July 6, 2004



Homecoming fund raising hits home stretch: Homecoming needs less yankee thrift

By Sonya Vartabedian

Staff writer

NEWBURYPORT -- In just under four weeks, the city will be awash in Yankee Homecoming fun and festivities, extending its rallying theme "Welcome to Newburyport, My Hometown" to locals and visitors alike.

But before organizers raise the flag signaling the start of the 47th annual summer festival on July 31, General Chairman Kathy Heywood said, plenty of work remains to be done.

And much of it falls into two categories -- fund raising and volunteers.

Heywood said the difficult task of paying for the annual festival -- estimated to cost about $125,000 -- has been made all that much harder this year with cuts to the city budget.

Heywood had hoped for $11,000 from the city to help pay public works crews for cleanup work, but was told last week she will receive just $5,000.

And the elimination of Ralph Ayers' position as emergency management director from the budget, she said, threatens the availability of his crew of dedicated volunteers, who have traditionally staffed Homecoming's major events, assisting with traffic and safety.

While sponsors have been identified for each of the nightly waterfront concerts, Homecoming has collected only about one-third the cost of the $25,000 fireworks show set for the night of Saturday, Aug. 7. It also is seeking contributions for Homecoming's finale parade on Sunday, Aug. 8, which is costing about $15,000, and Old-Fashioned on Sunday, Aug. 1.

"We desperately need funds to have this festival go off," said Heywood.

She is hopeful the cash flow issues will be somewhat alleviated when the Yankee Homecoming program books, souvenir hats and T-shirts go on sale in the coming days.

While volunteers are still being sought to assist with several of the events, Heywood said, core groups stand at the ready to make sure all of the anticipated Homecoming mainstays make their return for 2004.

Acknowledging fund raising is a perennial issue for Yankee Homecoming, Heywood said she is confident the needed money will come. The result, she said, will be a packed line-up of events, the majority of which are offered free to the public.

A new amateur skateboard tournament at the Newburyport Skate Park on Friday, Aug. 6, is creating quite a buzz, and Heywood anticipates it will become an annual event. Old-Fashioned Sunday will mark the return of the classic tug-of-war and potato sack races, capped with a swing band at night.

The Fashion Show is being revamped this year into a black tie-optional affair under the direction of co-chairman Tracey Love and Kathy O'Neil. A live cable television feed will capture attendees' arrivals, with a Joan Rivers impersonator meeting and greeting folks. A four-course dinner is catered by Michael's Harborside. And the presentation of the first-ever Corset Awards will recognize community champions.

Lord Timothy Dexter -- Newburyport's eccentric first citizen -- will make his first Yankee Homecoming appearance. Plans call for a historical re-enactment of the elaborate funeral the entrepreneur, philosopher and civic leader staged for himself in 1806.

As part of Old-Fashioned Sunday's festivities, organizers intend to re-create the funeral, complete with a procession of a horse-drawn hearse followed by Dexter's family on a march from Market Square to the Mall at High and Pond streets. At the Mall, Dexter will face a hanging judge and sentencing.

Dexter will continue making appearances at events throughout the festival, including at the waterfront concerts, fireworks and parade.

All of the plans, however, are dependent on support, said Heywood. She encourages interested volunteers to attend the next planning meeting on Wednesday, July 14, at 7 p.m. at Bono's Restaurant, 23 Pleasant St.

And she asks everyone who looks forward to attending Yankee Homecoming each year to donate even just a dollar or two in return for their enjoyment. Contributions made out to Yankee Homecoming may be mailed to P.O. Box 493, Newburyport, MA 01950, and can be designated for a specific event or put toward the overall festival budget.

"We need help to get all these major events off the ground," said Heywood. "We need to pull together as a community."


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

Site Design by Bright iDear   Copyright © 2002-2014 All Rights Reserved
Website: www.BrightiDear.com  Email: Bright-iDear@comcast.net