Committee At Work Behind The Scenes

Hampton 350

1638 -- 1988

Rockingham County Newspaper -- July 8, 1988

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[The following articles are courtesy of
Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

By Paul Wolterbeek

Staff Reporter

Chairman Jerry McConnell
Jerry McConnell

The 350th anniversary celebration, four years in the making, has gone off successfully and with few hitches over the past seven months, according to 350th Committee Chairman Jerry McConnell.

The celebration has operated on a total budget of just over $100,000, and organizers have been able to provide much spectacle and many memories with that money, McConnell said.

"We tried to work it so that there was something happening each month of the year, and to have enough variety so there was something for everybody," said McConnell. "And most of the events were selected so they would appeal to all."

While the budget has allowed for many events, the biggest single cost has been the parade, which is scheduled for Sept. 11 on Ocean Boulevard. The parade is to include 39 bands and marching units, and is expected to be bigger than the town's 1976 national bicentennial parade in scope.

McConnell took the reins as 350th Committee chairman after former Chairman William "Beau" Wilson resigned in December citing extensive business-related travel that would interrupt his participation. Wilson is still active in the committee as a member.

McConnell said that he has enjoyed the chairmanship and that his job has been made easier by the cooperation of other groups and individuals outside of the committee.

Church Celebration

The committee has benefited, he said, from the cooperative efforts with the 350th anniversary celebration at the First Congregational Church. While church events intend to maintain an emphasis on worship, they also recognize church and town history.

"The two are very closely related because for the first couple hundred years the church and town were basically one and the same," said McConnell. "The town fathers were selected from the deaconry, and the church leaders were town citizens.

"Even today, our celebration dovetails with (the church's) because the town and church were founded together in 1638, and our celebration has many events that include church events."

McConnell said that while the main thrust of the celebration is to recognize town history, there will also be continuing efforts to commemorate the present, and to preserve the more modern memories for future citizens.

For example, the range of items that commemorate the 350th anniversary of the town includes metal arrowheads and coins emblazoned with the town seal, commemorative T-shirts and a stamp cancellation in connection with the local post office.

There is a yearbook, other publications are in the works, and most of the celebration's events have been or will be videotaped. Souvenirs and some videotapes are to be placed in a time capsule to be opened in another 50 years.

Variety Of Events

McConnell said that through it all; the celebration has not become too commercialized, and that the balance between commercial and historical has been maintained though the events that commemorate the history of the town.

"We have about 34 events planned throughout the year, and we have many months where there were more than one event," said McConnell.

McConnell said such events as a fifth- graders costumed pageant at Hampton Academy Junior High School and the encampment of the Winnacunnet Guard militia have given focus to the historical context of the celebration. And tours of historical homes have also enlivened the year-long event.

"It is a close mix," said McConnell. "Everything we have done has commemorated the past in some way or another."

Other events have ranged from such staid historical reflections as an ecumenical service with area churches to the more light-hearted beard-growing contest.

McConnell said the anniversary enthusiasm has been contagious in Hampton, and has made the celebration a big success.

"Everybody has really pitched in, and we have been able to maintain the celebration at a high level for months," said McConnell.

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