunity for fun. For people who are mindful that the pandemic remains a worthy opponent, but it’s certainly been beaten back some. And having it outside adds to the comfort zone.

Kids will have to settle for stick-on tattoos instead of face painting, which was canceled thanks to COVID. Normalcy will come from eating a slice of pizza.

But, remember, these are not normal times. Not yet.

As Vogt pointed out, “You can have a slice of pizza. Or you can meet a slice of pizza.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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