The Evolving Old Towne

Two years ago, I moved back to the town in which I grew up. I hadn’t really explored it for the five years I was gone, so there were many surprises as to what had changed in my absence. Store fronts had come and gone and new houses now stood where small patches of forests had been growing.

Last year, I took my kids to the Memorial Day and July 4th parades the town has had long since I could remember. It was nice to see people lining the street and waving to our local heroes and dancing to the music of marching bands. I was pleased in this case to see that Enfield still values community where it matters the most.

This year was the 25th anniversary celebrating the 4th on our town green. What started as a tiny ‘Taste of Enfield’ with a few local food booths followed by 10 minutes of cheesy fireworks, had grown into something I barely recognized. When I was a kid, relatively unknown cover bands would cram into the little gazebo throughout the weekend, while children ran around the green and danced to the beat.

This year, it was the Los Lonely Boys and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra playing. David Foster and the Mohegan Sun Band were also there on a large constructed stage usually seen at  music festivals.

There were so many people there this year that it was a vast sea of chairs and blankets no matter where you directed your eyes. Don’t get me wrong, there was pretty good attendance when I was a kid, but this was beyond anything I had experienced in the past.

As the girls and I barely managed to walk past the stage, a good portion surrounding the platform was barricaded, only allowing the corporate sponsors a seat in that pristine area. Corporate sponsors.

I’m sure the town had gained small business support in years past, but this was different. While I could understand the need to seek bigger donations, it unnerved me that with securing that money, Enfield ultimately bowed down and licked the feet of the local privileged.

We celebrated the 4th each year on the town green as one community. Children danced on stage to classic rock and blues tunes. You had room to walk and when you did, you ran into someone you knew almost all the time.

Perhaps I’ve been gone too long, but there wasn’t one person I recognized from my past, but then again there were so many people, they could have passed me by and I would have never seen them.

Despite the crowd, it had to be the coldest mid July celebration we’ve ever had. Usually heat lightning streaks through the night sky, but the girls and I were huddled on our little patch of grass under a fleece blanket waiting for the fireworks.

The display, which was one of the only highlights of the night was incredible. There was one summer back in the 80’s where only two fireworks had gone off and some problem prohibited the rest of the show. This year, color exploded in the sky for a good part of 25 minutes. What I thought was a finale was followed by a smaller finale, then followed by the biggest show of light I’ve ever seen at a local show. It was almost like with each ear splitting boom, the volume of the crowd surged as well, the excitement growing in the air until the climax. I don’t think I’ve ever been that moved at a fireworks display before.

In that one moment as everyone, (privileged and not) stared up that sky in wonder, I was instantly transported back in time and remembered what it felt like to celebrate the birth of our country, and belong to a great community. Growing pains and all.

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