Reconnecting roots at 114th Old Home Week in Freedom
This past Saturday in the quintessential New England village, it was hugs all around, as residents, full and part time, and returning natives met up with each other while they waited for the annual parade to start. Freedom, once a largely agricultural and home industries town, still has that kind of “Our Town” feel to it, with a modern twist, and this past weekend was no exception.
Where else can you attend a free yoga class, participate in a historical scavenger hunt, watch or take part in a canoe/kayak regatta, build and race a cardboard boat, or try your skills at a ping-pong tournament? These activities and more add fun to the more traditional Old Home Week events. The complete schedule of events may be found at freedomoldhomeweek.com.
This Friday is a particularly busy day in the village, with the Friends of the Library book and bake sale running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the 8 Elm St. barn. Starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m. is the 36th annual arts and craft fair, put on by the Freedom Community Club at the Freedom Elementary School.
And that free yoga class? That's on Friday, too. Certified Kripalu Yoga instructor Sharon Boggess will teach the class from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the town hall.
Saturday offers a chance for everyone to work off some of the great food consumed during the week. Registration for the annual OHW 5K Road Race is from 7 to 7:30 a.m. Walkers, with or without dogs, runners, and kids are welcome.
Later that day, the Freedom Fire Department hosts its annual fireman's lobster supper. Hungry patrons are asked to call the department at 539-4261 for tickets.
The idea for old home week was first championed by Gov. Frank W. Rollins in 1899, and the movement got official approval — a proclamation in the N.H. State Legislature — in 1913. It was a time of declining populations in small towns across the state, as farmers left for western lands that were easier to till than the Granite State's rocky soil, and the expanding network of railroads opened the West and Midwest to economic endeavors.
Rollins had hoped the activities would bring back former residents and that some would consider moving back home. His aim was not high off the mark. Freedom, like many New Hampshire towns with lakes and mountains, has benefited over the years from those who come back home to retire, or spend their sunset years in their newly winterized summer place.
“I think Freedom is a very special place,” said Sandy Kahler Gleeson after Saturday's parade. Gleeson and her husband, Rick, are seasonal residents of the town, with the day a real homecoming for her. Her parents owned and ran a summer camp in town when she was growing up, and she remembers being in the parade when she was 9.
Fenton Hodge of Center Ossipee, looking around the inside of the town hall before the parade started, remembered when there were dances in the hall about once a week. Hodge, who grew up next door in Effingham, commented on the town and the townspeople of Freedom: “It's a nice little town, everybody's so friendly,” he said.
The Old Home Week events run through Sunday.
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