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    Pembroke plans to keep party going

    Last year’s events included a Civil War encampment, a parade, and fireworks.
    Photos by Walter Hawkes
    Last year’s events included a Civil War encampment, a parade, and fireworks.

    The celebration has come to a close, but some in Pembroke are hoping to keep alive the civic pride they say was stirred by the parade, fireworks, and other festivities in the year-long 300th-anniversary observance.

    A group of residents involved with the tricentennial plan to create a nonprofit that would sponsor future community events of the type that brought out crowds throughout last year.

    “This whole year has been a statement for us that the community is really interested in doing some of these events annually,” said Kyle Harney, who was the anniversary committee member in charge of publicity and is one of those involved in the planned new group.


    “Pembroke has many types of communities — we have our ‘McMansions,’ our old cottages on the ponds, people from all sorts of homes. But they all showed up when we had events,” he said.

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    Harney said the new group would seek to put on events featured in the tricentennial as well as others that were not — like the holiday tree lighting held last month. “Every year we’d like to do at least four events, maybe more, to bring people together,” he said.

    Walter Hawkes
    Tricentiennial fireworks.

    Selectman Bill Boulter, who chaired the anniversary committee, said the town is establishing a fund that will be used to support future town events of the type that took place last year. He said groups like the planned nonprofit could seek grants from the fund, which will be created with an anticipated small surplus from the 300th celebration.

    Boulter said he supported the efforts of the new group, but cautioned that its task would be a challenging one. He noted that many who donated time and resources did so because it was a tricentennial year and might be less willing to contribute to such events on a regular basis.

    Stretching over 12 months, the anniversary observance was packed with events ranging from a townwide birthday party and a water balloon fight to a boat cruise, an antique aviation weekend, and a Civil War encampment, in addition to the fireworks and the parade, which lasted three hours and drew as many as 10,000 people.   Along with the many festivities, the year featured the creation of a new book on Pembroke history, construction of a brick walkway bearing the etched names of local residents and groups, and the installation of a historic replica water wheel on the Herring Run, a gift to the town by the anniversary committee.

    Walter Hawkes
    The parade at Pembroke's 300th anniversary celebration.

    A pair of quilts depicting Pembroke history were also stitched, and a wine made of Pembroke-harvested cranberries was bottled and sold.

    Organizers, who initially worried the celebration might be hindered by limited resources, said they are thrilled that it all went forward largely as planned, with even the weather cooperating.

    Perhaps most gratifying, they said, was the community spirit the celebration seemed to stir, including among the many who pitched in to help with the various events and projects.

    “I think what we gained was we brought the townspeople, the residents, the business groups, and all the different functions of Pembroke a little closer together. Everyone had a part of it,” Boulter said.

    Deborah Wall, the town’s library director and one of the authors of the new history book, said Pembroke has “a lot of town pride. I think people knew that, but this was a witness to it. People got a good sense of how much Pembroke has to offer and how proud people are of Pembroke.”


    The 300th committee raised just over $190,000 for the celebration, which proved enough to pay for the planned activities; the only event that did not go forward was a costume ball that was canceled due to insufficient interest.

    Walter Hawkes
    A boat cruise on the North River.

    The money raised included $60,000 in state funds secured by state Senate President Therese Murray, whose district includes Pembroke, $30,000 from an existing town fund that the committee pledged to repay, and private donations.

    Boulter said factoring in all debts, the celebration at present has about broken even. The anticipated surplus would come from continued sales of the history book and other memorabilia.

    Originally settled in the 1640s, Pembroke was incorporated in 1712. Last year’s celebration, the first since the town marked its 275th anniversary in 1987, was the result of a three-year planning effort.

    “There was something for everyone,” said John Proctor, a committee member who chaired the group that oversaw the brick walk project.

    After a January kickoff, the year picked up steam with the townwide birthday party on March 21 —  the actual anniversary — featuring an enormous birthday cake and the ringing of bells 300 times by local children in the First Church in Pembroke. In April, there was an Arbor Day planting of 300 trees, and in May a golf tournament and an antique car show. June brought the water balloon fight and a public safety night.

    In July, there was a scavenger hunt, followed by a combined pontoon boat cruise on the North River and a trolley tour. In August, there was the aviation weekend, and in September, a road race and the parade. October brought a two-day Civil War encampment and on that same weekend, the fireworks show. In November, there was a high school concert and a dedication of the brick walkway.

    In the final month, a local Quaker group invited the community to one of its Meetings — Quakers played an important role in the town’s early history — and a closing event was held.

    “It was just a fun thing to be at the events and be part of it,” said Kathleen Keegan, a committee member who chaired the group that planned the water balloon fight.

    Boulter said one of the positives of the year was the education it gave residents into the town’s past.

    “A lot of people didn’t know the historic events that had taken place here,” he said, noting for example the fact that one of the Boston Tea Party ships was built in Pembroke.

    Although the year is over, one final event remains — the installation of a time capsule on March 21, the town’s 301st anniversary.

    John Laidler can be reached at