Founders' Day Picnic A Giant Success

Hampton marks its 362nd Birthday With Food,
Cake and Fun On A Warm Autumn Day

By Steve Jusseaume, Staff Writer

Portsmouth Herald, Monday, October 16, 2000

[The following article is courtesy of The Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON — The Rev. Edgar Warren, commemorating the 300th birthday of the founding of Hampton, wrote in 1938: "On a bright October afternoon, almost 300 years ago, the gulls wheeling in ceaseless circles and the foxes peering curiously out of their coverts, were startled to see a shallop beating its way slowly up the winding waters of a tidal river."

Standing in the middle of the John G. Peterson Athletic Field at Hampton Academy Junior High School on Sunday afternoon, one could imagine standing near the tidal shore, just a kilometer or so south of the place, 362 years ago, as did the foxes, watching in wonderment as a small shallop made its way up the Hampton River.

To commemorate that reportedly (if you believe the Rev. Warren) brilliant 17th-century autumn day more than three and a half centuries ago, Hampton held a picnic on Sunday, serving up hot dogs and hamburgers, iced tea and sodas, and hints of history.

"This is a great day," said J.R. Bridle, Founders’ Day Picnic 2000 committee chairman, glancing at brilliant red foliage against a backdrop of green grass and blue sky.

"This is our third year in a row. We’ve got businesses interested this year, and 150 people, a small turnout perhaps, but a lively one, and October 15 is the exact founding day of Hampton."

J.R. might have been wrong on the "exact founding day" of the town, but he was right in one sense -- Sunday was a fine fall day. According to Joseph Dow in his seminal 1894 "History of the Town of Hampton," by all accounts the town first named Winnacunnet was founded on Oct. 14, 1638. Dow referenced Stephen Bachiler’s letter to John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay colony at the time, as his proof that Hampton was founded on Oct. 14.

"If (Bachiler’s) plan was carried out, then the time of making a beginning of the settlement was October 14, 1638," Dow wrote in 1894.

Be that as it may, this third edition of Founders’ Day was as good as any. Twenty-two organizations made their presence known at the sports field, including the Hampton

Police and Fire departments. Several businesses set up tables for the first time, and kids had a collective ball playing musical chairs and taking pony rides throughout the afternoon.

Children also got their pictures taken on a motorcycle by the Police Department and met Sparky the fire house dog.

Among the local organizations that had booths were Odyssey House, the James House Association, Oceanside Grange, the Hampton Community Issues Coalition, the Hampton Walkers, Lane Memorial Library, the Hampton Conservation Commission, Hampton Historical Society, Hampton Recreation Council, the Free & Accepted Masons, the Hampton Area Lions Club, the Seacoast Chair Car Service, Seaside Elderly Day Care, East Coast Greenery, the Hampton PTA, and the Tide Mill Chapter No. 67 Order of the Eastern Star.

Founders' Day, October 14, 2000
Members of the Hampton Republican Committee set up a table with balloons
to give to the children who participated in the Founders' Day festivities,
which were held at Hampton Academy Junior High on Sunday

[Gregory C. Knowles/Staff Photo]

The Hampton Republicans and Democrats each had tables full of campaign literature. Ralph Woekel, a candidate for state representative, worked the crowd, as did several other candidates. Republican U.S. Rep. John Sununu was due to make a stop later in the afternoon.

Although placing campaign literature was allowed, actually passing out leaflets was a no-no. J.R. Bridle was hoping early that Sununu knew the ground rules.

"I hope I don’t have to throw Mr. Sununu out for breaking the rules," he said.

A "Happy Founders’ Day" marble cake with white frosting was provided under one of two tents.

Dave O’Connor, the principal of Marston School, acted as master of ceremonies. The Boy Scouts spent a busy afternoon building a lookout tower, and music was provided by a group of Winnacunnet High School graduates playing jazz.

Serving as cooks, Hampton Selectman Brian Warburton, Town Manager James Barrington, Mike Plouffe and Neil Evans kept the fires burning, turning out "thousands" of hot dogs and hamburgers.

By mid afternoon, Warburton and Barrington were able to take a well-deserved break. Sipping on soda, they told jokes (How many chiropractors does it take to cook a hamburger? One, but it takes seven adjustments) and admired each other’s button collection displayed on their shirts.

Part of the picnic was a button contest, with prizes.

Barrington thought he had the contest won.

"Look, I’ve got 24 buttons on my vest. I’m a lock," Barrington said.

[See also, Town Honors Former Hampton Academy Coach;
Petersons' Feted, Acclaimed During Double Testimonial; Athletic Fields Dedicated to John Peterson 32 Years After His Retirement;
and Obituary of John G. Peterson.]