It was a Bedford Day for the ages.
Hundreds – maybe thousands – of residents of all ages celebrated with each other the liberating vibe of normalcy on Saturday, commemorating the 292nd anniversary of the town’s establishment.
They filled The Great Road as participants – or lined the roadsides as spectators – for the Bedford Day parade. They reconnected with community organizations, businesses, churches, student groups, and local government at the street fair. They turned out in hordes for a breathtaking 26-minute fireworks display.
The Covid-19 pandemic was consigned to the shadows. Most spectators didn’t cover their faces outdoors, though many folks in the tents that dotted the fairgrounds wore masks.
The most recent case count, posted Friday evening by the Health Department, revealed 18 new cases over the past seven days – 10 of which were diagnosed in residents less than 20 years old. There were 24 new cases reported over the previous week. Friday’s 2 percent test positivity rate also reflected a decline.
Recreation Director Amy Hamilton and her staff spent the summer coordinating the first Bedford Day festivities in two years. There was never a serious threat to the outdoor event, though the Select Board reserved the right to cancel Bedford Day as late as its last meeting a week ago, if conditions deteriorated.
“We were so optimistic. People seemed so excited and so supportive and encouraging,” Hamilton related. Even when some towns canceled activities, “we thought, ‘Nothing is going to go really wrong.’ We were planning full-speed ahead the whole time.”
Hamilton said that throughout the day she has been fielding congratulatory and appreciative texts and emails. “The bottom line is: the town made a great decision to move forward. Obviously, people wanted it, needed it, appreciated it,” she asserted.
Hamilton said the street fair participation was down by about 10 percent compared to 2019. And that was only apparent on the vacant lawn on the east side of Town Hall.
Bedford Day tables and booths filled the Town Hall parking lots and the spaces in front of Town Center, with public safety and public works equipment on display closer to the police station. And the vibe was definitely Bedford Day – a multi-generational, multi-sensory experience of community.
Venerable clubs and organizations that have been part of Bedford Day since it started – the Garden Club, the Arts and Crafts Society, the Minutemen, the Historical Society — shared the scene with high school classes and clubs, an array of churches, local businesses, brand new organizations, and arms of town government.
Town Historian Sharon McDonald presided at her own table, featuring her latest book, Bedford History for Kids. Shawsheen Technical High School and Indigenous Peoples Day Bedford were among the newcomers on the scene. Bedford TV featured live performances from three soloists.
And well after the area was cleared, the Bedford Day book sale continued to pulsate along the north side of the library.
The fireworks display – postponed from July 4, 2020 – was a 26-minute fast-paced exhibition that thrilled spectators spread out around the center campus fields.
Technicians from Atlas Pyrovision Entertainment were stationed at the middle school soccer field with a computer-formatted production. Bedford firefighters with three pieces of apparatus were stationed in the middle school rear parking lot to ensure that there was no collateral damage.
Most of the preferred viewing area was the softball field and surrounding grounds between the high school service road and the skate park, extending back to the playground and avoiding the sandy infield. Chairs and blankets covered the grassy space; some families and neighbors arrived early with picnic stuff, and the line was long but happy for the Bedford Farms cart. Some spectators preferred a closer vantage point – on the slope on the north side of Wilson Field, or even the tennis court. Sabourin Field was locked tight.
With the final blizzard of starbursts and blasts, the softball field and Sabourin field lights fired up, helping ensure a safe departure.
There was competition from Mother Nature – supplementary at first, with the nearly-full moon in the eastern sky. Then about an hour after the show, the main act arrived: a thunderstorm rolled through the town, placing an exclamation point on Bedford Day 2021.
Among those Hamilton singled out for thanks were the Recreation Department’s program director, Nikki Taylor, and Rick Callahan for managing the performances.
She also thanked the VA Medical Center for lending and decorating its tram to transport Brown and Lois Pulliam, citizens of the year, in the parade; and applauded the Chamber of Commerce for providing outdoor tables and chairs, as well as police, fire, and public works personnel and the town manager and her staff.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763