BRATTLEBORO — Committee members of the Winter Carnival celebrated a kick-off for the 60th annual event.
Each year the Winter Carnival committee holds a winter carnival dedication meeting where the current president honors an individual of their choice, typically someone who has displayed meaning to the event or their life personally. This year, current President Belinda Lashway took a different approach.
"One group that stands out the most to me are the people who stood up to the plate and took the helm – the past presidents, who are known as the 'past p's," said Lashway. "Among them are parents, their children, spouses, past carnival queens and contestants, local business owners and community members who just wanted to do something good for the place we call home."
Lashway also read a couple of letters written by past president who shared some of their fondest memories from Winter Carnival.
While not all 60 past presidents could attend, about 20 of them showed up. They enjoyed a slide show of previous years with the variety show, Queen's Pageant, Pancake Breakfast, Sugar on Snow event and many more. Others looked at past program books from the Winter Carnival, dating back to 1956. While Lashway spoke, guests enjoyed a catered meal by the Eagles Club along with some refreshments that were prepared by committee members.
Aside from good food and company, smiles and laughs were shared at a table that exemplified the significant history to the carnival. Two past presidents from 1964 and 1965 sat together and reminisced on their goofy times together with the talent show, which was the start to their 50-plus-year friendship.
"All of a sudden we decided we were going to be a part of the variety show, so we came up with some really crazy things," said Roger Miller, the eighth president of the Winter Carnival. "We were always to my mind a hit of the evening, one of the best acts, but we didn't really rehearse a lot."
He and Don Long, the ninth president of the Winter Carnival, mentioned a memory of when a groups of past presidents, all male, dressed as can-can girls and danced on stage. According to Miller, in the earlier years of the carnival all of the presidents were men and put on an act or two at the variety show.
Miller shared another talent show memory of when the past presidents performed a skit that poked fun at a public figure to the community, Madame Sherri. Her real name was Antoinette Bramare and she was born in France in 1878. She married Anthony Macalusco and together they opened a hat-making company in New York City, "Andre-Sherri." Later, she worked as a costume designer for the Zigfield Follies in the 1920s and then began attending the wild parties in West Chesterfield where she earned her nickname, Madame Sherri. Some know the name from the Madame Sherri Forest that was previously owned by Bramare. At a later date she sold the property to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
However, the forest was not what Miller remembered her for; instead their skit chose to highlight the "big, long fancy touring car" that she drove through town when she would visit the area.
"We created a long car that would hold 9 to 12 of us, however many there were of us, and what it was was just a stage prop," Miller said. "Well the night of the dress rehearsal came upon us and we couldn't get the car through the door."
Miller and Long laughed as they explained that they had to take a roundabout route in order to make it up on stage.
In addition to the fun times spent at Winter Carnival, it was also where Miller met his now wife of nearly 53 years. His wife, Judi, was competing in the Queen's Pageant in 1962 and placed second in her competition
"I came in second, got a bouquet of flowers and won a chairman," Judi said with a laugh.
While memories were shared at several of the tables, Lashway shared her thoughts on why the Winter Carnival is meaningful to her.
"This is definitely a labor of love, all the people who are here, it's out of love. I just can't say enough about the committee, because really, my best friends are here," said Lashway. "These are the people I have grown up with, this has been 25 years of my life and that is just so cool."