Janot Mendler has fond memories of growing up in Wayland, where she recalls taking picturesque hikes and riding horses with her friends.
Nearly 60 years later, Mendler will join the rest of the community in celebrating the town’s 375th anniversary with a yearlong series of events that kicks off on Saturday. “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to allow the public to focus on our history,” said Mendler, who still lives in town. “It’s bringing new things to light.”
Wayland was the site of the Sudbury Plantation, established by Puritans in 1638 and incorporated in 1639, according to Jane Sciacca, a member of the Wayland Historical Society. Known for many years as East Sudbury, the farming community’s name was changed to Wayland in 1835.
A top priority of the anniversary celebration’s organizers is to bring attention to Wayland’s history and culture, said event chairwoman Mary Antes. The observances, which will incorporate local businesses and organizations, will be divided into four periods: Native American, Colonial and Revolutionary War, the Industrial Revolution, and the 20th century. “Clearly we’re not Lexington, but we do have a lot of history involved in those time periods,” said Antes .
The lineup of events Saturday will feature a variety of family-friendly activities, including speeches at the Old North Cemetery, historical tours and scavenger hunts, exhibits at the Grout-Heard House, a family carnival and circus, and an appearance by the Myth Makers, an artistic performance duo. Festivities will start at 9 a.m. and last into the evening.
“I have three goals for the anniversary,” said Antes. “One is to understand the history, one is to have fun, and the third is to try to bring the community together to appreciate the town we live in.”
To help evoke the area’s Native American history, a local group of the Natick Praying Indians will gather at Fire Station 2 to showcase traditional drumming, open-pit cooking, and the construction of a “we-tu,” a domed hut similar to a tepee.
The Moody Street Circus takes place at Wayland Middle School 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Melinda Pavalta, with her husband, daughter, and other company members, promises to surprise the audience with everything from acrobatic hoops dances to a legendary high-wire act.
“We want to bring smiles to everybody’s face,” said Pavalta, a Waltham resident.
The Myth Makers — artists Andy Moerlein and Donna Dodson — will build and ignite a wooden sculpture of a North American leopard frog, an endangered species native to Wayland, at 7 p.m. as part of a bonfire and barn dance for town residents. “It is hoped to be a nice symbol of change and growth,” said Moerlein.
This weekend’s celebration continues Sunday with an ice cream social marking Father’s Day from 1 to 3 p.m. at Mansion Beach, and a 3 p.m. concert marking the 25th anniversary of the Golden Tones chorus at Wayland High School.
Various organizations will offer presentations, concerts, barn dances, and other special programs throughout the year.
Julie Secord, director of the town’s Council on Aging, says her department will launch a free concert series the second Wednesday of each month. The longtime resident says the anniversary is a way to celebrate the fabric of the community.
“Wayland has the most wonderful, diverse, passionate, and caring people,” said Secord.
While the town may be celebrating its past, many are brainstorming ideas for the future. Several local women are designing a new town flag for display at the State House. Antes said s her committee is taking suggestions for anniversary commemoration projects. Mendler is also organizing Wayland Walks, in the hope of helping more people enjoy the town’s natural beauty.
“We want to bring to life new and old walking systems, and encourage people to get outdoors and explore the beautiful town,” said Mendler.
An updated calendar of events is available on the organizing committee’s website, www.wayland375.com.