MANCHESTER — The opening act for the Sunday concert series at Stark Park was a brief presentation honoring the group that has worked to restore the riverside park from a state of disrepair and neglect.
Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, presented a framed certificate to Friends of Stark Park commemorating the nonprofit group’s stewardship of the 30-acre park on North River Road.
“It’s such an important opportunity to be able to celebrate outstanding local leadership like the Friends of Stark Park, stewarding a really irreplaceable historic site and positioning it to be well-loved and used for future generations,” Goodman said.
Goodman made the presentation just before singer Stephen Savio and the Sea Breeze Band began an afternoon set for hundreds of people who gathered on the grassy hill overlooking the park’s bandstand.
Board member Patricia Howard, former president of the group, proudly displayed the award before joining friends seated in lawn chairs just south of the bandstand.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of this and thrilled to be honored with this wonderful award,” Howard said.
The structure, built in 2009, and concert series are both part of Friends of Stark Park’s efforts since it formed 10 years ago when a group of neighbors decided to take back the park and restore dignity to the property that includes the family gravesite of American Revolution Gen. John Stark.
“This concert series is a great example of how the Friends of Stark Park have brought new people and energy to this wonderful and historic place,” Goodman said.
The Friends’ latest effort was upgrading the Stark family burial plot, which was showing two centuries worth of wear and needed attention. The group raised the money needed to restore wrought iron fencing around the plot where Stark and several family members were laid to rest.
The crumbling concrete around the plot was also replaced and the project culminated earlier this summer when a large urn carved from solid granite was placed at the top of a monument to Stark, who led the First Regiment of New Hampshire to victory over a larger British force Aug. 16, 1777 in the Battle of Bennington.
The original urn has been missing since the 1970s, disappearing under circumstances that remain unclear today.
Howard said the celebration of completing the extensive work on the Stark plot will continue with a public ceremony Sept. 14, complete with participants dressed in Revolution-era clothing and music dating to the country’s earliest days.
The park was once part of the farm where Stark returned after the Revolution and remained until his death in 1822. The 30-acre plot was dedicated as a public park in 1893 and added to National Register of Historic Places in 2006, two years after Friends of Stark formed.