, Newburyport, MA

June 28, 2013

A community gathering

Block Party brings young, old together to celebrate Amesbury Days

By Jim Sullivan

---- — A little taste of the Hawaiian Islands came to Carriagetown last night in the form of the 15th annual Amesbury Days block party that kicks off Amesbury Days.

“It’s been wonderful,” Amesbury Chamber of Commerce executive director Melissa Lachance said of the block party that took over downtown last night.

“We put a theme together this year of a Hawaiian luau. We have steel drums coming, we have hula dancers coming and we have Hawaiian leis for everybody. We wanted to do a little bit something different this year.”

“I love it,” Amesbury resident Mollie Sydlowski said of the evening’s Hawaiian theme. “I think it is kind of ironic that it is raining, but I like the fact that everyone is wearing the leis and it’s cool to have a theme.”

The block party got Amesbury Days going after the senior cookout that was held in the afternoon. The 2013 Amesbury Days run from Thursday through Sunday evening, ending with a bang on the Fourth of July.

There will be park activities, a teddy bear parade and an art expo in City Hall. Friday night will feature a beer fest while Saturday will feature a street fair as well as a farmers market. Sunday will showcase a car show downtown; and it will all end a few days later with fireworks on the Fourth of July.

“What this event is about is us coming together as a community and spending some time together and having some fun. And it helps to showcase a really wonderful downtown,” said Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer. “We hope Mother Nature is kind to us this weekend.”

Normally a longer event, this year’s Amesbury Days was shortened to four days.

“One of the things we did this year was, we consolidated it down to four days because we wanted quality, not quantity,” said Kezer. “Now it is one weekend with lots of great activities.”

City Council President Anne Ferguson, dressed in a grass skirt, was perched over a dunk tank, a target for people who were throwing balls to dunk her, all for a good time.

“It’s a little hard to get back up when you’re all wet,” said Ferguson. “But I did it. I just hope I don’t have to do it too many times.”

Jean Ballard, 76, has lived in Amesbury all her life and said that she has been going to Amesbury Days every year since they started.

“I think meeting new people and seeing the townspeople come together (is a highlight),” said Ballard. “I like the music.”

Providing some of that music was Jimmy Callahan of the band Deep Keel. Although an Amesbury native himself, this was Callahan’s first time playing the Amesbury block party.

“It’s awesome. We’re doing this rain or shine for the people of Amesbury,” said the keyboard player and vocalist. “We love to play music and we are having a good time just playing for everyone, right now.”

Steve Qwinn, 27, echoed Ballard’s comments, saying he has been coming to Amesbury Days all of his life as well and that it is the sense of community that brings him out year after year.

“It’s something that is unique to this town,” said Qwinn. “I know that every town has their own thing. But Amesbury does their own unique thing. It’s always been a part of summer to take part in Amesbury Days. It’s just what I’m used to, it’s what I know. It wouldn’t be summer without it as far as I’m concerned. Well, it would still be summer but not as good.”

Pastor of the Main Street Congregational Church, the Rev. Joan Macpherson was happy her church could host a number of vendors and musicians on its lawn once again.

“I’m delighted that we can share our property to invite the community to come out and build community together because that’s what we’re all about,” said Macpherson. “We’re downtown and we have the space and we’re about celebrating the community. So, we’re doing it.”