Ashland holds a community day called Ashland Day. It is a day where townsfolk
can meet each other and enjoy all the finest that living in New England has to
offer. There are food concessions, parades (well, most of the time), information
booths, music, games, raffles, and a stage at the gazebo for recognizing the
people that contribute to making Ashland a premier town. For a lot of people it
seems like a relatively new event. But is it?
First let’s go
back about a hundred years or so. Better still, the turn of the 19th
Century. Ashland was only 54 years old when the Village Improvement Committee
was formed in 1900 by the Ashland Home Study Club. Their goal was to raise
money to improve the aesthetics of Ashland by cleaning up the downtown area.
Through rummage sales and other fund raising events they were able to raise
enough money to clean the roadways, trim the grassy areas, and plant flowers.
They asked the Boston and Albany railroad to improve the railroad station and
surrounding areas, but were not met with the enthusiasm they were hoping for.
They cleaned along the tracks anyway.
Trash and debris
along the roadways was commonplace back then. Barrels were placed in various
locations to try to contain the problem, and the selectmen began enforcing a
“No Dumping” ordinance. Crooked light poles were replaced with straight ones,
much to the dismay of some of the residents. They saw no need for such wasteful
extravagance, but then again it is all for aesthetics.
With all this
improvement, it was decided that the town should have a day to show each other,
and the surrounding communities, the pride it has for our little piece of
paradise. A Field Day would be a great idea, but where will it be held?
As luck would
have it, Col. Charles Homer offered the town a fairly large piece of land on
Summer street near downtown. At a special town meeting on August 14th,
1907, the town accepted the offer. It was to be named Stone Park after Homer’s
uncle, Napoleon Stone. This would be a perfect place for Ashland’s first Field
Day, and it was held on September 7th, 1908. Much like our Ashland
Day today, it was a success financially, and boosted the spirit of the
residents. The following year hosted a society circus (not sure what that is),
street parade, dinner at the park, and a dance at Town Hall. They raised
$150.00. Each year the festivities improved. Concession stands were added,
sporting events were held, even a cattle show. All this was for the improvement
of the park and surrounding areas. Ball fields were added, along with park
benches, shrubs and trees. Pretty much what you see there today.
They also had
their less than optimum years too. In 1912, the Field Day had to be held at
Town Hall due to rain, but 200 people attended anyway including a dinner and
dance in the big hall upstairs.
As the years
progressed, so did the events. By 1916, the Field Day hosted two bands, two
ball games, a Boy Scout exhibit and a vaudeville show. Edward Lewis won first
prize for his artfully decorated milk wagon, and Ashland Fire’s Combination Co.
1 was represented by a horse cart drawn by a goat.
That was said to be the peak of the
celebration, but as we all know, life is cyclic. 1918 brought on the war, and
the Field Day was cancelled. In 1919, the Village Improvement Committee became
a separate entity named the Village Improvement Association. Now no longer part
of the Home Study Club, men were allowed as members. New officers were elected
and the work continued. 1924 was a busy Field Day with the usual compliment of
bands, sporting events, and games. September 25th, 1925 was rained
out, moving the event to the following Saturday. It was an ideal day this time
and local names still familiar to us today like Tony Cunis and Walter Shouler
won prizes for 100-yard dashes and 3-legged races.
1926 was another
year for inclement weather forcing the cancellation of all outdoor activities.
A clambake for 150 people was moved to hall of the GAR (Grand Army of the
Republic), and a movie was shown at Town Hall. The last meeting of the
committee was held in 1928, but there was no Field Day that year. The local
paper commented that “Evidently Ashland is to have no Labor Day celebration of
any kind this year”. The committee appears to have vanished after that, and
along with it Ashland’s Field Day, until the ‘80s. Now it’s Ashland Day. Life
is truly a cycle, but I hope we can stay on top of it for a while!
Sources: Ashland Advertiser,
Ashland Historical Society, and Kay Powers.
Steve Leacu for Ashland