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Pies and crafts abound at Heritage Day Festival



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Scarecrows stand outside of the meetinghouse to greet folks on Scarecrow Lane. (click for larger version)
September 30, 2009
The fourth annual Heritage Festival brought in more than crafts this year, including a friendly scarecrow and pie baking contests, acappella music, square dancing, baked goods, and even chickens and oxen to kick off the fall season and bring the community to work together on a cool but sunny day.

Activities, stands, and entertainment resided by the Gilford Library, the Community Church, and the Historical Society's own historic building, the Grange, where the pie bake-off took place. Winning pie slices, apple pastries, lemon squares, spice cookies and cups of hot cider were sold after the taste results were tallied.

Local pie judges Grace Herbert, Tracy Petrozzi of Meredith Wine'ing Butcher, and Sally Bickford of Kitchen Cravings in Gilford sat through six homemade pie samples, not the hardest of feats, and tried squash, lemon meringue, maple apple, and fresh strawberry pies.

"We need more pies next year," is all the judges could say while waiting for the contestants winning results to be tallied, acknowledging that the contestants put a lot effort into their sworn by recipes.

Beth Demer took best overall in the fruit category with her strawberry concoction, while Dee Chitty from Public Works was not far behind with her maple apple pie. Marcella Allen came in third. Chitty also won for her squash pie, and Karen Landry won the grand prize for her lemon pie. Slices were available after the contestants and went quickly, while winners got to take away "bragging rights" as their prizes, according to the judges.

For those who don't have a sweet tooth, Charles Clark presented "What New Hampshire thought was funny 200 years ago" to a good sized crowd in the meeting room at the library. Clark was a history professor at UNH for 30 years and has devoted the rest of his time to promoting studies in New Hampshire. He shared amusing farmer's anecdotes and old jokes that date back to 1790 with participants equally interested in the lighter side of New Hampshire.

Younger generations chose to watch John Jude create his own batch of root beer. Kids could participate by buying a bottle of water for a $1 and pouring it in the vat to help the soda process. They got to return near the end of the day to fill up their water bottles and relish in their much anticipated homemade root beers, although Jude had to compete with the Girl Scout's fresh lemonade announcements.

The Cub Scouts graced the festival as well and demonstrated their knot-tying skills and placed together a large wooden ship for the crowd, displaying a prior Pine Wood Derby car demonstration.

Alongside demonstrations, musicians brought another element to the festival including the eclectic Bob McCarthy who plays the guitar, mandolin, and has opened for well-known bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the singer Neil Young.

The Chordsmen, a barbershop group, entertained the crowd as well with enthusiastic acappella singing tunes, harmonicas, synchronized moves, and well coordinated outfits that barbershop groups are known for. The Chordsmen plan on making their way to Disney World in Florida in the next week, and sang a Disney song or two to get into the spirit of warmer weather.

Two impressively large oxen, Chip and Max, enjoyed music as they strutted around the library to let kids pet them. They also had two young oxen to keep them company, and three chickens with fresh eggs available for sale during the festival. Other fresh foods and farm products were sold such as homemade pumpkin butter, honey, preserves, apples, and raw milk from Meredith Center Dairy, which organized a mozzarella demonstration at its stand.

Thirty or so other demonstrators set their stands by the church and did everything from weaving, to wood carving, to chair caning. Lucile Patten has been canning chairs for over 30 years and has even caned a few chairs for the Governor's House in New Hampshire. She uses a material from Singapore, similar to bamboo, and has materials available for order if people are interested in caning their own chair seats (or restoring old chair seats with this particular method).

Blacksmith Steve Ober also did a live demonstration at his stand and created a colonial plank table with four legs and a piece of metal that goes across the top, used as the "plank," said Ober. He explained that this style table was popular in the mid-1700's because it took up little space, was portable and convenient for historic events such as the Revolutionary War.

Many participants walked down "Scarecrow Lane" on behalf of the girl scouts during the festival to vote for their favorite scarecrows that lined the streets of Gilford from the Grange to the Gilford Elementary School. Categories included traditional, humorous, whimsical, historical figures, and mechanical. Some residents celebrated the fall season and used pumpkins for heads, and tricked pedestrians by placing their scarecrows on lawn chairs, posing like real people.

Historic house tours and the antique appraiser, Don Olmstead were also featured during the festival, along with other craftspeople who specialized in corn husk dolls, needle felting, basket weaving, pottery, spinning, rag rugs, and candle making, staying true to the most traditional part of Heritage Day.

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