LITTLETON -- Being a soldier in the Army 50 years ago, David Whitcomb couldn't grow a beard. That landed him in jail.
It was 1964, the town of Littleton's 250th anniversary. All clean-shaved men in town were taken to a mock jail run out of a trailer as part of the anniversary events, and their friends and families would bail them out to raise funds for charitable causes.
Countless floats paraded between rows of decked-out colonial-era homes along the town's main roads. Children romped around on the common where families enjoyed picnicking and live music. Everyone watched the fire muster, softball games and fireworks. But, the best of all for Whitcomb on one week leave from his Army duties in Connecticut, was just being able to take it all in with familiar faces from the little farming community that he called home.
"I enjoyed the whole week," Whitcomb, president of Littleton Historical Society, said reminiscently.
Whitcomb's memories from the good old days will soon come alive again as Littleton celebrates its 300th-year milestone. From the old-fashioned parade to fireworks to a gala ball, a series of extravagant events will take place over the next few months with the goal to bring together a wide spectrum of town residents for good birthday fun. These won't just be parties to wow spectators; the Tercentennial Committee members who have labored over the preparations hope everyone in Littleton will remember and carry on the community togetherness that the town has always cherished.
Kicking off the festivities is the Rotary Club Breakfast scheduled for Saturday, June 21, from 6:30-10:30 a.m., in the Littleton Middle School cafeteria, which will feature the time capsule buried underground 50 years ago. After digging it out from in front of the fire station and finding significant damage to the contents last September, the Tercentennial Committee members have painstakingly restored each item by hand.
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The restoration work has been intense, said Town Clerk Diane Crory, who leads the Tercentennial Opening Ceremony subcommittee with her husband, Michael. Using distilled water, committee members carefully wiped off smudged ink and dirt that covered newspaper clippings, school childrens' essays and other artifacts. They put them back into the capsule for three weeks, then took them out and cleaned them again -- repeating the process until the items were clean. But, Crory, a Littleton native, knows that the nostalgia one gets from looking at those artifacts is worth the effort. She found some essays created by her brother and husband.
The breakfast will also include the display of the 300th time capsule and the "Then and Now" photograph exhibit.
The official opening ceremony will start at 11 a.m. on the Alumni Field on King Street. The firing of the muskets with Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard and Bedford Minuteman will follow the flag-raising and singing of the national anthem. The ceremony will recognize local veterans as well as townies who were born in 1964. And, all will get to enjoy anniversary cake or cupcakes and family softball.
The celebrations continue on Saturday, July 12, when the Littleton Middle School ground will turn into a picnic field decked with bails of golden hay, scarecrows and red-checkered tablecloths. Event-goers will have the chance to indulge themselves in such period games as sack races, pie-eating and watermelon seed-spitting contests. People will munch on cotton candy and snow cones.
The area that people now call Littleton was incorporated in 1714 as Nashoba plantation, according to Whitcomb. Then, a group of property owners successfully petitioned to make it a town. In late 1715, the area was redesignated and reincorporated as the town of Littleton, Whitcomb said.
On Saturday, Sept. 6, people will stand along King Street to remember the history -- watching farm tractors, marching bands and floats go by in the parade. There will be nearly 100 units from across the country participating, including more than two dozen musical bands as well as military units and visitors from Littleton, Co., and Littleton, N.H. This will be the largest parade ever held in Littleton, according to Roger LeBlanc, who is in charge of the parade committee.
At night, fireworks will light up the skies over Nashoba Valley Ski Area.
An extravagant dance will take place on Saturday, Sept. 13, inside the Westford Regency Inn's ballroom, tent and grand foyer, accommodating up to 1,000 guests. The summer-long celebrations will come to an end on Saturday, Sept. 27, with the closing ceremony at the middle school.
Crory said those who participate in the 300th events will always remember what a special town Littleton is.
"It's a great community where you know your neighbors," Crory said.
Whitcomb said Littleton to him still is the friendly farming community in which he grew up. Even though the town's population grew tremendously over the years, newcomers made it a point to assimilate into the existing fabric of the community.
"They do have their own agendas and march to different drums, so to speak," Whitcomb said. "But, when it gets back down to the human level, we are pretty much the same," he said.
For more information about the 300th celebrations, visit http://www.littleton300.org/.
The line-up, from kick-off to closing...
- Saturday, June 21 -- Pre-Opening Ceremony Rotary Breakfast, 6:30-10:30 a.m., Littleton Middle School
Start the summer of historical celebrations with a breakfast sponsored by the Rotary Club of Littleton. The event will feature the display of the Littleton 250th anniversary time capsule, the 300th time capsule, "Then and Now" photograph collection as well as other memorabilia. The breakfast costs $6 for adults and $3 for children under 12. Tickets are available at the door.
- Saturday, June 21 -- Opening Ceremony, Alumni Field (King Street), 11 a.m.
Watch the Sons of American Revolution march to Alumni Field and join others to honor local veterans and Revolutionary War patriots buried in the Old Burying Ground. Events include the singing of the national anthem, flag raising, ribbon cutting, firing of muskets, and recognition of local residents who were born in 1964. Expected guests include town veterans, Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford. Anniversary cake and cupcakes will be served, followed by a family softball game.
- Saturday, July 21 -- Littleton Town Picnic, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Littleton Middle School complex
Join Littleton residents for an old-fashioned picnic on the school field and period childrens' games, such as sack races, pie-eating and watermelon seed-spitting contests. Scarecrows and bails of golden hay will deck the field. Grab popcorn, snow-cones and cotton candy and indulge in live musical entertainment.
- Saturday, Sept. 6 -- Littleton 300th Town Parade, 10 a.m., King Street between Littleton High School and Littleton Common
Spectators are encouraged to secure seating with chairs as early as the night before for Littleton's biggest-ever parade, which involves nearly 100 units gathering from across the country. There will be more than two dozens music bands in addition to military units as well as visitors from Littleton, Colo., and Littleton, N.H. This will be a rain-or-shine event. It's expected to last up to 2 1/2 hours.
- Saturday, Sept. 6 -- Fireworks, Nashoba Valley Ski Area
- Saturday, Sept. 13 -- Tercentennial Ball, 7 p.m.-midnight, Westford Regency Inn
Dance the night away at an elegant gala ball. The venue can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. Be sure to make a reservation -- tickets will not be sold at the door. Cost is $80 per person. The event will include personal commemorative photo-taking.
- Saturday, Sept. 27 -- Closing Ceremony, 1 p.m., Littleton Middle School complex
Wrap up the summer-long festivities with flag-lowering ceremonies and recognition of those who have worked hard to make the celebrations happen.
For more details, visit http://www.littleton300.org/.