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Celebrating 250 years of Community

Holderness, 1761-2011

Opening Ceremony: Members of the Mattatuck Fife and Drum Band, the oldest continuously existing band in the United States, from Waterbury Connecticut, are escorted by none-other than Sid Lovett in a vintage wooden boat through the Squam Channel, en route to the beginning of the Grand Street Parade marking the 250th Anniversary of the founding of the Town of Holderness in 1761. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
August 10, 2011
HOLDERNESS—It was a celebration 250 years in the making--and every bit worth the wait.

It was a four-day extravaganza of music, good food, good memories, history, art, culture, and more...but mostly, a tribute to the joy of community life

"We are so pleased to have this opportunity to celebrate 250 years of community life here in Holderness," said an enthusiastic Holderness Select Board member, Shelagh Connelly, at Curry Place following the Grand Street Parade on Saturday morning. "We are all coming together to celebrate the fact that we enjoy such a great place to live. We are delighted that the Mattatuck Band came all the way from Waterbury Connecticut to be with us today. The Parade and the band were truly wonderful!"

For the Love of Squam Lake! Supporters of the Squam Lake Conservation Society baked a 250th Birthday cake for the Town of Holderness in the shape Squam Lake and surrounding mountain ranges—an exact replica of the local landscape and a delicious, vanilla and chocolate tribute to all that we love about the local region. Pictured: Lilly Magnus, 8, MaeWhitcomb, 7, Liesl Whitcomb, 12, and Gus Whitcomb, age 9. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
In fact, the members of the oldest continuously existing band in the United States, the Mattatuck Fife and Drum Band awoke as early as 4 a.m. on Saturday and traveled by bus to Holderness to make their dramatic entrance right on time. Debarking from the classic wooden boats that escorted them to downtown Holderness from Cotton Cove, through the Squam Channel, the Mattatuck Band played The World Turned Upside Down (which it played at the surrender of Gen. Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 ending the War for Independence), as it mustered on the dock of Squam Boat Livery, then proceeded south to Piper Rd. where it joined the Grand Street Parade to follow.

Hundreds gathered to watch the parade Saturday morning, which featured Grand Marshall Mary Elizabeth Nielson, a direct descendant of one of the original chartered founding families of New Holderness in 1761.

As the attendees waited for the start of the parade, the Master of Ceremonies, who did not introduce himself, but remarkably, resembled Holderness founding father Samuel Livermore, came over the microphone to welcome everyone and read the Proclamation from Governor John Lynch, congratulating Holderness on its 250th birthday. Senator Jeannie Forrester joined "Livermore" at the microphone, also reading a commendation from the New Hampshire State Senate, filled with all the requisite whereas and wherefores required of the occasion.

Then, right on time, the procession began. Many eras of the Town's History were represented in the floats and parade entries, including the lead off contingent of local Native American residents, the very first settlers of the region, a group of colonial farmers, led by an extremely large and handsome set of oxen, driven by George Robie of Hill and Kathy Salanitro of Gilford, the 19th century roller wheel snowplow they used to drag across the winter landscape (on loan from the Sandwich Historical Society), a Civil War era couple escorting the historic LW. Packard Factory Bell from the Town of Ashland, and a boisterous troop of contemporary Holderness Central School students in their souvenir Holderness 250 T-shirts!

First Citizen! Holderness 250 Parade Grand Marshall Mary Elizabeth Nielson, a direct descendant of a Charter founding family of the Town of Holderness, waves to her admiring fans during the festivities on Saturday. She is escorted by none-other than Skip Van Sickle, shielding her with a period parasol from the bright rays of the sunshine which favored the entire Holderness 250 proceedings. Congratulations Holderness! (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
Along with the horses and mules that were once reigned supreme on the downtown village thoroughfares, a vintage car contingent paid homage to the advent of the "horseless carriage". Chief Eleanor Mardin looked pretty classy behind the wheel of the antique pumper from the Holderness Fire Department. They don't make those trucks like they used to-- for better or worse!

Later in the day, there was an historic tour of sites in Ashland & Holderness organized by Missy Mason, Holderness Historical Society Treasurer, who selected 38 locations in the two towns including The Whipple House, the Glidden Toy Museum, and the Railroad station in Ashland. The Town of Ashland was created when residents broke off from "New Holderness" following a controversy over who should pay for infrastructure improvements in the industrialized section of Ashland village... but that is all ancient history now...

Holderness sites on the historic tour included Trinity Chapel, Livermore Falls and Livermore Hall, the old Piper Farm, a seasonal Indian encampment site near the boat launch on 113, and the site of William and Sushannah Piper's first New Holderness settlement near White Oak Pond (and many others).

As if that wasn't enough, the Grand Street Parade was followed by the Vintage Boat Flotilla, a virtual armada of over 40 classic wooden boats, instigated by antique boat enthusiast Peter Francesco, and led by 1906 Steamboat Halcyon, captained by Grand Marshall Louis Francesco, another great patriarch of all the Holderness has been and has become. Peter Francesco and his wife Sue looked ecstatic as they toasted one another with a bottle of (vintage?) Xanadu wine as they followed the Halcyon in their own beautiful wooden vintage dreamboat, the Xanadu.

The 1906 Steamship Halcyon, Captained by Grand Marshall, Louis Francesco-- pictured here with his young friend Cameron Young, led off the Vintage Wooden Boat Flotilla of over 40 classic antique wooden boats from around Squam Lake during Holderness 250 this past weekend. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
Squam Boat Livery proprietor Tom Daigneault graciously welcomed citizens and visitors dockside to view the flotilla up close as it came through the channel to Little Squam.

"This is a very exciting and rare view of all the beautiful wooden boats here on the lake," said Daigneault. "I seem them around from time to time, but you hardly ever get to see them all together at once. This is very cool."

Daigneault said he knows most of the boats very well, having worked on probably at least half of them at one time or another over the years. "What makes these boats so very special is the fact that the people who own them are so dedicated to maintaining them they way they do," said Daigneault. "They deserve a lot of credit. It is a heritage. There is a lot of work involved and it is also a major investment.

The commitment that people have to keeping these beautiful boats on the lake is truly remarkable."

Flotilla Grand Marshall Louis Francesco couldn't agree more. He knows personally how much work is involved in renovating these treasures from an era gone-by. He spent over 6 years working on the Halcyon after finding it abandoned and in terrible condition under a "broken down shed" in Pennacook sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. He says he doesn't know the exact history of the steamship, but "word of mouth" has it that it was originally a pleasure craft on Newfound Lake, then a working boat, before somehow ending up in that field in Pennacook, from which he happily rescued it. He says he has been shown a picture of it from the 1890s on Newfound Lake.

When he retired from his business, running the Lakeview Lanes Bowling Alley in Holderness in the late 1970s he finally had the time it takes to devote to restoring the old steamboat. But he says the restoration, a labor of love, a hobby and his life, was a really a true community effort. "I wasn't a machinist, I was a woodworker," said Francesco. "I had a lot of help from so many others to get the job done. I could never have done it alone."

And that pretty much sums up the lesson of community that was the hallmark of the day during Holderness 250 this past weekend, and probably for many, many years to come. The celebrations concluded on Monday evening with a dinner and an "I remember when..." discussion held at Long Haul Farm and a Fireworks display as a grand finale. Congratulations Holderness!

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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