Francestown celebrates a century of Labor Day tradition

By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent
September 04. 2017 8:45PM
Many floats in Monday's Francestown Labor Day Carnival parade paid homage to the beginning of the carnival in 1917, when it was held as a fundraiser for the Red Cross to support the Doughboys sent to Europe during World War I. (Meghan Pierce/Union Leader Correspondent)

The Apollo II was celebrated as one of the floats in the 100th Francestown Labor Day parade. (Meghan Pierce/Union Leader Correspondent)

FRANCESTOWN — While Labor Day was created to celebrate the worker and give a day of rest, for the past century Francestown folk have taken the three-day weekend as an opportunity to celebrate as a town and raise money for a good cause.

The first Francestown Labor Day Carnival was actually billed as the Red Cross Carnival and included the town parade.

It was 1917 and the United States had joined World War I.

The Francestown Improvement & Historical Society began the Annual Labor Day celebration and earned $600 its first year for the Red Cross and another $600 for the Red Cross the following year, Chairman of the Labor Day Carnival Committee Charlie Pyle said at Vespers Sunday night in the Old Meeting House.

Vespers is an annual tradition of the carnival and includes performances from Francestown children and the reading of the names of all the residents who died over the past year as well as all of the children born over the past year.

During Vespers, Pyle gave a history of the town carnival saying the money raised the first and second year went to fund Red Cross comfort bags.

“Comfort bags were bags in which organizations, or groups of people, put different items to send overseas to Doughboys,” Pyle said. “Some of the things that went into comfort bags across the country were warm socks, sewing cotton, mirrors, handkerchiefs, postcards, safety razors … and other items.”

Vespers this year had Fritz Wetherbee as a special guest, who told how the town got its name, said Pyle.

The big celebration, however, was Monday with the grand opening of the Francestown Improvement and Historical Society’s Museum in the renovated Beehive, which was once the dormitory for the Francestown Academy.

There was big turnout for the parade Monday, which for its centennial had the theme this year of “The Last 100 Years.”

mpierce@newstote.com


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