Here we come again, around to another Fourth of July with no celebration. If we were fortunate enough to have, the event it would be the 79th Andover celebration. Unfortunately, that is not in the cards for this year, but next Fourth the committee promises an event like no other!
The year 1942 was not the brightest time for our country, but there was a bright spot in the little town of Andover in the hills of New Hampshire. The Blackwater Grange stood tall in the face of frightening times, and we can credit Etta Currier Haughton and Olive Seavey for planting the seed that grew into an annual celebration by having the first Children’s Fourth of July Parade in Andover. Here’s a brief history of Andover’s Fourth of July event:
The earliest account of an Andover Fourth of July observance was in 1817, honoring the 41st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The bitterness following the war was dying out, and all parties joined together for the event.
A procession formed at East Andover, marched to the meetinghouse for prayer, reading of the Declaration, and oration by Headmaster Benjamin Tyler. The procession then marched to the home of Ensign James Marston for an outdoor community dinner, more speeches, band music, and a flag raising.
On the 50th anniversary of Independence Day, in 1826, Andover’s celebration took place at Andover Village with a group march from the Village Green to collect the “orders of the day,” the Chaplain, Orator, and Reader of the Declaration of Independence.
The assembly then marched to the meetinghouse for oration and reading and lastly to an “elegant bower” where Robert Barber presided over a community repast. Toasts were offered to the Constitution, the President, the Congress, the Navy and others, each toast followed by a discharge of musketry.
The present tradition of Fourth of July celebrations was started during World War II by two members of the Blackwater Grange, Etta Currier Haughton and Olive Seavey, to entertain Andover youngsters at a time when so many menfolk were away in the service. Shortly thereafter, community volunteers formally organized the Fourth of July Committee, a non-profit community service organization whose sole purpose is to plan, oversee, and pay for the Fourth of July celebration.
Over the years, more features were added to the celebration, such as a parade, band concert, field games, pony pulling contest, street dancing, supper, midway, and fireworks, until it grew into an elaborate celebration for the whole community and great numbers of outside visitors as well.
Andover’s Fourth of July celebration has become our community’s “big day,” a celebration in which everyone is invited to take part. Outside commercialization has been avoided, except that local non-profit organizations are welcome to participate in the parade, flea market, and other fundraising activities on the Village Green, contributing a percentage of their profits toward future celebrations.
Plans for This Year
There’s still a bright spot in the hills of New Hampshire! The committee’s current plan is to go ahead with the fireworks (upon approval from the Town authorities) which promise to be our largest display ever! Also, Uncle Sam (Charlie) will be back on the Village Green (cardboard cutout) by popular demand, so plan your photo ops.
As we look forward to this year’s Fourth of July, let’s keep in our hearts the reason we celebrate … the birth of our great nation is always worth a celebration in any form. Those who served and those who lost their lives for our freedom should be honored and respected for all time.