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Gilford’s 200th Birthday Celebration

Christine Randall - June 12, 2012





It was 200 years ago, in 1812, that a small but thriving portion of the Town of Gilmanton known as “Gunstock Parish” split away to form a new town called Gilford.

According to the Gilford town website, the town was actually named “Guilford” by Revolutionary War hero and resident Captain Samuel B. Mason in honor of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina, but “Guilford” was incorrectly spelled as “Gilford” in the incorporation papers, and the error stuck.

Strategically located in the Belknap Mountain Range and situated along the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, Gilford has evolved over the years from a mainly agricultural community to a place well-known as a destination resort, offering year-round recreational opportunities, with skiing in the winter and swimming, boating, hiking, and fishing popular in the summer.

In recognition of this landmark bicentennial birthday, members of the community have been working hard for over a year to plan a celebration featuring several special events. Unlike many other anniversary celebrations, which are held on only one day or possibly over a weekend, the Gilford Bicentennial celebration will be spread out throughout much of the year. Dee Chitty, a member of the Bicentennial Committee, explains why.

“The committee wanted to plan events that would stretch out the celebration throughout the year so that visitors as well as the residents of the community, both seasonal and year-round, could attend as many events as possible – or at least one or two,” she says. “We also wanted to get as many people and businesses involved in the celebration as possible, and the response from the community has been enormous. We really appreciate the people and businesses, which have come forward to donate services or materials and help out on different events. It takes a lot of people to make this happen.”

While a few bicentennial-themed events have already taken place, the Bicentennial Grand Opening Day Ceremony, scheduled for Saturday, June 16, will be the formal kick-off to the commemoration. Festivities will begin at 10am with the ringing of the Gilford Community Church bell, as well as an equestrian parade from the church to the Gilford Elementary School on Belknap Mountain Road, which will feature horses, sheep, antique fire engines, scouts, officials, and “Captain Morrill’s Fife and Drum.”

Other scheduled highlights during the 2-hour ceremony will include dual flag ceremonies at the Community bandstand and at the Union Meeting House, followed by performances of “America the Beautiful” and the National Anthem. In addition, the Gilford Community Band is scheduled to perform, and later in the program, resident and local businesswoman Jane Ellis plans to sing her original composition, “Gilford’s Bicentennial Song.”

Speakers throughout the morning will include various town officials, town residents, two local pastors offering prayers and blessings, Executive Councilor Ray Burton, and a representative from Senator Kelly Ayotte’s office. The celebration will also feature a cannon salute, as well as a 3 volley salute by the police department. The public is invited to enjoy refreshments and a performance by the First United Methodist Church Bell Choir after the ceremony.

Bicentennial-themed events planned throughout the rest of the year include a “BicentennialBeach and Boat Parade Day” on June 23; a “Bicentennial Civil War Day” at the Gilford bandstand on July 7; an historic walk through Pine Grove Cemetery called “Gravestones Come to Life” (in which visitors are greeted by cast members representing various past residents) on July 21 and September 8; an ongoing display of historic town items during the month of August at the Gilford Public Library; and a Bicentennial Pot Luck Social at the Gilford Community Church on August 11, featuring a beard and mustache contest.

Additionally, the annual Old Home Day Celebration, with a parade, entertainment, games, food, music, and fireworks, will be held over two days during this bicentennial year on August 25 and 26.The Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association is scheduled to host a Bicentennial Chicken Barbecue Dinner on September 20, and the Thompson-Ames Historical Society plans to hold Bicentennial Fashion Show Tea, featuring models wearing time era clothing on October 13.  The bicentennial celebratory year will conclude on December 14 and 15 with a Gilford Village Candlelight Stroll along Potter Hill and Belknap Mountain Road around the center of town.

For a complete listing of all events and for more detailed information, contact Dee Chitty at 527-4732 or email dchitty@gilfordnh.org. You can also get more information about the schedule by logging on to www.gilfordnh.org

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