With but a couple of days left of 2019, it is customary for us all to look back over the year that’s closing and anticipate 2020. Let’s just skip the look-back and proceed to the year that’s coming. And no, I will skip political prognostications and zero in on what no doubt will be the highlight of the year for us here in Wallingford: the 350th Jubilee Anniversary of the establishment of our town.
I thought it might be a useful public service to write a column to acquaint people with the major events that are planned for the celebration period that will last from Saturday, June 20th through Saturday, June 27th. Everyone I had spoken to about the event knew it was sometime in June, but perhaps didn’t know the extent of the activities planned.
So to prepare for such a topic, I met with Bob Devaney and Christine Mansfield, the two co-chairpersons of the 350th Celebration Committee, which was established as a town government committee at the urging of Mayor Dickinson five years ago. For forty-five minutes, I listened to them give the history of the committee, list some of the people involved in various aspects of their endeavor, and recite a day-by-day listing of just some of the events and activities planned.
Here are some of the thoughts I came away with from that meeting:
1.Bob Devaney and Christine Mansfield have sufficient energy to supply power to the entire Town of Wallingford once their 350th Jubilee efforts are finished. Their enthusiasm, creativity, and ability to organize the hundreds of people already involved in this huge project are astonishing.
2.Every resident in Wallingford must request the entire week off from their employer in order to fully participate in the Celebration. That is how many events are planned for each of the eight days.
3.No 800-word column could possibly even begin to properly describe what has been done already, do justice to all the people who are working to make the 350th Jubilee Celebration happen, name the organizations or businesses sponsoring this event or working on elements of it, or describe the scope and size of the 350th Parade alone that will kick off the week-long celebration.
I will mention a few other things that I learned that hopefully will stimulate readers to pursue the tons of additional information that can be had online at Wallingford350.org or on their Facebook page entitled Wallingford350.
■The template for the 350th Celebration was not only the 325th and 300th celebrations of the town’s founding, but also the 200th celebration. Bob Devaney actually participated in the 325th and 300th. Bob and Christine have probably channeled the organizers of the 200th anniversary held in 1820, or at least have tried. At the very least, they studied the work of Johanna Manfreda Fishbein, whose research for the 300th anniversary included study of the 200th anniversary.
■The Committee is still looking for volunteers and sponsors. There is a place for anyone and everyone in the preparation and/or production of the dozens and dozens of displays, dinners, receptions, tours, parades, conclaves, performances, seminars, sporting events and other gatherings that are part of this week.
■The committee has raised approximately $100,000 from sponsors and generous donors, and the Town of Wallingford provided an equal amount, mostly as seed money. The committee has also used a wealth of new technology and partnerships with local companies and organizations to minimize expenses.
■Coming up at 5 p.m. on January 17 — just days from now — will be a “test firing” of the fireworks. Masonicare is where they will be set off, and the purpose of this demonstration is to ensure safety and visibility for the full show on Friday, June 26th.
■Two weeks prior to the 350th Jubilee Celebration, the Record-Journal is producing an 80-page commemorative guide to everything taking place during the 8-day celebration.
So the countdown — noted each day in this newspaper – continues. Those of us lucky enough to live here have so much to look forward to in June: the Parade, Faith Day, History and Diversity Day, Women’s Day, Business and Agriculture Day, Senior and Merchants Day, Youth Day, the Block Dance, Fireworks and the black tie Gala Ball. Each of these days are filled to the brim with interesting things to learn and do.
In reviewing this piece, I see that it can’t even begin to do justice to the efforts of those hundreds of people that are joyfully and enthusiastically working toward June 20th to 27th. Please check out Wallingford350.org and you will see how much fun that these eight days will be. I sense – and you will too – that Wallingford’s 350th birthday celebration will happily live with all of us for a long, long time.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.