I took a break from my usual summer excursions recently to attend my hometown’s Old Home Day celebration. Some of you probably just cringed thinking about your former or current town’s attempt at a town-wide block party, and I can understand why.
We’ve all been to them. A weekend espousing small parades with a tacky theme, scary carnival rides (in the sense that you might fall off or it could break), flea markets full of useless junk, and usually a celebratory 5k road race to cap it all off (which I actually ran–slowly–last night). Old Home Days, which I like to think are unique to New England, are designed as a way for former and current residents to celebrate their town, reunite with old classmates, and raise money for good causes.
I don’t have an issue with any of this. I actually like getting sick from too much cotton candy after riding The Scrambler. I will (and did) pay twenty bucks to hurt myself running a road race. Who cares if I get sunburned supporting the Shriners zipping around on their little cars? My issue is with the strange people who appear and disappear just before and after the weekend celebration.
You’ve definitely noticed them. I don’t care what town you live in or how many people you are friends with; when you get to the Old Home Day fair, there are always a huge number of people nobody has ever seen in town before. These people look like they may have auditioned for a crossover episode of Swamp People and The Walking Dead. They seem to just materialize and stagger toward the fair out of the woods. You have never seen them before and you will not see them again (at least not until next year’s festivities).
Who are these strange beings? Do they secretly plot to take over our celebrations? Do they just really, really love fried dough? Perhaps they are town fairies or ghosts only released from captivity for one weekend a year. Despite our best scientific efforts, we may never know who they are, what they want, or why they come.
So the next time you visit your old hometown I would encourage you to do two things. First, see if you notice the celebration seekers I have described. And second, enjoy your Old Home Days. Don’t just pass it off as some lame townie event. It is pretty special that we have this tradition, and it can’t hurt to support your town. Plus, it just might give you something to do over the summer other than sitting sunburned and bored at the beach.