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Looking back at Meredith's bicentennial

The town's 200th anniversary from the pages of the Meredith News

July 19, 2018
MEREDITH — The year 1968 marked a big celebration for the town of Meredith. Over the course of the year, the pages of the Meredith News reported parades, balls, races, and so many more events celebrating the town's 200th anniversary.

The editions of the Meredith News from 1968 can be found in a bound volume at the Meredith Public Library. These are some of the biggest events from that year and are only a few of the many different activities celebrating the bicentennial.

The first celebratory event of the year was the New England Sled Dog Club's annual race on Jan. 13 and 14 which was billed the Bicentennial Race. At 9:30 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 13, 67 senior dog teams and 67 junior dog teams took off for the race.

The Inter-Lakes band boosters put on a supper for the racers that Saturday night at the Griggs-Wyatt Post of the American Legion. Later they held a Musher's Ball where Eleanor Campbell of Concord was crowned Queen of the Musher's Ball.

Meredith's first baby of the bicentennial was Dennis C. Greene, Jr., who was born at Lakes Region General Hospital on Jan. 11, 1968 at 1:25 p.m. The paper featured two pages worth of half-page ads from local businesses welcoming the new baby and offering numerous gifts. In a later edition, Russell Hart and Mrs. John Beede was shown giving commemorative coins to Dennis and his parents Dennis and Donna as well as a copy of the commemorative book "Early Meredith."

"This continues the tradition established 200 years ago when the founding fathers of Meredith welcomed the first babies born in the town, Thamor Eaton and Daniel Smith, with gifts of land, " read the cutline.

A number of town officials and other locals wore period clothes at many different town events. One photo from town elections that year showed poll workers in period clothes. One article gave people instructions on where to find patterns for period clothing for the Bicentennial Parade.

Members of the Bicentennial Committee presented "The History of Meredith" and a plaque with two commemorative coins to Gov. John King.

On May 4, ILHS hosted the Bicentennial Exchange Concert on May 4. The ILHS band played with members of the Burriville High School Concert Band from Harrisville, Rhode Island.

On May 8 a group of ILHS students in period costume marched on Laconia in a "mini bicentennial celebration." Faculty advisor William Bastraw followed the group in a small bus with a flashing red light. Russ Hart served sandwiches and drinks along the route. The students were greeted in Laconia by Mayor Rodney Dyer and members of the Chamber of Commerce.

ILHS hosted a mini bicentennial parade on May 16 led by the ILHS band and featuring numerous floats.

On May 30, members of the Meredith Militia were sworn into "six months of active duty" and members of the militia were present at many different events throughout the year.

Paige Montana was crowned the Bicentennial Queen after a competition at the ILHS auditorium.

On the Fourth of July members of the Meredith Militia marched on Laconia and took over Meredith Bridge. The event also commemorated Laconia's Diamond Jubilee. In Bank Square (now Veteran's Square) members of the militia were shown firing their muskets. Meredith selectman Robert Rhodes read a proclamation to Mayor Dyer.

Bob Montana directed a movie for the bicentennial showing Meredith's early history. The movie was presented during the bicentennial week.

Montana also headed up a group of cartoon artists who offered their sketches and drawings at the Bicentennial Coin and Cartoon Auction on Aug. 2. The auction featured sketches and drawings from Montana's "Archie" comics, "Peanuts" by Charles M. Schultz, "Beetle Bailey" by Mori Walker, "Little People" by Walt Scott, "Mr. Brager by Dave Brager, "Short Ribs" by Frank O'Neal, "Carnival" by Dick Turner, "Smokey Stover" by Bill Holman, "The Little King" by Otto Soglow, and "Andy Cat" by Reginald Smythe. It also featured the works of panel cartoonist Chan Day and Boston Herald political cartoonist James J. Dobbins.

Bicentennial Week kicked off on July 27 with opening ceremonies and commenced a week of events. The event began with the Children's Parade , where kids marched in period clothing. The events of the week included golf and tennis tournaments, an art show at the library, a historical display at the Masonic Hall, entertainment, races, and much more. Some unique events included the dunking stool and the "Fringe Benefit" beard judging contest. One photo was a before and after shot of legislative candidate Bob Lawton with his beard and without it.

The week rounded out with the Bicentennial Parade on Aug. 4. The article from the Aug. 8 edition said 80 different units took part in the parade in a two-mile line, including 32 decorated floats and eight bands.

"It is doubtful if in the history of town so many people had ever crowded into the center of this community as line the streets to watch the big parade," said the article.

The winner of the Best Parade trophy was H.A. Wallace Co.

The cover of the Bicentennial Time Capsule was unveiled in the Nov. 21 edition and was on display at the Municipal Building.

Throughout the year, The Meredith News featured a column called "Bicentennial Notes" by Isabel Russell starting with the year's first edition.

"It was a sobering thought driving through town on the evening of Dec. 31 to realize that we would be exactly 200-years-old when we made this return trip," Russell wrote in her first column.

At the end of the year, the Bicentennial Committee took out a full page ad with the headline "Greetings to Meredith residents in the years 2018 and 2068 from those who celebrated the Meredith Bicentennial in 1968."

"May your celebrations of the 250th and the 300th anniversaries of Meredith's incorporation as a town be as successful and pleasant as outs have been," read the ad.

With the bicentennial over, the time capsules were put together starting in January of 1969. A photo showed Meredith News Publisher Neal Phillips presenting two copies of the paper reviewing the bicentennial year to members of the Bicentennial Committee.

The time capsule was buried in front of the Meredith Public Library on July 5, 1969.

Garnett Hill
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Garnett Hill
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