PALERMO — Vicki Dyer said Palermo Days has gone through many iterations since she started planning it. Dyer and her husband, Gary, were inaugural members of the planning committee in 1979, which has only seven members today.

“The first year we did it, it was just one day. Then it grew to two weeks,” she said just before the parade on Saturday morning. “Then we said, ‘What are we, crazy?’ and we decided to taper it down.”

About 150 hundred people lined Branch Mills Road on Saturday for the parade, which included a number of local politicians crisscrossing the street to shake hands with potential voters, people on horseback and the token siren-blaring firetrucks.

After the parade, attendees walked along North Palermo Road, where Spunky the clown, who has performed at Palermo Days for six years, entertained children before they could enter a hotly contested pie-eating contest just across the road. Adults were treated to music from singer and evangelist Ed Sealy, Don Salvatore, and Andy Pottle and Shawna Grady.

When the masses got hungry, area American Legion members grilled chicken and the Palermo Snowmobile Club dished out burgers and hot dogs from grills just outside the Palermo Volunteer Fire Department. The Palermo Historical Society churned homemade ice cream just across the street.

Other events Saturday included a presentation of a state police dog team demonstration, a display of collection of film photographs from the 1940s owned by former local shop owner Milton Dowe, and a presentation on how wheat gets ground into flour by local farmer Neal Pottle.

Dyer took a break from planning for five years in 2005 because she was frustrated about the lack of involvement by other community members.

“I wanted to see if someone would maybe step up and do it, and they did,” Dyer said. “They did it for about five years and they decided they had enough, and we didn’t have it one year.”

Dyer said people who regularly attend the event were upset when it was canceled in 2010.

“It’s a day that (former and current residents) can come and see people they don’t usually see,” she said. “So, I said, OK, I’ll do but it will only be one day.”

Dyer said this year’s event lasts three days. Palermo Days kicked off Thursday with a supper organized by the Branch Mill Grange. Sealy performed Friday night.

Before 1979, Palermo — a town of about 1,500 residents — had occasional special events, such as a celebration of the U.S. bicentennial in 1976; but, the first designated Palermo Days celebration started in 1979, with a budget of $150, Dyer said.

Dyer didn’t mince words when she said what part of the event she looks forward to every year.

“The cleanup,” she laughed. “No, I think it’s a lot of work, but once you get down there and everybody is having a good time, you think it’s worth doing.”

Miriam Keller, who has lived in Palermo nearly her whole life, leaving only to travel while working in the Air Force, also has been involved in the planning committee since its inception. She said the event has a lower involvement than it did in 1979.

“So many of the older folks in town (who) were so active in the talent show have passed, and the younger generation is not that interested,” she said.

Dyer said she would likely plan Palermo Days “until I can’t walk, I guess.” She said that like Keller, she would like to inject youth into the committee in order to preserve the event for generations to come.

“(Younger people) need to get involved because it’s important to keeping the community feel,” she said.

The parade halted for the presentation of the Boston Post cane — a cane awarded to the town’s oldest resident — to 94-year old Virginia Cullivan. Many residents and family members of Cullivan stopped to take photos of her as she was chauffeured in a convertible. Keller said the presentation, along with seeing the joy in the children attending, was her favorite part of the day.

“It’s so special,” she said.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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