Friday July 5, 2013

WARDSBORO -- If success is measured in sold-out pies and barbecue, Wardsboro’s 65th annual Independence Day Festival went well.

But the heat didn’t help, and some visitors and vendors packed it in a bit earlier than usual.

"I thought we had a great crowd, but they just didn’t stay long," said Jan Hull, president of Wardsboro Historical Group.

Nonetheless, Hull and her fellow volunteers saw a fair number of visitors to the Wardsboro History House at Main Street and Route 100, where the day’s exhibit consisted of old bottles -- including some dating back to the late 1700s.

The same was true for Robert Joslin, who spent the day under a tent outside the History House. The Wardsboro resident tended a table bearing his Noreast Maples syrup.

"It’s kind of slow because of the heat," Joslin said. "But for the crowd that was here, it’s pretty decent."

Joslin made sure to set up shop prior to the morning parade, which makes two passes on Main Street.

Like any good July Fourth parade, the event included plenty of fire trucks. Chris Liller, chief of Wardsboro Volunteer Fire and Rescue, said nearby departments that participated included East and West Dover as well as Newfane, Townshend, Winhall, South Londonderry and Stratton Mountain.

Afterward, Wardsboro firefighters kept the doors to their Main Street station open -- and not just to provide a place to cool off.

"A lot of the kids like to come in and look at the fire engines," Liller said. "It’s always a fun day for the whole town."

Firefighters also are on hand for any medical emergencies during the festivities. They weren’t needed in spite of Thursday’s soaring temperatures.

"We were pretty fortunate," Liller said.

Not far from the fire station, Peggy Matheson was overseeing the early afternoon remnants of a successful sale of donated items including knickknacks and household wares.

"I think we did pretty god," Matheson said, adding that "the pies all sold out, and the chicken barbecue all sold out."

Such sales assist the Congregational, Baptist and Methodist churches that together make up Wardsboro Yoked Parish.

"It helps to pay the pastor’s salary," said Nancy Perkins, Fourth of July Committee coordinator. "It helps for the upkeep of those three buildings."

The Fourth festivities started more than six decades ago as a fundraiser for the town’s Methodist church, Perkins noted.

"All the people around here kind of enjoyed it, so it just grew," she said. "As far as we know, it’s the longest continually running July Fourth festival in the state."

Over time, other organizations -- including the fire department and Friends of the Wardsboro Library -- began taking part. Perkins said the community celebration consistently draws a good crowd, and she was happy with Thursday’s attendance.

"I thought we were back to where we were a few years ago, before the recession hit," Perkins said.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.