Editorial: Yankee Doodle Days will be missed this summer

  • Atticus Dejesus kisses a sheep at Yankee Doodle Days in Charlemont at the fairgrounds in 2014. Recorder file photo

Monday, February 26, 2018

Here are some brief thoughts on some of the events making news from around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area:

We were so sad to see that Charlemont’s annual Yankee Doodle Days summer festival won’t be revived this year. This coming season’s event has been canceled by the Friends of the Charlemont Fairground because of difficulties getting enough volunteers to help organize and run the show.

“For now, there will not be a fair this year, but there still will be fundraising events to benefit and preserve the Charlemont Fairgrounds,” said Friends Vice President Elise Skibik.

In recent years, Yankee Doodle Days had been a three-day weekend fair. It was canceled in 2016 because there were too few people to help. It was revived last year as a one-day event, but that renewed interest just couldn’t be sustained or enlarged, apparently.

The town fair has a long history: Before Yankee Doodle Days, there was a Charlemont Cattle Show, started in 1850. The show drew so many participants that it was moved to the 17-acre site that became the Charlemont Fairgrounds.

The fair was resurrected in 1952 by the Lions Club as Yankee Doodle Days; it died out in the early 1980s because there were too few volunteers to keep it going. But in 1996, it was revived by local families who wanted their children to experience the fair they had grown up with and loved.

Skibik said she is hoping the Friends of the Charlemont Fairgrounds can “come full circle” and bring back an agricultural fair, within the next three to five years. We hope so, too.

Duda legacy

Robert M. Duda, an Air Force veteran of 32 years, frequently donated to the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library in Whately, where he was chair of its board of trustees.

Duda’s philanthropy did not end when he died last year at 74.

Last month, Duda’s friends and colleagues met in the library’s community room for a rededication ceremony. Jim Ross pulled a black cloth from a bronze plaque with Duda’s name on it, officially renaming the community room in his honor. Then, Duda’s companion, Ginger Houghton, presented a $200,000 check from Duda to the library.

“Bob took very much of a liking to the library,” Ross said in understatement. A longtime friend of Duda’s and fellow trustee, Ross said the library was an integral part of Duda’s life.

According to Candace Bradbury-Carlin, the library’s director, the $200,000 will go to improving the building.

“He probably wouldn’t want to be recognized, but we did and we should,” Ross said. “We should remember people like him. He put his heart and soul into this building.”

All our libraries should be so fortunate.

Lady dino hunter

A Presidents’ Day article about early dinosaur hunters of the Pioneer Valley of course mentioned Greenfield’s Dexter Marsh and Amherst’s Edward Hitchcock, but it inadvertently left out the leading lady of 19th-century dino track discovery, according Tim Neumann of Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield.

On hand for the holiday event was a costumed re-enactor playing Orra White — who became Edward Hitchcock’s wife after teaching with him at Deerfield Academy in the early 1800s.

White was a botanist and also an illustrator of her husband’s ideas and discoveries. Professor Hitchcock always gave full credit to his wife for bringing his ideas to life with her illustrations for use in the lecture hall and in his books. Neumann says she is probably the first woman illustrator in America to have a credit line in a scientific publication and played a central role in the dinosaur track story.

“It is important for girls and young women to be inspired by the contributions of women to science, especially in the days when the social norms of their times made it difficult,” notes Neumann.

Sweet news or hard facts?

Montague is gaining a cidery — a welcome addition to the Turners Falls downtown area. Plans are to repurpose an old mill building on the power canal that has been the Franklin County Regional Housing Authority offices.

The cider makers who plan on closing the deal for the building April 30 currently operate MillStone Cellars in Maryland, which says it focuses on the production of rustic hard ciders and meads.

Sounds like a nice addition to the mix of brewers, cideries and wine makers that have sprouted up around Franklin County in recent years.