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Fifth annual Heritage Festival stays true to its vision

Three-year-old Jay Blonstedt is curious about the large oxen at Heritage Festival last Saturday and dares to take a close up look. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
September 29, 2010
Last Saturday was a treat for those interested in their heritage and old-fashioned trades like blacksmithing, weaving, wood carving and cheese making.

The annual Heritage Festival showed its growth in its fifth year. What started as a small gathering in the 1834 Union Meetinghouse has turned into a community festival that spans across the Gilford library and Gilford Community Church.

The festival is held by the Gilford Thompson-Ames Historical Society in conjunction with the library and church, with crafts, homemade pies, seminars, and craftsmen demonstrations, plus the added utilization of the Gilford Youth Center this year.

Jennifer Eldridge, head of festival events, became involved with Heritage Fest in its second year, held on a rainy day and stuffed into one building. She said by the third year, the church and the library finally became involved.

"In the first two years there was no church and library involved. The Historical Society saw that they couldn't grow on their own and wanted to grow; people stepped in," said Eldridge.

The official yearly luncheon started at the GCC and events were held at the library, although the rain once again put a damper on events in its third year.

During last year's festival, Eldridge said there were over 40 demonstrators and entertainers, and she expected numbers to increase this year even more so.

She said 500 to 600 people also showed up for events last year, and because of more advertising and sunny weather, she was hoping for a few hundred more than that to pop up in the center of town on a beautiful fall day.

"We've got a few people from the Humanities Club speaking and a few small pedal tractors from the Sandwich fair for children to ride in," Eldridge said of Saturday's new events. "The Cub Scouts will have their old fashioned wooden toys for kids, and the Cadets and Brownies will have crafts for children, as well as the library."

The Cub Scouts built and displayed their wooden toys, including a pinewood derby car, and also built boats to float through their second annual "Rain Gutter Regatta."

The Cadets and Brownies worked on yarn dolls that they also helped children to create throughout the day.

Now that more entities are involved with Heritage Fest and effort goes into the annual event, Eldridge said she hoped it would continue on without ever losing its true meaning.

"I sure hope it will be a tradition for years to come," said Eldridge. "The goal is to keep it educational. All the crafts and vendors are all there to teach."

She said the idea for Heritage Festival was originally brainstormed several years back by Reverend Raymond Wixon, who thought such an event would work to bring the community together. Time passed, and finally the Historical Society decided that they could take on the challenge.

During the course of events Saturday, a pie eating contest was judged by Frank Latosek of Gilford Fire Rescue, Sally Bickford of Kitchen Cravings, and Catherine Tokarz of GFR.

Mim White and Dee Chitty worked together and won in the cream pie category, Carol Groenke won in the fruit pie category, and Pat Ford won in the "other" pie category.

Along with the dozens of craftspeople and vendors scattered around town, demonstrators included family members of a Meredith dairy farm, with demonstrator Sue MacDonald who planned to make mozzarella for the crowd, with her specialization, raw milk.

She explained that to make mozzarella, she would heat up milk to 86 degrees and add in a starter culture, then add in rennet which separates the curds from whey. The curds would then be heated in the microwave and then stretched to make mozzarella.

Her nine-year-old son Tristan MacDonald also grew, cut, and sold his own catnip at the festival, displayed as fresh or tucked in pouches. He was proud to say his proceeds would go towards a new school playground on Laconia school grounds.

Just as MacDonald and her family have been present at Heritage Fest for years, Steve Ober of Sanbornton has come back from time to time to with his blacksmithing trade.

While people asked questions, Ober worked on his colonial hardware, careful with burning hot coals and the mallet he used to shape each intricate piece of hardware to create a latch. He also used a blower to keeps the coals burning.

Chad Sabourne of Gilmanton operates his Stone Age Design granite business out of the Lakes Region, including the area of Squam Lake, and was demonstrating how to split pieces of granite using feathers and wedges made out of steel.

Sabourne said these pieces of granite could be used for steps, window sills, fireplace mantels, and more for houses. Older or antique granite is often used for a unique design on local houses. He has worked on houses in Meredith, on Winnipesaukee, in the White Mountains, and all throughout central and northern New Hampshire.

He added that the somewhat tedious and meticulous method he was using at the festival still holds true today.

While walking through the streets of Gilford last Saturday children and families were also delighted by the appearance of oxen walking through the streets and the abundance of scarecrows on display down town, created by town departments and families throughout the community.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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