MANCHESTER — This year, the town of Manchester will celebrate its 375th birthday with "at least one event per month," according to Town Administrator Greg Federspiel.

"Many months will have multiple events," he continued. "It's being planned as a year-long celebration."

All events — from a bonfire to film festivals — are being planned by the 375th Celebration Committee, co-chaired by former Selectmen Tom Kehoe and Sue Thorne. Formed last January, the 20-plus member committee consists of residents, business owners, and members of various town committees and institutions. 

"There's a nice representation of demographics in Manchester that are a part of the core committee," Thorne said. "Each one of us are taking responsibility for an event or the experience."

Thorne said this was her first time planning something of this magnitude, but she's confident in the ability of her committee and co-chair to get the job done.

"(Kehoe and I) make a good team," she said. "We good have good chemistry. Not only have we developed a friendship, we're also dedicated to give the ta fun experience."

Kehoe agrees, saying "It's always nice to work with someone who knows you and you know them."

At Town Meeting last April, the committee got a jump-start on its budget with a $10,000 allocation from the town. Still, the committee is looking for donations to keep the majority of the events admission-free. 

"We're pushing our merch," Kehoe said. "We have 2020 historical calendars, and we also have a fancy 480-piece heirloom puzzle of the town quilt," a piece donated to the town that depicts various landmarks. "We now have a coffee mug with our logo that was just made available. The main place to pick these up is at Town Hall." 

What's more, a fundraising gala will be held on Saturday, March 7, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Essex County Club, 153 School St. There will be live music, food stations, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. At the silent auction, guests will have the opportunity to win Red Sox tickets, a cottage vacation in Scotland for a week, a harbor cruise with Harbormaster Bion Pike, a subscription to the Cape Ann Symphony 2020-2021 season and more.

Tickets are available through Friday, Feb. 7. They cost $75 per person at the town clerk's office and $80 online at tinyurl.com/MBTS375Gala. Tickets will not be sold at the door. Cocktail attire is required. 

Back in the 15th century, Manchester was known as Jeffery's Creek. Those associated the Dorchester Company, an English merchant group, and settlers arriving from England on John Winthrop's fleet began building houses in the area in the 1620s. By 1645, the town was officially christened Manchester by the Great and General Court. In 1989, the town changed its name to Manchester-by-the-Sea to differentiate itself from Manchester, New Hampshire, which is around 45 miles away.

Despite the town's rich history, Thorne said she doesn't want it to be the primary focus of the year-long celebration. 

"There is an emphasis on the past (with some events)," she explained, "but I think there's also an emphasis on us, here and now, and the future for our town."

Festivities will kick off with a bonfire on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m., at the Manchester Athletic Club, 8 Atwater Ave.. Watch as this year's old Christmas trees light up the night sky while enjoying some hot cocoa and cookies. The event was originally planned for Sunday, Jan. 12, but was rescheduled due to high winds.

"It was a tough call to make," Thorne said. "Everyone was organized and ready to go. But it'll be just as fun on the 25th as it would of been on the 12th."

Following the bonfire, Legion Hall will host family-friendly drop-in ice cream social on Sunday, Feb. 9, from 1 to 3 p.m. There wil be face-painting, crafts and a special guest. 

Manchester Library will host two storytelling workshops. "Story Telling Workshop: Your Family and MBTS," on Tuesday, Feb. 18, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., will help attendees develop their fondest Manchester memories into engaging stories. The public is welcome to share their memories at following event on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 2 to 4 p.m.

"It's a two-part series with Elisa Pearmain, a renowned storyteller that has hosted thousands of classes and performances across the country," explained Library Director Sara Collins. "This community is absolutely filled with wonderful memories and stories that can be shared. While everyone appreciates these stories, it can take some encouragement to share some of them."

February also sees the start of Manchester Historical Museum's 375th anniversary lecture series. Topics include "Native Americans on Cape Ann," "Manchester 101," "Slavery on Cape Ann" and "Manchester Maritime." Events will be held every third Thursday of the month from Feb. 20 through May 21 and Sept. 12 through Nov. 19. RSVPs are requested at 978-526-7230 or info@manchesterhistoricalmuseum.org.

Other events include two film festivals in April and June, a waterfront day at Tuck’s Point in July, nature walks to historic Manchester sites in October and a grand finale night in December.

More details and a complete schedule of events can be found by visiting www.facebook.com/manchesterma375.

 

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

 

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