Litchfield’s 275th Birthday Party

by Lynne Ober

Fourth graders dressed as carnations rode on the LEA float with the names of scholarship winners.

“The only thing missing is Norman Rockwell,” smiled Edward Barringer, who was walking the grounds of Litchfield’s 275th Celebration with his wife, Gail.  That comment summed up a perfect day filled with history, family, and fun as Litchfield held a magnificent 275th birthday party.

The day kicked off with an exciting parade led by police and fire departments.  As their sirens could be heard, watchers along Route 3A got excited.  There were floats, fancy cars, golf carts, go-carts, dignitaries walking and riding, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, cheerleaders, sports teams, the Alvirne High School marching band, students from GMS and LMS, roller skaters, horses, First N.H. Regiment members, Ronald McDonald, antique vehicles, and just good old-fashioned fun.  New Hampshire state police brought two cruisers, one a K-9 cruiser that barked instead of sounding a siren.  Candy was thrown from cars and by walkers, much to the delight of the kids along the parade route.

After the parade, some people gathered at the old Town Hall, which is now the Historical Society building, for presentation of the colors and proclamations, and some began setting up the events to follow.  Hudson police officer and Litchfield resident Chuck Dyac sang the National Anthem.

Next, Board of Selectmen Chairman Frank Byron, who was the Master of Ceremonies, invited General James Franklin McQuesten, who was 174 years old (played by Jacob McQuesten), Aquilla Underwood (played by Logan Higgins), Charles Bancroft (played by Alyssa Bean), Isaac Center (played by Andrew Matte), Bertha Griffin Crowell (played by Hannah Wester), Wyseman Clagett (played by Cassie Baron), Florence Center (played by Katherine Childs), and Polly White (played by Emily Freises) to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

This wonderful celebration covered many venues in Litchfield.  The historical re-enactors, after leading the Pledge of Allegiance, were divided among the various venues, where they talked about their lives.  This was part of the PassPort activity.  Participants visited all eight historical sites, visited with the historical re-enactor on-site, and had a sticker placed on their passport.  After visiting all sites, passports were entered into a drawing.  It was an effective and entertaining way to mix history into the celebration.

The Historical Society building, with its interesting and varied displays, was open for the day and many residents took an opportunity to wander through Litchfield’s history.  Dr. Steven Calawa presented a historical drawing to Frank Byron.  The drawing will be hung in Town Hall.

Civil War re-enactor Paul Dadek thrilled many with his touching stories of the Civil War.  Also at the Old Meeting House were a quilting demonstration and live piccolo and flute music on the lawn.

At Aaron Cutler Library, Aiden’s Clan Celtic band entertained, while book lovers dug through books at the book sale held on the lawn.

As the events unfolded, the members of Litchfield’s 275 Celebration Committee, chaired by Diane Jerry, began to see their dream for a fun-filled celebration of Litchfield come to life.

“It was a lot of hard work,” smiled Jerry, who immediately praised a long list of people who made the day come to life.  The committee worked for only four months and had to raise money as well as plan the event.  Throughout the day, they were everywhere, working to ensure that everyone had a memorable and enjoyable time.

Griffin Memorial School was the heart of much of the afternoon’s activities, and organizers arranged for a walking path from the church to Griffin so that participants could safely wander back and forth.

Balloon animals, face painting, kids’ games, good food, and lots of music (provided by Sean Boutselis and Music by Digital Ags DJz) awaited participants.

As the afternoon wore on, there was a speed-pitching contest, an opportunity to color a picture for our overseas troops, ride a pony, bounce in one of the bounce houses, watch a puppet show, pet some exotic animals, and get a tattoo.  You could guess the weight of a giant pumpkin or marvel at the beautiful ‘Happy Birthday’ float done by the McQuesten’s and parked at GMS after the parade was over.  If you admired it soon enough, you were also the lucky recipient of a birthday cupcake.

There was an ongoing art show in the GMS gymnasium, which had just three short weeks ago been the scene of the 275 Celebration Art Show.  This time, Litchfield students displayed their art.  There were numerous displays.  Campbell High School cheerleaders strutted their stuff, and there was an adult firefighter race.  There was a karate demonstration by Granite State Kenpo.  At 2:00, participants got to watch the selectmen try to umpire a fiercely-fought softball game between the top athletes found in Litchfield’s Fire and Police departments.  For dance lovers, the Granite State Cloggers gave a rousing demonstration at the same time. 

Raffle drawings were held late in the afternoon, and free cider was enjoyed by thirsty and tired participants.

A bon fire and flaming baton-twirling demonstration by Kayla Flaherty ended the happy day.

Benson Park to Open Next Month

by Gina M. Votour

After more than 20 years of waiting, the public will finally be able to once again roam the grounds of the Hudson site once known as Benson’s Wild Animal Farm, now simply named Benson Park.

Through a unanimous vote taken this week, Hudson’s Board of Selectmen moved to instruct the Benson Park Committee to specify an exact date within the month of October 2009 during which the majority of the 165-acre property will officially open to the general public.

Since the town’s $188,000 purchase of the Benson Park property from the state this past January, the underlying question on the minds of many has pertained to the park’s opening.  During the September 22 Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Richard Maddox expressed his opinion that 90 percent of the park could easily be opened immediately.

Selectmen Chairman Roger Coutu agreed, saying, “I think that people are accessing the park anyway.  They’re finding a way in,” stated Coutu, elaborating that he is constantly asked about potential opening dates.

Although Selectmen Vice Chairman Ken Massey was concerned about micromanaging the Benson Park Committee through this type of instruction, the selectmen agreed overall that provisions would need to be made to limit access to hazardous sections of the property before any type of opening.  One such area would be the historical district since roof repairs are not yet complete on some buildings.

