Grateful for Community - By Gregory T. Federspiel
Despite less than ideal weather (and a 40 degree drop in temperatures from a few days beforehand!) the 4th of July holiday weekend demonstrated the strong sense of community Manchester possesses. We live in a beautiful place and enjoy a high quality of life – aspects we do well to remember and not take for granted.
The return of Rotary’s Red, White and Blue Pancake Breakfast saw a very large turnout, so large that some folks had to be turned away. The cool, misty morning did not dampen turn-out. Working the parking lot was a busy affair while those flipping the ‘cakes, including Representative Brad Hill and Senator Bruce Tarr, worked non-stop. An army of Rotarians joined forces to make the event possible.
Two stalwarts of community service, Tom Kehoe and Sue Thorne, were honored during a brief ceremony at the breakfast. Tom and Sue have served on numerous town boards and committees spanning decades. Even after they step down from serving regular assignments, they step forward again to serve on special committees, the 375th Anniversary Committee being the latest.
Smiling painted faces riding the ponies completed this family-oriented event. You could practically hear the sense of normalcy the event provided.
While our traditional July 4th parade did not take place, a creative and well attended boat parade provided a new twist. Boats of all shapes and sizes, decorated for the occasion looped through the harbor, providing shoreside viewers the chance to cheer their favorites. A new tradition is born!
The weather cleared nicely for the evening concert at Masconomo Park. Many families laid out picnic dinners to enjoy the big band sounds. Children played on the swings and slides, while the music played. Couples took to the grass to dance. The line was constant at Captain Dusty’s for an evening treat. Parks and Recreation Director Cheryl Marshall made sure the evening went off without a hitch. The July 4th Committee has their sights set on a grand parade and celebration in conjunction with the 375th ( 1) Committee for a final celebration this September.
Volunteers are at the heart of these activities and their efforts prove how individuals make a difference. Another individual to mention is Board of Selectmen chairperson Eli Boling. This time of year, the Selectmen hold their annual organizational meeting to elect a chair and vice char of the Board. Eli, while still serving as a member of the Board, steps down after a two-year stint as chairperson. What a two years it has been! But Eli’s calm demeanor skillfully guided the Board through the pandemic crisis and the attempted 40B negotiations with SLV to name just two of the many issues with which the Board has contended. The Board works extremely hard as they wade through a myriad of issues, both large and small. As Chairman, Eli dedicated untold hours to Town affairs. With attendance at Board meetings being very high, a positive aspect of having to go virtual, more residents can appreciate the breadth of issues their elected officials process.
As a small community we do not have a large staff of paid professionals. Thus, we rely heavily on residents to serve as volunteers on many different boards and committees. We have openings to fill and you are encouraged to see how you can contribute to the running of the Town. You get to work with your neighbors and help shape the future of Manchester. These efforts also build community.
The pandemic forced us to change our daily routines. A lot of the changes were hard to make and getting through the darkest stretches of the health crises were challenging to say the least. But as a community we have rallied. We put into place procedures and measures that reduced our risks and now with one of the highest percentages of vaccinated residents (nearly 100% of eligible people!) we can start enjoying many of our social gatherings that we had to forego. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. We cherish community and we missed it. Perhaps these past 16 months will encourage us to work even harder at fostering strong community connections. Given what we saw this past holiday weekend, I am optimistic this is the case.