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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
writes a weekly news release.

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6/15/06   July 4th Celebration in Gilford Village, 1913

By Diane Mitton

People of my age remember with some nostalgia the Memorial Day / Veteran’s Day, and Independence Day celebrations of the 40s and the 50s. The parade, of course was the highlight of the day. It seemed as though everyone who could walk - young and old - marched from the Civil War monument to the veteran’s lot at the old town cemetery for a twenty-one gun salute. Bands, fife and drum corps, veterans in their old uniforms, policemen, firemen, local dignitaries, boy scouts, girl scouts, and every other local group you could think of, doll carriages and bikes decorated with crepe paper streamers, horses with manes and tails braided with red, white and blue ribbons and riders in fancy dress, speeches, dedications and patriotic fervor abounded. If you didn’t march, you stood along the parade route waving small American flags. Whatever our national background might once have been, we were all Americans! Following the parade, we wandered around the square visiting and eating ice cream cones before we dispersed to picnics, games and just generally high spirits until dark when a fireworks display was culminated by the torching of bonfire pyres, which firemen had been building for several days of old railroad ties filled with whatever, accompanied by all the oohs and aahs of happy, tired children, caught up in the idea of something great.

Obviously the high spirits which flowed in the 40s and 50s on these national holidays were not unique to my time or my place for on July 2, 1913, Mrs. Carrie Morrill wrote – with tongue in cheek - the following, found in the archives of the Thompson-Ames Historical Society.

“Take Notice

The old town of Gilford so we hear is going to celebrate the 4th of July this year, for the first time since the World’s Fair. We think there ought to be enough pent-up Patriotic steam by this time to let loose on the old town, that will make the natives sit up and take notice. The rumor is out that the hayseeds all shook their whiskers clean and congregated in the back room of Louis Roe’s store last Saturday eve. to make all arrangements for a glorious old celebration and that they had quite a hot time in choosing a committee because every one wanted to be chairman. They finally agreed on Ansel Gove as he is the only man in town who owns a plug hat.

He was then called on to treat, which he proceeded to do with a bottle of Roe’s ale. It made pretty small drinks, but he said a nickel was all he could afford on that crowd and he guessed that it would give them ginger enough. Then they decided on ways and means to celebrate. First there’s to be a grand parade the night before the 4th , beginning at all hours with all the noise possible, lasting till the first rooster crows. Then at daybreak there will be a parade of horribles led by F.S.P & Martin C. followed by all the horribles in town which will make quite a long procession. Then a grand exhibition of stunts performed on Roe’s new field. There’ll be refreshments served on the square… by Mrs. Roe, Mrs. Bacon, and Bertha Olson assisted by Mr. & Mrs. Wilbur Morrill who will serve light drinks such as ginger ale, weak lemonade & water........ Stark Weeks was chosen Marshall because he can strut around and looks well doing it. They had a hot time choosing a speaker for the day being about equally divided between Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson but finally decided of Leland James. This caused some hard feeling for Howard James said he had just as soon hear an old goat blare….. Charles Hunt, Frank Smith and Louis Roe were chosen to look after sports and were told not to spare any expense to have a real good time, that is if they paid all the bills themselves.” (There was to running races, high jumps, hoop rolling and potato races and a peanut race, a sweeping contest and all sorts of games. And for the ladies, a hair dressing contest and a darning contest!) “….with music by the Grange Choir and the Gilford Band. And all together it will be a real sporty time followed by fireworks.

Ansel Gove headed the subscriptions with a box of matches and all the public citizens helped out and they raised $1.87 in all, so it looks as if G(ilford) would have a grand old celebration for once right here. The committee wishes everyone to notify everyone else so they’ll be on hand to take their parts & help things along. (signed) Mrs. Carrie Morrill, Read at the Grange meeting July 2, 1913.”

Probably the earliest celebration held in Gilford commemorating our country’s freedom was marked by the settlers and Revolutionary Patriots of the Upper Parish when they erected a pole c1776 which they called the Liberty Pole on the top of Liberty Hill - a symbol of the of their “resolution to be free and independent”. This marked the beginning of celebrations held in Gilford commemorating the nation’s history. We read in the “Gilford Parish” by Adair Mulligan that in 1976, the town, draped in bunting, celebrated the nation’s 200th birthday with a gala Bicentennial weekend featuring a parade that lasted 2 hours, the largest in Gilford’s history; 250 visiting militia troops staged a mock battle and the Historical Society hosted a Heritage Tour of Gilford Village’s historic houses. The Bicentennial Bandstand, a gift of the Weeks Family and popularly known as the Weeks Bandstand was dedicated and the first of many band concerts was held there

And speaking of birthdays and celebrations, Gilford will be celebrating its 200th birthday in 2012 – only six years away – not too soon to begin thinking of our own gala Bicentennial.

For information about the Thompson-Ames Historical Society, please visit our website at www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org or call us at 527-9009.