By Eliza Rosenberry
An estimated 2,500 people attended Bedford Day, the town’s annual celebration of community and citizenry, for festivities, fundraising, and fun on Saturday, September 17.
Families lined Great Road on Saturday morning to see the parade, waving miniature American flags and clutching bags for candy collecting. The parade included emergency and public works vehicles, town officials, antique cars, tiny horses, karate and dance demonstrations, marching bands, and the Citizen’s own Julie Turner, who was named Bedford Citizen of the Year for 2016.
Fifty groups marched from Loomis Street to Mudge Way, while more than 125 organizations and businesses ran booths and activities around Town Hall.
“You couldn’t ask for better weather,” said James Mabry, President of Middlesex Community College. MCC always marches in the parade, but for the first time in many years they also had a booth at the fair, with administrators and students onhand to answer questions and raffle off free college courses.
Under sunny skies, crowds wove through aisles of tents and tables, waving bees away from their Bedford Farms ice cream and Flatbread pizza. Churches, sports teams, community organizations, businesses, and school groups raised money and awareness for their programs and services. For many, Bedford Day is their biggest opportunity to drive membership registration, as for Cub Scouts Pack 194, or raise awareness of their programming, as for Destination Imagination.
Some residents had started Saturday morning bright and early with the Danny Oates Memorial 5k road race, starting and ending at John Glenn Middle School. Three hundred runners participated this year, according to race announcers, with more than $9,000 raised for the scholarship fund.
Many booths promoted diversity and community, with participants emphasizing that Bedford strives to be supportive and open to all who live here.
“We want everyone to be happy in Bedford,” said Valerie Rushanan, Vice President of Bedford Embraces Diversity. Staff at her booth hoped to solicit feedback from fair attendees about diversity and multiculturalism in town.
First-time exhibitor Jennifer Buckley of GrooveWrx oversaw production of a video to promote community-building, with help from JGMS teacher Ryan Donaher and Bedford High School student Maria Wilson. One booth over was Callahan’s Karate, a Bedford Day standby, whose participants put together an afternoon demonstration on the town fields.
“It’s probably been one of the best so far,” said Rob Ackerman, 18, a Bedford native who has marched in the parade with Callahan’s Karate since he was
three years old. This year, Ackerman returned to town from Endicott College, where he is a freshman, to march and perform in the Callahan’s demonstrations.
Recreation Department Director Amy Hamilton told The Citizen that booths stretched all around Town Hall for the first time this year, making a complete loop with groups exhibiting outside the yellow Town Center building. There were around 150 booths in all.
On display for curious residents was the DASH, Bedford’s new on-demand shuttle.
“What’s great is that most people already knew something about it,” said Carla Olson, Bedford’s Healthy Communities Coordinator. The DASH launched a week ago and is off to a great start, Olson added, already making up to seven trips a day.
Town departments like the Bedford Police have tables at Bedford Day to answer questions and engage with residents, showing “a smile behind the badge,” said Patrol Officer Thomas Devine.
Many booths were selling apparel, raffle tickets, or food and drinks to raise money for local causes. Bedford High School Baseball donated profits from sales of their Bucs gear to the fundraising campaign for Dave Ahern, “a former Bedford baseball player and a great alumni,” said coach and BHS graduate Gunnar Olson. Ahern passed away recently at the age of 28; friends have raised more than $85,000 for Ahern’s family through GoFundMe.
The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, which will hold their twelfth Bedford event next spring (tentative dates: May 20-21), hoped to spread the word at their booth for other local events throughout the year including Bark for Life and Pulling for Hope.
“It’s such a welcoming community here,” said Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ) board member Sharon Weisner. Working closely with the Bedford Police Department, C4RJ facilitates alternatives to the court and prison system in Bedford and in other area towns.
From the semi-annual Friends of the Public Library book sale to the Arts & Crafts Society art show, the ever-popular dunk tank, and the Bedford 4H Club display, Bedford Day again offered something for all residents this year.
And not just human residents. The Rotchford family brought their Great Pyrenees dog, Jack, to the festivities.
“He loves Bedford Day,” said owner Annie Rotchford. “He gets petted so much!”