Councilors consider future of Old Home Day Committee

TIM JEAN/File photoAndy Mack Sr., waves to the crowd while driving a tractor pulling the Mack's Apples float in the parade down Mammoth Road during a past Old Home Day in Londonderry. The Old Home Day Committee may get some re-organization following the resignation of several volunteer members.

LONDONDERRY —The town's biggest summer party may get some overhauls on the way it operates.

Town officials will consider how to move forward and reorganize the Old Home Day Committee, an all-volunteer group that plans and implements five days of festivities every August.

Longtime chairman of the committee, Kathy Wagner, announced recently she would be resigning as head, but would remain involved.

At a meeting Oct. 28, town councilors decided to consider options about how the Old Home Day group should move forward.

The committee has a long history.

The Town Council created the Old Home Day Committee in 2001. The committee was charged as a “willing group of volunteers that will represent the Town of Londonderry” and shall “determine its own rules and order of business, unless otherwise provided by law or Town Charter,” according to the minutes of that meeting.

Prior to that, a former Chamber of Commerce handled Old Home Day.

The committee remained a volunteer effort but always had town oversight when it come to handling money collected for booths, sponsorships and other costs. 

In recent years, the number of volunteers has dwindled.

Assistant Town Manager Lisa Drabik said it might be time to consider a new town resolution that would specify the parameters of how the Old Home Day Committee would operate moving forward as changes take place.

Drabik added it might also be time to recruit new volunteers and "fresh blood" to help with Old Home Day.

Town Finance Director Justin Campo said there is an Old Home Day balance remaining of about $23,000, and credited Wagner's leadership for keeping that amount stable over several years.

The Old Home Day Parade alone costs about $13,000; another $9,800 was raised selling booth to vendors and organizations and additional sponsorships could total anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000, Campo said. Fireworks are also a costly venture.

Town voters also approved spending $25,000 of support for additional Nutfield 300th anniversary events this year that coincided with the most recent Old Home Day in August.

That money was segregated from any Old Home Day money, officials said.

A recent Old Home Day Committee meeting not only had Wagner stepping down, but other longtime volunteers also resigned.

Town Council Chairman John Farrell said that meeting held "a lot of praise" and a lot of good things were said about people.

"It was a very positive meeting," he said.

Farrell said it might be good to put the next steps under the direction of the town manager and assistant town manager, work with staff and go out and rebuild the volunteer force for Old Home Day.

Some wanted to see an all-volunteer group continue on.

Resident Betsy McKinney said it's time to do something different, but wasn't sure how much town involvement she would support.

"I'm not sure putting a town employee on as chair is a good idea," she said. "It should be a volunteer thing. I don't know if you want a town employee spending time on it. It seems we have less and less public involvement in town and I'd like to see that promoted."

McKinney added she would like to see town officials more involved, but not serving as chairman of the Old Home Day group.

Resident Bob Ramsay spoke out, saying he was involved in Old Home Day when the town's former Chamber of Commerce handled the planning.

Back then, we got $1,000 for Old Home Day, then it became a political football, much as it is today," he said. "I feel volunteers would make it a better situation."

Farrell said the discussion would continue at a future meeting and decisions on how to move forward would be discussed.

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