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Happy return for Lilac Festival

Smiles and crowds welcome back Lisbon tradition

This young parade participant, riding in a New Hampshire Army National Guard humvee, had a perfect view of parade watchers as her ride moved down Main Street in Lisbon Saturday during the Lilac Festival Parade. Krystin St. George. (click for larger version)
May 28, 2009
LISBON—After a two-year hiatus, the annual Lisbon Lilac Festival came back with a bang last weekend.

There were, of course, tons of purple lilacs to mark the occasion, but many festival-goers also donned purple shirts, hair ties or other accessories to show pride and a warm welcome back for the 26th festival that took over the Main Street.

The theme for this year's event and parade was Heroes, and aside from purple, plenty of red, white and blue was being worn as well, as people honored their heroes on Memorial Day weekend.

Prior to this year, the festival ran 25 years straight, with the last one being in 2006. After taking two years off, townspeople and committee members wanted to bring back the Memorial Day weekend tradition to the small town that sits along the Ammonoosuc River.

"I think people were just quite happy with it," said Lisbon Main Street, Inc. Executive Director Ruth Taylor, who said the committee added a few different things this year, but still had traditional events. "We didn't know going into it what would make people happy. I had people walking away thank us last [Sunday] night."

Hundreds of people lined Main Street Saturday to catch a glimpse of the parade, led by Grand Marshal and Lisbon resident William Callender. Antique cars, the local brownie troop, the Lisbon Children's Center and the Sunny Valley Alpacas from Lisbon were just some of the groups that joined in the parade, sporting decorated floats and handing out candy to kids.

The smiles from those in attendance and the choices of things to do seemed endless, as amusement rides, crafts, antique cars, live music, a dance, the 5K road race and family activities beckoned young and old alike, as did the food. From the Lilac Luncheon at the Shared Ministry White Church to the sausages, fried dough and ice cream, there were more than enough choices for even the most finicky eaters.

"If you're in public office in Northern New Hampshire, the Lisbon Lilac Festival is the place to be," said Executive Councilor Ray Burton Saturday, noting he has never missed the festival. Burton, who chose to walk during the parade, had two of his classic antique cars in the parade this year.

Sunday featured a fire truck parade, bike decorating, a comedy performance by Rusty DeWees, "The Logger," and the festival was capped off with fireworks Sunday night.

Taylor was pleased with Sunday's Battle of the Bands, a new activity for this year. She said it was "well attended" and was specifically organized for teens.

Cassandra Dexter, who moved to Littleton less than two years ago, attended the event Saturday with her grandmother, Joan Dexter, also of Littleton. Joan was a Lisbon resident for many years and very involved with the festival. The younger Dexter said she enjoyed how the event was like a fair and thought that helped attract more kids.

"I'm happy they brought it back," said the Joan. "Look at the good turnout they got because of it. People obviously missed it and it's nice to come see people you haven't seen in two years [since the last festival]."

In addition to the exciting festivities, Lisbon and the hydroelectric dam that runs through town were also given awards during the festival. White Mountain Hydroelectric Corporation, which owns the hydroelectric station, was given the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Leadership Award by the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills, Northeast Chapter and Northern Heritage Mills. The two mill organizations also gave the town a New Hampshire Clean Energy Award. Seven-hundred fifty homes are powered by the hydro dam, and tours of the hydroelectric station were being given during the weekend as well.

Taylor said those that organized and worked on the festival felt it was a success and they learned lessons about what worked and what things they might change.

She said the planning started with the community and what it wanted, which helped make it a success.

"I would guess we're going to be expected to do it next year," said Taylor. "It really felt good to make so many people happy. We saw a lot of happy faces."

Besides Taylor, other members of the Lilac Festival committee included co-chairs Donna Scovill and Roger Gingue, Patty Emmons, Conrad and Sue Farnham, Andrea Fitzgerald, Laurie Guilmette, Carol Herzig, Donna Knighton, Amylynn, Eric and Joseph Kukler, Robert Moore, Regan Pride, Dianne Rappa, Joe Tavernier, Karen and Bob Watson, Bryson and Joy Yawger and Janice Choate, advisor.

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