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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Y2K Bug float in the Hancock Old Home Days parade, August 1999
The Y2K Bug shows up at the Hancock Old Home Days parade, August 1999. Photo: Eleanor Briggs

Hancock Old Home Days

The 1999 Hancock parade may have been small, but its floats were original: a Y2K bug, ridden by members of Hancock's Y2K committee; Chicken Little whose umbrella had computer discs stuck to it, since the sky was falling in bits and bytes; and a "living" painting of a re-enactment of the Iwo Jima flag raising. The historical society's "penny-farthing" bicycle, which has been a parade favorite for 45 years, sported a five-foot tall wheel composed of a garden hose. Other paraders were the Temple Marching Band and the Hancock High School classes of 1954, 1943, and 1938.

The 1999 parade helped mark the 100th anniversary of New Hampshire's Old Home Day, and the 120th celebration for Hancock. Hancock's Old Home Day tradition began as a Symonds family picnic in 1879. Picnics became larger, with attendance reaching 500 in 1884. By 1888, the picnic had become the Hancock Town Picnic. Organizers in 1889 adopted a resolution that the picnic's goal was to encourage sociability and the return of former residents.

Meanwhile, the governor of New Hampshire, Frank Rollins, inaugurated the state's Old Home Day in 1899, and founded the Old Home Day Association. While towns such as Hancock had held annual picnics and "old people's gatherings," Rollins' initiative was new. Invitations were sent across the country inviting relatives and New Hampshire descendants to return to New Hampshire for the statewide celebration. Rollins' goal was to rebuild the state's diminishing population by enticing visitors to buy summer homes and to revitalize community spirit and economy.

Hancock's 1899 Town Picnic was expanded to include an Old Home Week Gathering. Civic-minded poems and ballads were inspired, recited, sung and proclaimed. After 1900, baseball was the only organized activity, with games in the morning and afternoon in between a program of sermons, poems, songs, and reminiscing. In the 1920s, fireworks were added and a special commemoration to mark the arrival of electricity. When Hancock celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1929, more than 10,000 participated, including Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, who had spent her girlhood days in Hancock. She also returned for Hancock's 1938 home day.

Documentation includes a 19-page account of the historic Hancock Old Home Days, a video of 1999 festival highlights; a 1929 program for Hancock's 150th anniversary celebration; brochures; a 1908 photo of the Hancock Cornet band; slides from the 1999 festival; and other historical objects.

Originally submitted by: Charles F. Bass, Representative (2nd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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