Haverhill Celebrates 375th Anniversary with Events-Filled Weekend

A weekend of concerts at Riverside Park.
Haverhill_375A weekend celebration of Haverhill’s 375th anniversary, including free breakfast Sunday morning at Riverside Park, brought what organizers called “light” to “good” attendance levels and an estimated $21,000 net cost to taxpayers, paid by a state grant.

375th Anniversary Committee Chairman and Haverhill Parks and Recreation Director Vincent Ouellette told WHAV Sunday, the celebration—beginning with Thursday night’s Haverhill Yesteryear Ball and ending with ethnic music performances Sunday, cost a total of up to $35,000. About $14,000 in fundraising by volunteers will be supplemented by about $21,000 from a $75,000 state grant obtained through the legislature by Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, House Ways and Means Committee chairman. Ouellette said a base audience was built for the “first-time” event, despite competing traditional events in area communities.

“When you compete with some of the surrounding communities such as Andover and Groveland days…we have our own Indian powwow which we have been coordinating for the last 28 years and that’s always a pretty good turnout this weekend…as well as Hampton Beach’s chowder fest. So when you’re competing with things that have been traditionally this weekend, it is going to draw away until you build your own base of support. And to be honest, I really think that the people that came here, the people that enjoyed it and people who would like to see it continue, that base has been formed,” Ouelllette said.

A peak attendance level between 500 and 600 people came during Saturday evening’s concerts and outdoor screening of the classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” according to 375th Anniversary Committee member and Haverhill Historical Commission President Kerry Fitzgerald. In contrast, estimates of up to 350 people turned out Friday evening for a performance by Massachusetts native Ayla Brown. However, Ouellette added a children’s activity tent was an event highlight bustling with activity.

“The tent was filled up every hour, on the hour with all little kids enjoying themselves, the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz,” there was a nice turnout for that, along with positive remarks they never saw the movie quite that way,” Ouellette said. “Friday night’s event was basically, probably four or five hundred people here. In a large venue, it doesn’t look as impressive as a small venue but it was a decent turnout. People were a little disappointed that more people didn’t show up for the quality of music that we had here. But it’s a first-time event and by the end of the night we were quite pleased with the turnout. All in all, the venue was nice, it’s something we can build upon and maybe look forward doing something on a smaller scale in years to come,” Ouellette said.

An estimated total 150 people were served free breakfast by volunteers Sunday morning with scrambled eggs, bacon and hash brown patty at a cost about $300, with coffee and donuts donated by Heavenly Donuts, according to 375th Anniversary Committee member Peter A. Carbone, co-owner of E-Z Way Cleaners. He told WHAV after an organizational meeting in July, he fell ill and could not put that event together himself as he had told the committee. He credited Steve Dimakis of Mark’s Deli for the menu selection and volunteers from the Crescent Yacht Club for cooking and serving.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini, who attended the breakfast with his wife, Martha, and others, told WHAV, “I think everything’s great. They did a great job.”

Fitzgerald told WHAV the Saturday concert and movie had a “good turnout based on past events,” however organizers “need to do a better job of promoting” in the future.

“Start earlier with everything,” Fitzgerald said. “(We) should have gone to the city council four months ago but it was hard to find someone who wanted to speak publicly (before the council).” Fitzgerald was referring to city council approvals July 14 and August 11 for the event’s beer garden.