Absent that evening due to illness was Selectman Shawn Jasper, liaison to the Benson Park Committee.  In early August, Jasper expressed serious misgivings regarding a premature opening of the park, specifically with regard to lack of an overall plan, the absence of rest areas, and potential safety hazards within the property.

“Let’s slow down.  Let’s have a plan.  And let’s stop fighting about how soon we’re going to get it open.  I hope we can all back off a little bit, give the [Benson Park] committee that breathing room to get its feet wet and to get moving,” Jasper stated during the board’s August 4 meeting.

Following that discussion, a consensus was reached to allow the Benson Park Committee the freedom to devise a plan followed by a possible timeframe for opening dates.

In Jasper’s absence this week, however, a motion originated by Selectman Ben Nadeau passed 4-0 to publicly open the park next month.

“I feel bad that Selectman Jasper is not here to vehemently argue with me,” said Maddox.

“I too am somewhat reticent about taking action as a result of Selectman Jasper not being here, but time is of the essence.  We need to take some action,” added Coutu.

At press time, the Benson Park Committee was scheduled to meet on Thursday, September 24, to determine an exact date for the park’s opening.  Upon opening, the site is intended to be used for passive recreation.

Roland Bergeron Bike Path Dedication

by Lynne Ober

The groundbreaking for the park

Under a sunny, crisp sky, friends and family of Roland Bergeron gathered at the small park created along Litchfield’s bike path to remember a life filled with love, family, and duty to town, and to dedicate the bike path in his memory.

Roland Bergeron was one of Litchfield’s earliest full-time employees.  He served the town in any capacity that needed to be filled.  Need a road plowed?  Ask Roland.  Need a salt shed?  Ask Roland.  Building in Litchfield?  Roland was the go-to guy.  Need to get rid of trash?  Ask Roland.  Need a new town hall?  Ask Roland.  He was everywhere.  For years, his knowledge guided the growth of Litchfield.  As Building Inspector, he had his hand in the majority of the buildings standing today in Litchfield.

“I can’t believe it has been almost a year since he died,” said Jess Bergeron, who talked about many of the things that Roland always did for the family.

The dedication was attended by Governor John Lynch, New Hampshire Department of Transportation Christopher Clement, and a variety of local and state dignitaries, all who came to honor Roland and his work.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Frank Byron was the Master of Ceremonies and kicked off the dedication by reminiscing about Roland and his impact on the town.  His stories brought nodding heads and some chuckles as the audience also recalled Roland and his work ethic.

Road Agent Jack Pinciaro originated the idea of dedicating the bike path and then worked to secure federal stimulus funding to complete the bike path.  Both Governor Lynch and Deputy Commissioner Clement talked about the bike path’s completion and their desire to work with Litchfield on this important community project.

Tim from Tim’s Turf and Brian from Novak’s Landscaping were on-hand and profusely thanked for their donations to complete the park.

After state Senate and state House of Representative proclamations were presented, Michael Bergeron and Jane Bergeron talked about their father and his love of the town and family.

At the end of the dedication, Governor Lynch, Louise Bergeron, Jack Pinciaro, Deputy Commissioner Clement, and Selectman George Lambert held a ceremonial groundbreaking.

With smiles all around, the audience and dignitaries headed to town hall for refreshments and more stories about Roland.

Senior Center Could Land at Benson Park

by Gina M. Votour

With help from Governor John Lynch, the Hudson seniors could very well find the home of their long-awaited Senior Center to be right within the Benson Park property.

In late August, Hudson’s Board of Selectmen Chairman Roger Coutu revealed to his fellow board members that Governor Lynch had agreed to work with the town to specifically lift deed restrictions within a portion of the property to build a Senior Center.  Furthermore, Lynch promised Coutu he would be willing to attend State House hearings on behalf of the town for this endeavor.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Ken Massey, who is liaison to the Hudson Senior Council on Aging, reported during the board’s September 22 meeting that the seniors were unanimous in their desire to work with the governor to modify the terms of the land use agreement.  Coutu added that the Benson Park Committee was also in accord with this idea.

Coutu additionally emphasized that if such an exemption is made to the Benson Park deed it would have to specifically be for the purpose of a Senior Center.  A sub-committee will be created for the task of delineating the building’s potential setting and acreage on the 165-acre property.

The seniors and the town have struggled for years with issues relating to a permanent location to house a Senior Center.  This past March, a warrant article finally passed 1584 to 1483 to establish a $50,000 capital reserve fund for a future senior center.  In addition, the Council on Aging has worked for several years to raise over $300,000 for the construction, fit-up, and furnishing of such a facility.

Although Massey pointed out that progress should not be expected overnight, since the absolute earliest that a Senior Center at Benson Park could appear within a warrant article would be March 2011, the current line of discussion is nevertheless a step in the right direction.

Council on Aging President Lucille Boucher was thrilled with this latest plan.

”I feel great.  It’s taken us 20 years.  We hope that they [the selectmen] move quickly enough before the governor gets out of office,” Boucher exclaimed outside the meeting.  “It’s [Benson Park] an historical place, and seniors are historical,” she laughingly added.

Since Coutu has established positive lines of communication between himself and the governor, his next step will be to directly inform Governor Lynch of the consensus on the project idea.

“We’ve waited long and hard to find a suitable piece of property for a senior building.  Here is a piece of property that, if we get the exemption, would cost us nothing, would cost you [the seniors] nothing, and you couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be caretakers for a valuable piece of property.  Now that we have the consensus, I will approach the governor and we’ll set the wheels in motion and try to expedite it as quickly as we can,” promised Coutu.

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