'Come See What's New'
Derryfest events range from a roaming tortoise to a POW/MIA ceremonyBy HUNTER McGEE
Sunday News Correspondent September 21. 2013 8:39PM
DERRY - With the theme of "Come See What's New," the 24th annual Derryfest drew hundreds of people to celebrate one of the community's favorite days of the year, organizers said.
The celebration at MacGregor Park included a roaming tortoise, live acts such as the Red Star Twirlers, and a solemn MIA/POW ceremony held by the local VFW. Conditions were mild, under partly cloudy skies, as those attending casually stopped by the vendor booths or saw a live performance.
"It looks like a pretty nice crowd out there in front of the stage, and I appreciate all of the people that came out and all of the sponsors," said Derryfest co-Chairman Mike Gendron.
Organizers strive to make Derryfest different each year, he said.
"It's now in its 24th year and we are thrilled," Gendron said. "It's one of the greatest days in Derry. People come together and celebrate the community; they celebrate the great fall weather."
At a booth for Beckley Family Chiropractic of Derry, Donna Binette gazed at a computer monitor that displayed an image of her spine. Just moments before chiropractor Matthew Beckley had placed probes on her back to bring up the image for a spinal screening.
Binette was promoting the Taylor Library during the festival when she noticed the nearby booth. She said she's been having some back pain.
"I just thought I'd see what they had to say and check up with it later," she said.
One of the biggest stars of Derryfest, especially with children, was an African tortoise named Socrates. Although he was billed as a "roaming tortoise," Socrates didn't move too far during the festival, said Heather Toland of Wildlife Encounters in Rochester.
"He's not one of the most excited animals," she said, adding that he can live for a long time because "he doesn't have the stress factor."
The tortoise is about 30 years old and can reach an age of 150 years, she said as children gathered around Socrates.
Wildlife Encounters also set up a small zoo, where children gathered to pet animals such as "Willy," a micro pig named for Wilbur, after the pig in "Charlotte's Web," said Derek Small, owner of Wildlife Encounters.
About noon, the Derry Memorial VFW Post 1617 held a solemn ceremony at the park monument area that included releasing 49 balloons, representing the 43 soldiers missing since the Korean War and six from the Vietnam War, according to a pamphlet distributed during the ceremony.
On Friday, the post had lit the eternal flame and posted a guard to stand vigil for 24 hours. The flame was extinguished at the close of the ceremony.