It’s Really Going to be Grand
There is a certain sense of pride that comes with the designation “Oldest town on Cape Cod” and the citizens of Sandwich take very seriously the obligation of honoring and commemorating their quintessential town’s history. From the old town hall, to the picturesque Dexter Grist Mill, to the iconic boardwalk, Sandwich residents are careful to preserve the historic integrity that abounds in their town.
Settled in 1637 by the “Ten Men of Saugus” who had been given permission by the leaders of Plymouth Colony to establish a settlement, Sandwich was incorporated in 1639—as were Barnstable and Yarmouth. Though the town shares its incorporation anniversary with the two other Cape towns, because it was settled two years earlier, it earned the moniker, “oldest town on the Cape.” Over the years, the citizens of Sandwich have been careful never to miss an opportunity to recognize notable anniversaries and to celebrate the occasions with all the pomp and circumstance fitting for significant milestones.
For example, when the town reached its 250th birthday in 1889, Sandwich residents organized a parade that wound its way down Main Street and past the town hall and private homes, all of which were decorated with bunting bearing patriotic colors. The September 3 celebration began with church bells ringing at dawn and ended in the evening with a fireworks display and a Venetian boat parade along Shawme Pond. Flash forward 125 years to 2014, and organizers are planning a similar parade for September 13 to mark the town’s 375th. Unlike previous years, where just a day was devoted to recognize a significant anniversary, this year’s festivities will be held all year long.
For nearly two years, a group of nearly 200 Sandwich residents has been volunteering its time to prepare events and celebrations, build a website—sandwich375.com—and even write a book called Sandwich 375 Years: Photos, Facts, and Fables of Cape Cod’s Oldest Town. Cindy Russell, chairman of the Sandwich 375 Committee, says one of the group’s top priorities is to host events and activities that are family-friendly and not cost-prohibitive. “Most of the events are completely free so there are no barriers for families who want to participate,” Russell says.
One event scheduled for early spring is the Daffodil Festival, which will be held Saturday, April 26. The festival will include artisans’ tables, a tent devoted to gardening, children’s crafts, music, and food. Preparations for this event got underway last fall when volunteers planted more than 7,000 daffodil bulbs throughout the town. “We are truly painting the town yellow for this event,” says Russell.
The celebration in Sandwich continues on Sunday, April 27 when internationally-famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan fills Sandwich High School’s auditorium with his amazing voice. The concert is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
Some of the year’s largest events will be held in the summer so residents and visitors alike can be part of the festivities. Given the town’s rich history, it comes as no surprise the committee is planning an event that will transform the village section of Sandwich into something from an earlier period. A collection of events called BASH Days—for Bringing Alive Sandwich History—will be held over four Saturdays in May, June, July, and August.