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Irene fails to dampen spirits at Bristol's Old Home Day

Lovebirds and Tbirds: Bill and Lois Porter, from Franklin, enjoyed chatting with other “car lovers” about their beautiful, “fiesta red” 1956 Ford Thunderbird after the annual antique car parade during Old Home Day festivities in Bristol on Saturday morning. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
August 31, 2011
BRISTOL—In the calm before the storm this past weekend, Bristol residents were able to sneak the annual Old Home Day festivities in before the deluge of Irene.

It was a lovely, late summer day on Saturday, with everything from antique cars to fireworks to keep folks entertained all day.

The weekend event actually began on Friday evening with a spaghetti dinner at the Bristol Fire Station, followed by a performance at Old Town Hall by "The Old Country Fiddler Russ Taggart, traveling entertainer," portrayed by Adam Boyce.

The traditional Old Home Day events started off bright and early in the morning on Saturday, with the start of the 5K Fun Run to raise money for the Newfound football field, along with hot air balloon rides at Kelly Park, offered by the folks at ReMax.

Chris Plankey and Mike MacLean celebrate together after finishing in first and second place during the 5K Fun Run, to raise money for Newfound Football, as part of Old Home Day festivities in Bristol. Parker Bergholm came in third. Congratulations! (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
Bristol's Chris Plankey placed first in the Fun Run, crossing the finish line on North Main Street with a time of 16:01, followed in second place by Mike MacLean with a time of 16:46. Soon thereafter, Parker Bergholm trotted across the finish line to take third place, looking strong.

Adam Spaulding was one of the first brave souls to venture aloft above Kelly field in the ReMax hot air balloon. From above, he was able to get a whole new perspective on Newfound Memorial Middle School, where he was scheduled to begin the eighth grade on Monday. He also got a great "bird's eye" view of the hotly competitive horseshoe competition underway below, as well as the roof and backyard of Parkhurst Hardware, and the field dotted with tiny tents for the daylong crafts fair at Kelly field.

Hot air balloon pilot Bruce Byberg kept his passengers entertained as they ascended far, far from the crowd above the Kelly Park ballfield.

"Welcome to my office," said Byberg. "It isn't very big, but I've got a heck of a view! It's not a lot of fun in here when it is 100 degrees and humid, but I love it in the winter, when the temperature is 20 degrees."

As he let out the hot air from the flame in the "cockpit," a deafening roar emanated from under the balloon, scaring off a few potential passengers who were waiting on the ground. But that didn't phase a brave soul like Spaulding.

Up, Up in the air! Adam Spaulding, an eighth grader at Newfound Memorial Middle School (in the background), ascends over Kelly Park in the ReMax hot air balloon during Old Home Day in Bristol. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
"This is really fun," said the excited 13-year-old. "It's my first time. I can almost see my house on Green Street."

Your loyal correspondent, on the other hand, must confess to feeling a little queasy as we descended to a bit of a shaky landing, safe and sound, back on the baseball diamond and waited for the air to cool enough for a quick exit.

"Oh, that was nothing," said Byberg reassuringly of the slight rolling on landing. "It just must be because of the company we are keeping."


Around 10 a.m., the annual antique car parade made its way down Pleasant Street, pulling up in front of the park on North Main Street for the traditional "meet up" of classic car fans.

Bill and Lois Porter rode up in style from Franklin for the event, and while Lois tried her hand at horseshoes, Bill enjoyed chatting with curious admirers of their beautiful "fiesta red" 1956 Ford Thunderbird, with nifty "porthole" windows in the back. The Porters have owned the car for 18 years, since Bill rescued the car from a field in Wilton, after nearly two decades of exposure to the elements.

"The car was covered inside and out with a sticky black mold," remembered Lois Porter. "There was no flooring on either side. The trunk was completely rotted out, and the electrical wires had been eaten away by rats and mice. The bumpers were inside the car on the back seat, and the grill was totally mangled. But even though my husband had never worked on a car before in his life, he totally restored everything, including the original paint job. Now it is a lot of fun for us to show off at cruise nights. It is something for us to do."

Lois brings along her mother's valuable American Girl doll, who rides in the front seat adorned in her pink poodle skirt and tiny saddle shoes. The Porters take an obvious pride in the quality workmanship behind the gleaming chrome facade.

But that is a lot of what Old Home Day is about – pride in the past and the quality of life that we all remember so fondly. That was on display in full force.

Contemporary Bristol residents could get a good glimpse into the past at the Bristol Historical Society display under the big tent on Kelly field. The Bristol High School Courier Yearbooks were out for people to browse, with photographs of such luminaries as "Wink" Tapply, Luther Mitchell and Barbara Greenwood herself, in their high school years. There were tall stacks of the Bristol Enterprise, and articles about the Lakeview Inn and Casino at the southern tip of Newfound Lake, back in the day. Bristol has such a vivid, rich history within remembrance of some of the many "old-timers," some in their 80's and 90's, that we are fortunate enough to have still amongst us to this day. Bristol is just "that kind of place," after all—a real small town community with plenty of local character.

That contemporary local character was also evident as the day wore on...with a hardworking crew from the Bristol Lions Club on hand holding a benefit auction to raise money for one young Bristol resident who is suffering from a life threatening immune condition, and for his family which is cash strapped with expenses for his medical treatment and care. But as it always does, the community works together to meet the needs of the neighbors and friends that we love. Dozens of local businesses heeded the call to donate items for the Lions' silent auction, and many more took time out to bid on the baskets of goodies that were assembled for the cause. A hearty thank you goes out to everyone who gave, and everyone who worked so hard to extend a helping hand to some very worthy folks.

The day ended, as it has for many, many years, with the annual lobster and chicken dinner to benefit the Tapply Thompson Community Center, accompanied by the music of the "one man band" Carroll Brown, followed by music provided by WLNH and a display of fireworks at Kelly Park. All in all, it was not a bad way to spend the day with family and friends, old and new, for the weekend just before the kids as scheduled to go back to school. While the summer isn't officially over, and there are still a few local "Old Home Days" on the agenda in the local region, the Bristol Old Home Day is a wonderful way to put an exclamation point on the summer of Old Home Day events, and to gather to relax and enjoy one another's company before heading back to the regular "off season" way of life.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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