LITTLETON - In a celebration as unique as the literary character that inspired it, the community gathered Saturday for the 12th annual Pollyanna Glad Day, a highlight of which was the dedication of the Pollyanna Gateway that the town hopes will provide better access to locals and visitors alike between the downtown and the Ammonoosuc River.
In 1913, Littleton author Eleanor H. Porter penned a book - "Pollyanna" - about a young girl whose decidedly can-do, optimistic outlook helped those around her. In 2002, the town unveiled a bronze statue of Pollyanna on the lawn of the Littleton Public Library, and in 2003, held its first Pollyanna Day, where the order of the day is to "Be Glad!"
In 2014, Littleton adopted the moniker "The Be Glad Town," and a number of downtown improvement efforts began to crystallize.
While looking to eventually leverage larger, additional investment through state and federal grants, downtown business owners working through the Littleton River Front Commission raised more than $200,000, which was used on a number of "demonstration projects," among them the Pollyanna Gateway.
A ribbon-cutting for the gateway was combined with the traditional Pollyanna Glad Day observance, except that the presentation of the Pollyanna Signature Award was made at the new gateway rather than at the Pollyanna statue on the other side of Main Street.
Because everyone had assembled at the gateway, the "welcome wave," which has become the hallmark of Pollyanna Glad Day, was also held there.
Among the biggest wavers was Veronica Francis, who received the 2014 Pollyanna Signature Award.
Given annually to a person who exhibits the "character and spirit exemplified in the personality of Pollyanna - living positively and inspiring gladness in an outstanding way," the award was presented to Francis by Karen Keazirian, the head of Pollyanna of Littleton New Hampshire Inc. which is the sponsor of Pollyanna Glad Day.
Keazirian said Francis, who is the founder and president of notchnet.com, exemplifies everything in real life that Pollyanna did in the book that bore her name.In addition to creating the golittleton.com website in 2004, Francis immediately volunteered her services two years ago when the Littleton River Front Commission was formed and created an Internet presence for it, said Keazirian.
"She (Francis) fits in with the likes of Pollyanna," Keazirian told the dozens of well-wishers and dignitaries who turned out for the gateway dedication, adding that Francis is "personality plus," a "solution seeker, networker" as well as an "excellent business person with initiative and heart for the community."
Francis said she's proud of her "Pollyanna attitude," adding that she was both surprised and honored to receive award.
"It's very cool, I appreciate it," Francis said.
In addition to speeches by state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, and by representatives of U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster, all of whom commended the town on the Pollyanna Gateway, Milton Bratz, Littleton Board of Selectmen chairman, read a proclamation on behalf of his colleagues.
In the proclamation, the selectmen "gladly" reaffirmed that the second weekend of June will be known in all future years as Pollyanna Glad Days and furthermore they "enthusiastically" recognized "'New Hampshire's Most Welcoming Attraction' as an enduring symbol of Littleton's literary, community spirit and artistic heritage."