Bridgewater Old Home Day draws a lively crowd



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Participants gather for the annual group photo in front of the Bridgewater Town House, celebrating another year of Old Home Day festivities. (Jeremy Slayton — Courtesy) (click for larger version)
August 24, 2011
BRIDGEWATER — Last Saturday, Bridgewater residents beat the heat and came out to celebrate Bridgewater Old Home Day at the Bridgewater Town House.

This year marked the 113th anniversary of Bridgewater Old Home Day, and attracted visitors young and old to partake in the festivities. The day began with a flag-raising ceremony by the Bridgewater Troop 50 Boy Scouts, who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. They then began a ceremony to award merit badges to each of the scouts. "This is one of the highlights of our year," said Scout Leader Doug Bergholm, who presented the badges alongside fellow leader Mike O'Neill.

He said Old Home Day was the perfect opportunity to hand out badges that were earned at Hidden Valley Camp. Eleven boys attended the camp this summer, earning 14 merit badges in total. In addition to the merit badges, Bergholm said that he usually handed out a prize for a scout who has gone above and beyond. "Usually, there's a couple of boys who stand out because they are helpful and do more than is expected," said Bergholm.

This year, however, he gave prizes to all 11 boys who attended camp, saying that no one stood out because they were all exceptional. "I want to thank them for being who they are," said Bergholm, handing out flashlights to each Scout. "You guys have a great group of boys going out into the world representing you." Attendees were then invited to come inside to shop around at the craft fair that was set up inside of the Town House. Stands were set up with everything from jams, to vegetables, to handcrafted wooden trivets.

Torsey Farm had a stand with its homemade maple syrup, while the Bridgewater Historical Society ran a table selling copies of previous Old Home Day group pictures and books detailing the history of Bridgewater. There was also a stand selling Isle Weavers scarves, which was very popular with customers young and old, and there was a display of beads and a sign marked, "Make your own bracelet for $2."

Although children were expectedly excited to partake in the jewelry-making, two retired women also seemed exceptionally thrilled to be making their own bracelets. The highlight of the day was, without doubt, the homemade beans cooked underground by "The Bean Crew." This free lunch is a tradition at Bridgewater Old Home Day. The process of preparing and cooking the beans underground began at 7 a.m. the day before, and the beans were put in the ground around 4 p.m. to cook overnight. "The whole thing is quite a production," said Judy Faran, President of the Bridgewater Historical Society.

The Bean Hole Beans have been a tradition at Old Home Day for more than 40 years, according to Faran, and have become quite an attraction over the years. "It's funny to watch people pose for the [group] picture, and then immediately run to get in line," she said. "The crowd will change before the beans are served." As if right on cue, cars started rolling in at a quarter of noon, and after Jeremy Slayton took the group picture, there was a mad dash to find a place in the long line, which snaked behind the building. The crowd watched eagerly as the Bean Crew began to dig up the beans, many taking pictures or explaining it to their children. Once the pot was dug up and unscrewed, one member of the Bean Crew remarked, "That's perfect," causing the line to erupt into applause. "People swear they taste different," said Faran of the beans, which consisted of regular and kidney beans. "It's a nice thing they do, keeping the tradition going." Soon, the Bean Crew's lives will get a little easier, as money is being raised to build a shelter that will cover the holes, with a vent on top. Later, the crowd split up as some went to participate in the children's games, held at Townsend Field, and others stayed to witness the Old Home Day annual meeting. The meeting began with thank you's to those who donated their time and money to make Old Home Day a success, and a reading of passings and new residents. Afterward began the day's special program, a history of local Torsey Farm by Licia Torsey Willey. After sharing a brief history of how the 1,000 acre farm came to be, many residents asked questions and then shared their own stories of growing up around Torsey farm, including memories of grand Thanksgiving dinners, getting milk from the Torsey Farm cows, and receiving limited (although allegedly deserved) wages. The night concluded with a square dance in the Town House, called by Lester Bradley.

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