Another Westerly milestone unites community

Celebrating a shared history. Unifying neighbors. Highlighting local business. Fostering community pride.

Westerly’s 350th anniversary year, which kicked off as the calendar turned to 2019, promises to accomplish all this and more: “We want to make Westerly proud,” said Ocean Community Chamber and Ocean Community Chamber Foundation President Lisa Konicki. “We want to put on a heckuva show.”

At a time when political divisions and squabbling over differences are gripping the country, it’s refreshing and notable that Westerly is uniting to celebrate the town’s milestone anniversary. The year began with a Unity Bell Ringing throughout town at noon on New Year’s Day and a lineup of events ranging from a May 17 gala at the Armory to an Aug. 24 fair in Wilcox Park are scheduled. More events are in the works.

While the celebration promises to be a lot of fun, along with a source of community pride, much planning and hard work is required to make it all a reality. The work began nearly a year ago, when funds left over from the town’s 300th anniversary celebration were handed over to the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation. In the 50 years since that last big celebration, the funds had grown to $53,000, providing a solid financial foundation for this year’s festivities. That amount was augmented by $25,000 in town funding and another $80,000 raised to date through business and organization sponsorships.

Besides this generosity of donors, the celebration also is being fueled by the work of more than 25 volunteers who comprise the anniversary committee. Many more volunteers will step up throughout the year to ensure the success of individual events.

The most ambitious of the planned events is an Old Tyme Fair scheduled in August at Wilcox Park downtown. It will feature plenty of brand new experiences for residents, including opportunities to ride through the park on a trackless train and paddle on the pond in a swan boat. The popular band Roomful of Blues, which got its start in Westerly, will provide musical entertainment. This is the stuff of long-term memories; the type still conjured by the 300th anniversary celebration.

Konicki said she is impressed that so many residents still recall and talk about popular events from that celebration, despite the passage of 50 years. They chuckle over the grow-out-your-beard campaign, talk of the pageantry of the tercentenary parade and cherish the commemorative items they’ve kept.

With a wonderful lineup of events, dedicated cadre of volunteers and many generous sponsors, the 350th celebration appears poised to be another memorable milestone for the shoreline town. We expect this celebration will succeed in demonstrating there is much more that unites individuals in a community than divides. It’s a lesson that could benefit all.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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