Ken Cunha, who keeps Old Home Day moving

DRACUT — It is one of the town’s biggest and most popular events and it continues to grow.

This year’s Dracut Old Home Day is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Daoulas Education Complex on Lakeview Avenue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is the 12th annual Dracut Old Home Day and once again coincides with the Dracut Firefighters’ Activity Day.

Last year the event featured more than 200 booths and demonstrations and had an estimated attendance of more than 13,000 people. This year, as in previous years, a section of Lakeview Avenue will be closed off to accommodate the annual car show, as well as the increase in vendors and organizations that wish to participate. The car show will feature muscle cars, antiques, hot rods, tractors, old fire engines and monster trucks.

A rolling car show begins behind the Central Fire Station on Pleasant Street and makes its way to Lakeview Avenue, beginning at 8 a.m.

Also scheduled is a Red Cross blood drive at Harmony Hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a food drive to benefit the Dracut Food Pantry. Food donations can be dropped off at the OHD Information Booth.

Ken Cunha, who has served as Old Home Day vice-chairman for the past 12 years, takes the reins this year as chairman, replacing Dave Paquin, who this year serves as vice chairman. Cunha says Old Home Day just keeps going. That first one, back in 2001, almost didn’t happen, coming as it did just 11 days after the worse terrorist attack in our nation’s history.

Q: How did Old Home Day begin?

A: “The Old Home Day Committee was originally the Tercentennial Committee which started in 1999 to plan the yearlong events for Dracut’s 300th anniversary. We planned to end the tercentennial year events in September 2001 by having a two-day event including a huge parade and we called it Old Home Day. The date was planned for Sept. 22 but since the terrorist attacks happened on Sept. 11 and our own John Ogonowski was the pilot of American Flight 11 that was flown into the World Trade Center and killed that day, the committee thought that under the circumstances it was proper to cancel Old Home Day that year. When we informed the Ogonowski family, they encouraged us to go ahead as planned because that is what John would have wanted.

“We kicked off the day with a huge parade and John’s tractor led the procession. We dedicated that day to John Ogonowski and currently do an opening ceremony at each Old Home Day to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11/01.

“That first Old Home Day was a huge success and the committee decided to do it again the following year and we are currently on our 12th year with over 10,000 attending each year, depending on the weather. Old Home Day, by the way, happens rain or shine.”

Q: What is the Fire Department’s involvement in Old Home Day?

A: “Prior to that first Old Home Day in 2001, the Dracut firefighters had a similar event on a much smaller scale that they called Firefighter Activity Day, which also happened in September. Because the two events were at the same time of the year, the firefighters decided that they would join up with Old Home Day and do the firefighter activities on the same day.

“We are now officially called Dracut Old Home Day and Firefighter Activity Day. The firefighters do a kids’ firefighting challenge, which is for kids up to age 8. The kids pull a fire hose, knock down a door, put out a simulated fire and return the hose to the truck. They are timed and get certificates from the firefighters. This is extremely popular. They also have the Safe House Trailer, which teaches people how to exit their home in case of fire. … The firefighters are actively involved in the planning and set up of Old Home Day and we couldn’t do it without all their help.”

Q: How many booths do you have?

A: “We can accommodate approximately 160 booths for vendors in the space that we have in front of the Englesby Elementary School. We sold out all 160 spaces two weeks ago and continue to receive requests every day. In order to accommodate those requests we have opened up an overflow area in the circle in front of the school. This area is usually reserved for demonstrations but we have decided to add more booths in that area to try to accommodate everyone.

“We have outgrown the space we have and are looking for areas to expand. We have a varied assortment of booths. We have dozens of food and ice cream vendors, business vendors selling their products and services, sports groups doing various activities, school groups doing fundraisers, Boy Scout groups, service organizations, veterans groups, face-painting and much more.”

Q: What kind of entertainment takes place in the gazebo?

A: “We have entertainment in the gazebo all day long. We start with the opening ceremony at 9 a.m. We then have dance studios performing, martial arts demonstrations, gymnastics demonstrations, the Gentlemen Songsters, the Irish Step Dancers, the Dracut High School Band, Snow White, a bubble-gum blowing contest all capped off with a live band, ‘Glass Eyed Monkey’ from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. We also have disc jockey Mark Watson all day who keeps the music and entertainment going.”

Q: What is the most popular attraction?

A: “I think the most popular attraction at Old Home Day is the rides for the children. We have long lines at all the rides all day, especially the train ride. This is a family event so we try to make it affordable for the whole family to attend. Everything is reasonably priced. Regular inflatable rides are only 50 cents each and the train ride is only $1.”