Dwindling support from the community means the annual New Sharon Day will not be held this year.

The all-day event once brought out hundreds of people for children’s events and a parade, but the festival gradually withered in size as enthusiasm for the traditional small town community gathering waned.

At last year’s event, the festival drew few people other than relatives of the festival’s organizers.

“We can’t get volunteers. We don’t even get people to come,” Juniper Thompson, a longtime New Sharon Day volunteer, said Monday.

She said for the past five years, the burden of organizing, preparing and running the event has fallen to the same small group of volunteers.

Each year, they helped kids make sock puppets. They cooked hot dogs. They painted faces. They organized donations. Volunteer firefighters put on safety demonstrations.

Then, the next year, the same group of volunteers would take on the workload again.

“Eight or 10 people can’t do all the preparation,” Thompson said. “It was just a complete lack of participation.”

She said the organizers would put out sign-up sheets for people to join the effort, but garnered little interest. One volunteer, Thompson recalled, brought in her family members from outside of town to run the games.

Thompson said she is concerned there are fewer people in town who believe that living in a community carries an obligation to give time to community efforts.

Along with a lack of volunteers for the day, Thompson said the public attendance continued to dwindle. Fewer children came with their families until it was primarily relatives of volunteers playing the games.

“It’s surprising, but people just don’t bring their children,” she said. “I don’t know if people will even miss it this year. It’s sad.”

But it wasn’t always that way.

For decades there was a parade, and the farms would be represented with floats. Kids would ride their own ponies. There were wood chopping races and pole climbing contests.

Glenda Raymond, a New Sharon Day volunteer, said she started helping with the original event her senior year of college in 1976.

She said the festival, paired with the annual New Sharon Hootenanny, was intended to celebrate the bicentennial, and several organizers had a goal of running the festival until the town had its bicentennial in 1994.

“It was handed through different committees through the ’80s,” she said. New Sharon Day took a hiatus in the 1990s up until the mid 2000s when her church, the Congregational Church, took a survey of what members would like to see in the community.

“New Sharon Days was one of the things that was noted, and we got a committee going again,” she said.

While the small festival was never sizable enough to rival other annual events like the Wilton Blueberry Festival, Thompson said it served its purpose as a free family gathering and a way to bring the town together. She said the family atmosphere with community leaders and firefighters let parents feel safe letting their kids run around and play.

“They were pretty safe,” she said.

Thompson, however, said the town does have some history of volunteerism and she hopes that the volunteer spirit will continue through other efforts in town. She and her husband are members of a new group, the New Sharon Elders Group, which is geared toward creating a culture of neighbors supporting neighbors.

“I’m hoping it will rejuvenate some of the enthusiasm,” she said.

Her husband, R. Spencer Thompson, will still be running the annual New Sharon Hootenanny July 26, which was traditionally held at the end of the days’ events.

“It fills up pretty good. Maybe 50 people attend,” he said. “It’s gotten better and better.”

The event, he said, has a minimal level of work needed to organize it, and Thompson said he posts the notices and alerts the media about the event.

“It doesn’t take very many [volunteers],” he said.

The hootenanny starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Congregational Church Vestry on Cape Cod Hill Road, and Thompson said it will involve an hour and a half of country and western music with guest storyteller Don Spear, the “Pondering Pundit,” from Portland.

Spencer Thompson said anyone who would like to perform can call him at 779-1001, Carl Kaherl at 778-9803, or just show up at the event.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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