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Bristol's Old Home Day offers attendees a true blast from the past



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Something old...something new.... Kayci Costigan, age 12, gets to imagine what it might have been like to get married in Bristol at the turn of the century... the 20th Century, that is...as she poses with this exquisite wedding gown originally worn by Ada May Brown the day she married George B. Cavis on Oct. 15, 1896. The gown was on display at the Bristol Historical Society tent on Old Home Day this past weekend. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
August 29, 2012
BRISTOL — As summer winds down in the Lakes Region, there is always one "last hurrah" to enjoy before heading back to school and the start of the busy September season.

Bristol Old Home Day stretched out over the entire weekend this year, beginning with it an extremely well attended traditional "kickoff" open house and spaghetti dinner at the Bristol Fire Department on Friday night, and continuing unabated for a daylong schedule of activities at Kelley Park on Saturday, culminating at the ever-popular "Lobsta Chicken Dinner" sponsored by theTapply Thompson Community Center, capped by a "Movie on the Park" (and in the dark) featuring cotton candy, popcorn, pajamas, and a contemporary children's favorite. For a finale, there was a full fireworks display downtown after the movie. What more could a kid ask for from the last weekend of summer?

Bristol was a town well-fed, and probably tired out from a lot of excitement this last major weekend before school, which saw a large crowd enjoying Newfound Lake and sadly, packing up their bags to return to "reality" this past Monday.

Undoubtedly, there was many a memory made on Saturday, as young kids enjoyed pony rides, a bouncy house, public safety demonstrations and equipment displays, a giant inflatable obstacle course (a big hit) games, activities, and crafts in Kelley Park. Meanwhile the adults undertook the arguably more serious pursuits such as the 5K Road Race, the annual softball game and of course, the traditional horseshoe competition.

But Old Home Day is also always a wonderful opportunity to browse through the artifacts and records of the Bristol Historical Society, and to get a sense of what life was like in Bristol for the previous generations of residents in Town. Many of those who took the occasion to leaf through stacks of the Bristol High School Courier Yearbook from as early as 1927, were probably enjoying a bit of a stroll down memory lane. A few spotted themselves, and old friends or neighbors, in class pictures dating back... well, a long while.

But others, like 12-year-old Kayci Costigan, were clearly getting their first glimpse of a bygone era. Kayci Costigan was beaming as the Historical Society's Lucille Keegan encouraged her to pose with the 1896 wedding gown worn by Ada May Brown when she married Goerge Cavis so many years ago. The exquisite dress, donated to the Historical Society long ago and part of the regular collection, is notable for its beauty, color, high quality material, and... a tiny, tiny waist. Ada May either must not have been as happy, healthy, or robust a young woman as the 12-year-old Kayci... or perhaps, poor Ada May was suffering the all too familiar affliction of a corset... history knows.

Children Kayci's age must have been flabbergasted and confused to see some of the historic photographs on display at the Historical Society, including the 1952 pictures of renowned Bristol notables Flossie Kinley, Alice Tapply and Barbara (Fletcher) Greenwood, hard at work as telephone operators at the switchboard downtown. What were all those wires for?

Copies of the local hometown newspaper, The Bristol Enterprise, a predecessor of this publication, were available to browse and even on sale, for the original price of 10 cents a copy! The Enterprise archives, going back to the 1890's, provide an extraordinary look into the cares and concerns of local residents from years gone by. For example, the Thursday, July 19 edition from 1969 featured a full front page of photographs from Bristol's Sesquicentennial Fourth of July Parade, which boasted more than 6,000 in attendance and floats celebrating every aspect of life for 150 years.

The Jan. 17, 1980 edition chronicles the 14.5 percent increase in the School budget, as well as a proposal by the Parents Space Needs Action Committee to build a seven classroom addition to Bristol Elementary School at a cost expected to be "under half a million dollars."

Of course, contemporary Bristol was admirably represented at Old Home Day too, with booths and informational displays on the organizations and activities that make Bristol such a busy place. The Newfound Area School District Community Relations Council was on hand encouraging parents to get involved, and school district members were distributing information about READY for Kindergarten classes available this fall, thanks to grants received by the New Hampshire State Library, Granite State Reads nad the Newfound Education Endowment Fund. For more information, call 744-6969.

Other organizations included Habitat for Humanity, which is building four new homes in Bristol in the immediate future and is seeking volunteers to help out; also, Dancing Feet Studios, offering a wide variety of classes, including Zumba for Fitness, starting Sept. 10. There will be an Open House to learn more on Wednesday, Sept. 5 from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.

As always, Old Home Day in Bristol was a wonderful and educational event for families, filled with information and fun, for a Town that feels like it has a lot to celebrate these days. When it was all said and done, there were more than a few young kids (and old kids too) who slept very, very well in Bristol Saturday night.

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