On March 15, 2020, Maine will commemorate its 200th anniversary of becoming the 23rd state of the union. This is a time for celebration, and members of our local community will need to come together to decide how the town of Windham will honor the auspicious occasion.
In doing some archiving at the Windham Historical Society, curator and historian Penny Loura discovered a box full of information about our town’s 250th anniversary in 1987. The amount of energy and time that volunteers spent in making that year one to remember is inspiring, and I hope that in reading about the events that transpired back then, it will spark your enthusiasm to pitch in with next year’s celebratory efforts.
Windham’s 250th birthday celebration actually kicked off in December of 1986 when the Historical Society sponsored a tour of some of our town’s most historic houses. The Edward Anderson House, John White House, Stephen Webb House and Dr. Sidney Branson’s home, Stoneledge, were among the properties that were open to the public.
Then, on New Year’s Eve, the festivities began in earnest with a Watchnight Service at the Windham Hill United Church of Christ. The event included music by the Windham Hill Handbell Choir, the Melody Ringers. Throughout the mew year, there were several ongoing events. Fifth graders participated in Old Fashion Day where volunteers from Norlands Living History Center led workshops on rural life and old-time schooldays. The Windham Community Theatre hosted a Variety Show and The Nimble Thimble Quilters coordinated a quilt show in honor of the town’s birthday.
Civic groups were not the only ones who were involved in making plans for the event. Gary Plummer, the chairman of the 250th Committee, worked closely with members of Windham’s business community in organizing the celebration. Don Rich and Bill Crane were responsible for mailing innumerable letters and making dozens of phone calls to elicit help in raising funds. Tim Dolby was in charge of the parade, Don Rich made arrangements for the fireworks display and Rick Charette and Roy Clark composed a special 250th anniversary song.
All the efforts culminated between June 4 and June 7, 1987. On Friday night, June 5, after a day of fun visiting booths organized by various community groups and churches, the fireworks went off with a bang and foggy skies that evening only added to the beauty of the display.
On Saturday morning, the Lions Club hosted a pancake breakfast. The 250th birthday parade started at 10 a.m. and featured Windham High School’s marching band; Windham’s Revolutionary War reenactors, the New Marblehead Militia, playing fifes and drums; and a number of celebratory floats from businesses such as Hall Implement, C.R. Tandberg and Warren Elder and Sons. There were horses and carriages, a milk wagon, Kora Clowns and even Ronald McDonald. The route was 2½ miles long and the parade itself went on for 2½ hours. On Saturday night, there was a costume ball at Saint Joseph’s College.
Windham’s Rotary Club sponsored Scottish Games on Sunday afternoon with a bagpipe band and country and Highland dancers. There were also concerts throughout the day performed by such noted Maine musicians as Schooner Fare, the Bellamy Jazz Band and Rick Charette. The spirit of community ran high and the entire celebration was a rousing success.
If you’d like to help make next year’s festivities as memorable and special as those the town put together back in 1987, now is your chance to get involved. There will be a meeting on Wednesday, April 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Little Meetinghouse, 719 Roosevelt Trail, where there will be information available for businesses, civic groups and individuals interested in volunteering their time and sharing their own personal 2020 vision.
Haley Pal, a Windham resident, is active in the Windham Historical Society.
The 250th birthday parade in 1987 was one of the biggest in Windham’s history.