There are so many ways a town like Orange can mark its 200th birthday that the group planning this milestone has scheduled a whole season – the Bicentennial Summer Celebration – to give it its full due. “The committee recognized that in this day and age you can’t duplicate what took place for the Sesquicentennial,” said committee Chairman Pat O’Sullivan, when he gave an update at the February 9 Board of Selectmen meeting. Back in 1972, the celebrations for the 150th anniversary spanned a week, with many family events taking place in the afternoons. But in 2022, most events will take place on the weekends, bookended by a Founders Day ceremony on May 28 and a Homecoming Weekend in conjunction with the Orange Country Fair in September.
Planning was complicated by the pandemic. “Last year the virus mutated and we were agonizing over what we were going to do,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s when we came up with the idea of a Summer of Celebration.” Most events are taking place outdoors.
A calendar of events is posted on the town website at https://orange-ct.gov/1029/Bicentennial-Summer-Celebration and on a dedicated Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/OrangeCTBicentennial.
First signup forms are up on Facebook as well, one for the Bicentennial Golf tournament at Race Brook Country Club, slated for June 27; another for the Family Dinner picnic on the Fairgrounds on June 25th.
Scheduled events include long-standing summer favorites, such as the Memorial Day Parade and the Fourth of July fireworks. But it also includes some unique events, such as a separate Bicentennial parade; and light-hearted entertainment with the widely anticipated “Mud Run” – an obstacle course.
“We will have all sorts of commemorative items,” O’Sullivan predicts. Even The Lion’s Club’s traditional wine tasting will feature glasses emblazoned with the Bicentennial logo, making them a collector’s item. O’Sullivan said he contacted the postmaster with the idea of creating a special stamp, allowing for very special mailings to go out into the world.
On Saturday, September 10, they are planning to dig up the time capsule that was buried 50 years ago at the Sesquicentennial. The items from the time capsule will be displayed at the Orange Country Fair the following weekend. Orange Town News publisher Rocky Salperto, is finalizing plans for the Town’s Annual Independence Day Concert and Fireworks. We are hoping to make this another special event for the town to enjoy, particularly in this Bicentennial year Salperto stated.
One group that will be particularly busy this summer is the Orange Historical Society.
- It is planning historic displays and exhibits as well as children’s events and games at the Academy every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- There will be lunch at the historic Bryan-Andrew House on Thursday, June 2 and again Tuesday, July 7.
- The Lebanon Town Militia will camp out at the Bryan Andrew House on Saturday, July 16, from 9 to 3 p.m.
- Herb Garden Tours are planned at the Stone Otis House on July 23 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Crafters and a blacksmith will visit the Stone Otis House on August 27, with a rain date of August 28.
- We’re going to have a lot of fun,” O’Sullivan said.
Clocktower To Serve as a Reminder of Bicentennial Year
The Board of Selectmen, at its March 9 meeting, discussed a proposal to erect a tower clock in front of Town Hall. “It would be a lasting commemoration of our Bicentennial,” said Selectman Mitch Goldblatt, who has been working on this project along with First Selectman Jim Zeoli.
If approved, the clock would be installed at the corner of Tyler City and Orange Center roads. It would sit at the top of a 16-foot post, with the clock face showing the town seal. It would be lit, so it would be visible at night.
Since this would be a custom-made clock, it would require a considerable lead time, Goldblatt said. The town would have to run electricity and install a concrete base. There may be LOCIP (Local Capital Improvement) funds available for it.
The discussion at the Board of Selectmen on this project was past the Orange Town News press time.
Oral History Project Preserves the Past and Celebrates the Present
To preserve a piece of living history, Selectwoman Judy Wright Williams is conducting interviews with notable Orange residents, who have served the town in one capacity or another over the last 50 years and more. The interviews will be part of the bicentennial celebration which is being planned for this summer.
She started with the old farmers and the founders of the Orange Country Fair, but she also included educators, the first sewer inspector, a long-time fire chief and more. “It brings out what makes Orange such a unique community,” Williams said.
The interviews are taking place in the interviewee’s home, and are being recorded with the help of OGAT’s own Chris Kelly and his sister Lauren.
Typically, when she first approaches people about the project, they are often hesitant and camera shy, but once the conversations are underway, they love to talk about the past, she said. Interviews can take up to 3 hours, and on occasion children and grandchildren chime in as well, asking them questions.
The families will receive a copy of the recording, Williams said. For the Bicentennial, the town is planning to make a montage of video clips, showing the town through the years, with a voice-over gleaned from the interviews. “It will culminate with Jim Zeoli talking about where the town is now,” she said.
Chris Kelly said the plan is to create a documentary of sorts about Orange, its history and where it is now. Once it’s ready for publication, it will run on the Orange Government Television and its YouTube channel. But they also are planning a public showing, although the details of that are yet to be worked out.
By the end of February, they had completed 14 interviews, with people such as Walter Clark, Walt Bespuda; Rollie Hine, Gloria Capecelatro, Ginny Reinhard, Doris Knight, Dottie Berger and others. But the list continues to grow Kelly said. In all, they may have as many as 30-40 interviews, provided people agree to it.
In addition to the documentary, the videos are also being transcribed and compiled in a book, which will be available at the library.
“It’s a fun experience,” Kelly said. “I am learning a lot about the town. So many stories – people were wearing a lot of different hats back in the day.”
By Bettina Thiel – Orange Town News Correspondent