Photo Gallery | Historic Tools on display

WARDSBORO — Sixty-seven years ago, women belonging to a church decided a fundraiser was needed in order to pay the pastor's salary.

"In a sense they didn't call it a street fair at the time. There was a booth where ladies in the church sold fancywork. They made lovely baby clothes and dresses and scarves. And they had another booth with trinkety types of things that kids would buy very inexpensively. Pies were sold in the vestry of the church," said Nancy Perkins, who heads a committee responsible for arranging July 4 activities in Wardsboro. "In one of the first few years, they would have a big dinner at noontime. They had some children's games. Kids would get in burlap bags and hop around. It was kind of fun. People enjoyed it."


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Expansion of the July 4th events came when booths, maybe one or two, would be added each year.

"It just grew from there. It's just this most amazing thing," said Perkins. "The Methodist Church in what we oldtimers call Wardsboro City — because maybe there's a little more here than in South or West Wardsboro; a Post Office and a store, etc. — was behind all that. They started it. It was their share of the pastor's salary. The people in South and West Wardsboro did their own fundraiser."

Wardsboro's big party on July 4 has now been dubbed Southern Vermont's Oldest Independence Day Celebration.

This will mark the 67th year of the event. The parade begins Monday at 10 a.m. People who want to march or carry a float in the parade should plan on getting to South Wardsboro Road between 9 and 9:30 a.m.

Lee Miller, also on the committee, said the parade goes through the town then turns around and stops in front of Town Hall. Participants will be judged and awards will be given out.

Miller said she has taken on jobs to ensure things go smoothly. She's assisting with parking and staffing of all the booths.

The Wardsboro History Group will display classic tools on July 4th in Wardsboro.
The Wardsboro History Group will display classic tools on July 4th in Wardsboro. (Kristopher Radder Brattleboro Reformer)

The main booths feature barbecue food and side dishes, freshly made strawberry shortcake and hamburgers. Cub Scouts will run a game booth while coffee, homemade pies and baked goods will be available in other locations. The library is hosting a book sale and organizing a duck race. A Chinese auction will benefit the library. And there's a quilt show.

"There's close to 100 volunteers doing different jobs," said Miller, not sure how many people would be in the parade. "We don't usually know until just around 10 a.m. when it all starts, believe it or not."

Invitations are sent to potential participations. But there's no registration.

Antique chairs from the Town Hall, which were made in Readsboro, will be sold off during the event. Each chair contains three seats.

"We as a town have agreed to sell them off because they're at the end of their usefulness. They're very bulky and heavy," Miller said. "All 26 of them will hopefully be sold."

She said she hopes more vendors will sign up by Monday. To do so, contact Lynn Larson at 802-896-6694.

Organizers also are encouraging more local businesses to participate by having a float in the parade.

"We're hoping it will be even bigger. There were many years where all the local businesses in Wardsboro and surrounding towns would have a float. They'd start working on it like crazy two days before. That hasn't been happening in recent years," Perkins said. "Not that we don't want less or more fire trucks. But more floats would be nice."

Streeter performers and musicians were another group in demand. The Hungrytown duo is set to play after the parade.

In the past, different families of clowns would perform during the festivities. A member from one of those groups suggested Zambian Circus.

"They are six guys (from Africa) and they are ready to put on a show," Perkins said.

Also new is a skateboard jam in the afternoon. Registration for the contest has already been filled. A new skateboard will go to the winner and other prizes will be given out.

The Wardsboro History Group has prepared an exhibit for the celebration. This year will mark its eighth time being included in the day's events.

"One of our members said he had a lot of tools from his grandfather and father's day when they were both carpenters and farmers and whatever," said Jan Hull, president of the Wardsboro History Group. "He thought it would be a great idea to have tools before the age of electricity. We said, 'Great.' We usually start talking about it a year before we start doing it."

The collection will include tools used for logging, farming, gardening and plumbing. Signs will be posted with information about each piece.

One of the oldest items this year is a cobbler's bench, which contains a working area with compartments for tools and supplies. This one came out of a shop in South Wardsboro, where shoes were made and repaired

"That's probably the oldest that we've seen," Hull said.

A spoke shave, which she called "a funny little tool," will be among the collection. It was used for shaping round pieces of wood such as handles and spokes.

A raft auger, used to make floating devices out of logs, will be another item on display.

Sometimes, Hull said, exhibits are aimed at men. Other times, they are aimed at women. But the latest one seems to attract both sexes.

"We found women are just as interested in tools and things as men are," Hull said.

People will take a look at the items and say they remember when their father or grandfather had used them. Hull said part of hosting the exhibit is about education, not only for attendees of the event but for members of the history group as well.

"Things do come out of the woodwork," she added. "When we formed as a historic group, we didn't think a lot of things were around. But there are."

Dan Hescock, owner of Wardsboro Auto Services, helped set up the display and identify all the tools. He was still doing some research when he was interviewed last week.

"I'll be there all day answering questions that I can answer," he said. "I referenced some of the old tool book guides that have been published to find out what things were and what they were used for."

He estimates there being a few hundreds items in the exhibit without too much duplication. Some items, such as hand planes used for making moldings and smoothing surfaces, have been turned away because they were already submitted by another person.

Part of the collection was shown during Memorial Day weekend. More has been added to it since then.

Hescock contributed an approximately 3-foot long pole used to hook the ring of a bull's nose to control the animal, a long-handled apple picker likely from the early 1900s, a flail used to separate grains, a wooden mallet and various chisels. He said he has collected these things from different people over the years.

"Someone might have been cleaning out a barn or something said, 'Hey, would you like it?' I've been interested in history-type stuff for years," said Hescock.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.