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A 120-year tradition continues at New Hampton's Old Home Day

Members of the New Hampton Garden Club were one of several vendors who set up booths for the town's Old Home Day last Saturday. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
August 15, 2018
NEW HAMPTON — Residents of New Hampton celebrated their 120th Old Home Day on the grounds of their circa 1789 Town House last Saturday, which was covered with craft and vendor booths, antique cars and plenty of good food from not only the Common Man Restaurants but the town's very own Bean Hole Bean crew.

Old Home Day was the idea of New Hampshire Governor Frank West Rollins, who in 1897 lamented the fact that children were growing up and leaving their hometowns in search of a new and more prosperous life.

"I wish that in the ear of every son and daughter of New Hampshire, in the summer days, might be hear whispered the persuasive words 'Come back, come back,'" he once wrote.

The economy was improving, and life in small town New Hampshire was beginning to flourish once more so Old Home Day began as an invitation to bring young people back to their hometowns for a few days. It was hoped that they would like the changes they saw, enjoy seeing their family and friends once again and return there to live.

New Hampton's annual celebration got underway with opening ceremonies at the flagpole at 10:30 a.m., followed by live music from Gerry Grimo and the East Bay Jazz.

With the New Hampton Farmers' Market held on the ground of the Town House each Saturday, many people were also able to enjoy shopping for locally sourced foods and crafts.

Miss Catherine's Threads gave demonstrations on spinning and offered her beautiful yarns and handcrafted woolen items for sale while nearby the New Hampton Garden Club sold plants and other garden items. The Historical Society's museum was open for all to explore and there was a fundraising raffle as well.

Just before noon, excitement filled the air as preparations got underway to dig up the delicious beans that had been simmering overnight.

On Friday morning, nearly a dozen residents got to work bright and early to make the beans. Under the direction of "Queen Bean" Sherry Boynton, fires were lit, coals piled up and two kettles of beans and secret ingredients were eventually lowered into the fire pits and covered for the night.

"This is great — it's keeping an old tradition alive," said Alan Smith as he helped with the preparations.

While a lot of work went into preparing the free bean lunch, everyone on the crew agreed that the results made it all worthwhile. They were also pleased to have 12-year-old Ben Smith helping out for the second year in a row, saying, "We're teaching the next generation how to do this."

After lunch people gathered to hear a special presentation by Jeff Warner, titled "Banjos, Bones and Ballads," which was made possible through a grant from the New Hampshire Humanities Council. In the evening hours all were then invited back to the Town House for a square dance led by Sue Hunt & Friends.

Ann Huckins-Grimes was one of the many who attended the day's events and enjoyed being back home in New Hampton for the day. Now living in Pembroke, she said she grew up attending Old Home Day with several generations of her family, many of whom have now passed away.

"My uncle, Edwin Huckins, was the last Boston Post Cane holder and had been to every Old Home Day since he was six months old. Last year when he was in a nursing home, he told them he had to leave to go to Old Home Day because he was the oldest resident and had to be here," she recalled. "My aunt (his wife) passed away last September though and he died in November. That makes this the first Old Home Day he ever missed."

While that put a bit of a somber tone to her day, Griffin said she nevertheless looked forward to catching up with old friends this year, much like everyone else who attended.

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