LONDONDERRY — Thousands of townsfolk attended the 300th Nutfield Anniversary Londonderry Old Home Day celebration Saturday.
Residents were treated with a parade featuring four high school bands hailing from Londonderry, Hudson, Bedford and Derry; two bagpipe bands; as well as a few presidential candidates. Dozens of vendor and game tents were set up on the town common, and the police chief and fire chief competed in a friendly strongman competition.
Friday night, the town was treated with what Town Manager Kevin Smith thinks was the largest fireworks show in the town’s history.
“Best fireworks ever, most spectacular parade in years, largest crowd, and a great celebration in Londonderry,” Town Council Chairman John Farrell said.
Gov. Chris Sununu helped to kick off the Saturday festivities with a proclamation commending the town on its anniversary.
Smith said everything went off without any major glitches, except for perhaps one: the mysterious case of the missing Derry time capsule contents.
When town historian Rick Holmes and the staff at the Derry Public Library checked the 50-year-old safe a few weeks before its unveiling, they discovered the box was empty.
“No one knows what happened,” Smith said.
Derry historian Paul Lindemann said there is no list for what would have been inside the time capsule, but a film reel showing a driving tour of the town and interviews with town officials was said to be included.
Longtime Londonderry resident Reed Clark, 90, was present when the capsule was sealed, and remembers the film reel but little else.
“There very well may have been valuable items in there,” Lindemann said.
He thinks it was likely there were Alan Shepard artifacts in the capsule.
Lindemann said old news articles reported the capsule had been buried in MacGregor Park in Derry, on library grounds, but that, according to recent memory, it was being kept in the library’s locked research room.
He suspects the capsule might have been disinterred during library construction in 1989-1990. However, given the condition of the safe, it’s unclear if it was ever buried.
Anyone could have had the opportunity to steal the safe’s contents. While a key to the research room would have been required, Lindemann said, the library didn’t keep a log of people who entered.
And how could someone crack the safe in the first place? The safe’s combination was written on the back, Lindemann said.
An unveiling of the time capsule was scheduled for 2 p.m. at the bandstand. Smith took the time to break the sad news to residents.
“It turns out we have our own little whodunit,” Smith told the crowd.
Clark, whose ancestors came to town in 1725, shared some thoughts about the capsule, and his love for the town.
“I really can’t understand why anyone would want to take the capsule and do anything with it,” Clark said.
Lindemann said a new time capsule will be sealed Sept. 21 during the 30th annual Derryfest.
Earlier during the Old Home Day celebration, about noon, Londonderry Police Chief William Hart defeated Fire Chief Darren O’Brien in the strongman competition. Hart swung the mallet and rang the bell three times to O’Brien’s two.
After the competition concluded, town officials laughed when Londonderry Town Councilor Jim Butler spontaneously picked up the hammer and rung the bell 10 times in a row.
Democratic presidential candidates John Delaney and Bill de Blasio waved to the crowds and shook hands in the parade, and Ben & Jerry’s Vermont founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield handed out stickers for Bernie Sanders.
Fire engines and tankers from Londonderry, Pelham, Hudson, Litchfield, Nashua, Bedford, Chester, Auburn, Windham, Hampstead, Derry and Salem brought up the rear of the parade.
Beer was served by 603 Brewery, which celebrated a ribbon cutting ceremony at its new location this past Thursday. The brewery created a beer called Nutfield 300 to mark the anniversary. Brewers describe it as an “easy drinking pale ale with hoppy notes of melon and pine” whose alcohol by volume is 5.4%.