Millennial chairs 102nd Labor Day affair

  • A scene from Francestown’s Labor Day in 2016. This year's Labor Day celebrations begin Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • A scene from Francestown’s Labor Day in 2016. This year's Labor Day celebrations begin Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/28/2019 6:19:54 PM

The 102nd Labor Day Celebration begins in Francestown on Friday.

This is Gabby Paige’s inaugural year as the chairman of the event. She stepped up after hearing what Charlie Pyle, former chairman, described as a “small-town rumor that became a big town rumor,” that the event was going to be canceled for lack of volunteer organizers. Pyle said he’d never intended to drop the event, but when Paige contacted him, offering to do whatever it took to keep the event afloat, he was happy for some help.

Pyle said, “People kept asking me, ‘What’s going to happen [next]?’” leading up to the 100th Labor Day celebration, which he was organizing among a slew of other responsibilities. “I said ‘Get me through the 100th and then we’ll see,’ and people were concerned that I was just going to walk away.”

Pyle believes the misunderstanding ultimately worked out well.

“Gabby stepped up last year and offered to help and keep it going because she loves Labor Day … and she’s been great,” he said.

“It’s really heartening to see a young person step up,” said Diana Place, publicity co-chair.

Paige, who is 26, said that Labor Day was one of the first things she and her parents did when they moved to town in 2006.

“I like being involved in groups and helping out,” she said.

She has previously contributed to the event with other participating organizations.

“These next couple of days are going to be the most hectic for logistics, but [the event] happens every year and everything always goes fine,” she said.

The Labor Day Celebration started in 1917 as a Red Cross fundraiser. Today the Francestown Improvement and Historical Society sponsors the event, and proceeds benefit their initiatives. This befits the weekend’s events, as they showcase the extensive work the Society has done to preserve and promote the town’s history, and numerous Civil War-era buildings downtown. Place describes the density of historical buildings as “a mini Sturbridge Village feel.”

This year’s proceeds go to the continued developments in the Beehive museum.

“The Beehive is our new museum for all our historical collections,” Place said.

The lower floor is a tribute to the building’s historic use by Francestown Academy, with one room featuring artifacts from Francestown schools and the other arranged “as we envisioned the dorm master would have had it a hundred years ago,” said Pyle.

The upper exhibit rooms follow themes: people and places, farming, military (including swords and antique guns), businesses, and Francestown history which includes town artifacts and papers spanning nearly 200 years.

Part of the museum’s intrigue, according to Pyle, is that the artifacts from the 19th century reflect a time “when Francestown businesses were really booming: multiple banks, businesses, hotels.” He described the Beehive collection as a wonderful visual of the town and its history. Although it officially opened two years ago, visitation is currently limited to special events such as the Labor Day festivities.

There will be docents at the Beehive until parade time on Monday and at the Heritage Museum next door, which features a collection of antique firefighting and farming equipment as well as a Concord Coach, the choice vehicle for the dirt roads of New England in its time.

Labor Day will also be the first time the greater public can see the renovations to the Francestown Village Store.

“One of our local carpenters has done an amazing job on the inside,” Place said.

Two members of the store committee will be on-site from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m to answer questions.

Events and performers complete the atmosphere of “small-town America at its best.” The Old Meetinghouse will host a dulcimer recital and old-fashioned ice cream social, and the Temple Band, “America’s First Town Band” which was founded in Temple in 1799, leads the parade at 2 p.m. on Monday.

“The parade is, of course, everybody’s favorite,” Place said. “There are always some pretty amazing, creative entries.”

This year’s theme is “the best of music and arts” and the parade jury consists of a fitting trio: Alan Chong, Executive Director of the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, Miriam Carter, Executive Director of the League of N.H. Craftsmen in Concord, and Marc Thayer, Executive Director of Symphony NH in Nashua. The parade route doubles back on itself so spectators can, famously, watch the parade twice. Place laughed as she recalled a year when a giant school bus float got stuck at the narrow turnaround point on Oak Hill Road.

“There’s so many events, but that’s part of the fun of it,” Place said of the weekend. “History, arts, good deals on books at the book sale, kids games and a performance.”

Place likened the juried arts fair to the caliber and variety of the Craftsmen’s Fair in Sunapee, but closer.

Guest presenters Wildlife Encounters will put on a live animal educational show on the common at noon.

New town librarian Laura Abrahamsen said that in addition to the festival necessities of beverages, air conditioning, and bathrooms, visitors to the library can also see the new flooring and furniture in the renovated children’s area, as well as improvements to the library’s landscaping. Abrahamsen will be around to meet visitors. She began working at the library five weeks ago after relocating from the Northeast Kingdom area of Vermont.

The events begin Friday evening with a contra dance, and Saturday and Sunday’s schedules are full of perennial favorites including a contra dance, mud volley ball tournament and Vespers variety show. New this year is a chili, chowder, and chocolate cook-off on Saturday night before the dance.

For a full schedule of events, contacts and information about the free bus service from two locations in town, visit the FIHS website at www.francestownhistory.info.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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