February 1, 2006



(c) 2004 Bright iDear

Engaging the crowd on Old Fashioned Sunday during the Yankee Homcoming 2004, here is "Mr. Old Fashioned Sunday" himself Ralph Ayers ~ resuming his role as Master of Ceremonies for the daylong event he started back in 1963.

For this year's Yankee Homecoming ~ the 49th and counting ~ Ralph has been asked to resume an active role in the planning process, as well. Old Fashioned Sunday Co-chairpersons Donn Kelly and Kathy Heywood look forward to working with Ralph to re-establish some of the original traditions.

All which Ralph so aptly describes in this edition of his monthly "As I See It" column published in the Newburyport Daily News. In it, Ralph promises to do his part to restore Homecoming traditions, and trusts that you will too.


Restoring Homecoming traditions

As I See It

Ralph Ayers

After I wrote my last column, listing resolutions I hopefully will fulfill, I reviewed most of them, eliminating some, but got to thinking about one in particular, and that was Homecoming Week. Why, you ask? It's because the celebration creates a whole new feeling and atmosphere, where all who wish to participate and observe feel good about the world and the community in which they live. For nine days, people smile, forget their problems and just have a good time. That statement leads me to my favorite day, Old Fashioned Sunday.

As the chairman way back in 1963, I made a pledge to put on a day that recalled the "good old days," to meet on a common ground, exchange pleasantries, enjoy a picnic, watch some entertainment, but most of all, be part of the "show." These early days of "Old Fashioned Sunday" had families dress the part, walk, not ride, to church, promenade along High Street, sun umbrellas and all, attend church, then arrive at the Mall for an afternoon and evening. Concessionaires were limited to basics, picnic tales surrounded the area, families prepared lunches and were contented and peaceful. Yes, we had a beard contest, antique cars, a hand tub muster and, most of all, a spectacular event each year, such as the famous tightrope walk by Eric the Great, a balloon ascension, a Tom Thumb wedding, the Gatsby Years and sing-a-longs in the evening, where local talent, some good, some excellent, and some questionable, did their thing, on stage, with a great band of musicians. Yes, we even had loving cups for the newest newlyweds, the oldest married couple, the oldest male and female, the traveled distance and, naturally, the youngest, all of whom were attending this day.

Upon leaving the day, after 25 years, I said my goodbye, hoping the day would remain, and in some cases, with good chairmen, many of the programs remained; however, in many cases, a carnival atmosphere theme seemed to take over, losing the flavor of the day. Fortunately, a few citizens have called me, asking for my support in re-establishing the day, and I agreed, assuming at this advanced age, my stamina will prevail. Discussions such as Lord Timothy Dexter appearing, having a "kangaroo" court, with a judge, hopefully, the sing-a-longs returning, some loving cup handouts, and urging citizens, for just one day of the year, to walk to church, walk to the Mall, dress the family appropriately in period clothes, and join in the fun of an Old Fashioned Sunday. I'll do my part, and trust you will too. Come to think of it, imagine no traffic jams at the Mall on that day as all cars are parked in garages and driveways. It's worth "one more shot."

[Note: Yankee Homecoming is always scheduled to begin on the last Saturday in July, with opening ceremonies held at noon. (Mentioned in this article, Old Fashioned Sunday is always planned the first weekend, on Sunday of course.) The festival subsequently runs through the week, filled with various daytime and evening events organized by the Yankee Homecoming committee and other community organizations. The following weekend, Super Saturday includes Family Day in the Park and concludes with fireworks on the Merrimack River. The festival culminates in the Yankee Homecoming parade on the following Sunday. This year's Yankee Homecoming with its theme "A Festival for the Senses" will be held from July 29 - August 6, 2006. Visit Yankee Homecoming.com for more information.]

(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

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