Yankee Homecoming chairman plans new events

Paul Swindlehurst is this year’s chairman of Yankee Homecoming.BRYAN EATON/Staff Photo

NEWBURYPORT — Yankee Homecoming always offers plenty of activities, but under new chairman Paul Swindlehurst, several new events are being planned for this year’s edition, July 30-Aug. 7.

There will be a kayak and paddleboard river race on Saturday, July 30. Entrants will start at Cashman Park and race around Ram Island and Carr Island before returning to Cashman. The event begins about 8:30 a.m., and the course is about 2.6 miles.

Also, there will be an Inn Street Artisans Revival throughout the week. Local artists, healers and creative businesses will join local musicians in an effort to serve as a “revival of an arts and cultural base.”

“We want to give local people an opportunity to participate in a very visible area,” said Swindlehurst. It is being organized by photographer and businessman John Brown.

Also, part of Olde Fashioned Sunday will offer ’50s music and activities, with hopefully ’50s outfits.

“We’ll have the traditional things, but we’ll introduce these new events also,” said Swindlehurst, who has been a committee volunteer in past years. “We’re looking forward to a fun week.”

Swindlehurst, a local resident for about a half-dozen years, is an executive and fundraiser for a nonprofit, Community Resources for Justice, based in Boston.

Active in volunteer organizations, he has served as president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Executives. He said he and his wife moved to Newburyport in part to get involved in community events.

“We were in Stoneham, and came up often for dinner or to go to Plum Island,” said Swindlehurst, who chaired Olde Fashioned Sunday in 2014. “We liked the community so much we put our house on the market and ended up moving here.

“There are so many people willing to volunteer in this community, and that’s important. Yankee Homecoming depends on volunteers.”

Two longtime volunteers who have actually run the event are still active.

Jason Lacroix will chair the committee on “Evening Concerts on the Waterfront,” and Jennifer Lacroix is co-chair (with Sandy Barnes) of the Market Square Craft Show.

Future meetings will be at the Starboard Galley. Business meetings run from 7 to 8 p.m. sharp. Upcoming meetings are June 14, July 12 and July 26.

“We want newcomers to be comfortable and be able to identify the activity they want to be involved in,” Swindlehurst said.

This will be the 59th year of the event.

The story goes that community leaders including George Cashman and George Lawler gathered almost 60 years ago in an effort to develop an event that would bring tourists into Newburyport.

The city was not as prosperous as it is now, and municipal leaders felt parades and free activities would help enliven the summer weeks. Also, it would give Newburyporters who had moved away a reason to return.

The event, which has been highlighted by free fireworks on the river and an energetic parade down High Street, proved popular.

Now thousands come to the city early each August, and just about everything is still free.

The children’s talent showcase is Aug. 1, as is the golf tournament, and Aug. 2 is Market Square Day. The Senior King and Queen will be crowned on Aug. 3, and on Aug. 4, the Coast Guard opens its doors for tours of the station.

Those with a competitive spirit aren’t left out. Thousands of runners will pound the pavement on local streets on Tuesday, Aug. 2, for Yankee Homecoming’s annual 10-mile/5K road race.

The week draws to a close on Saturday night, Aug. 6, with the annual fireworks display, and the finale, the Yankee Homecoming Parade, will close out the week on Aug. 7.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, several fundraisers are held to raise money to fund all of the activities and programs.

For devoted anglers, the 11th Annual Yankee Homecoming Striper Tournament will be held on Saturday, June 18, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ring’s Island Marina in Salisbury. It’s open to everyone with a fishing pole and the $40 per fisherman ($25 per junior) price of admission. Cash prizes are awarded for the longest stripers caught. Sponsored by the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, proceeds benefit the fireworks show.

July 29 brings the High School Battle of the Bands to the Waterfront Stage from 5 to 9 p.m., and the Yankee Homecoming Brewfest bubbles up the evening of July 30, in the waterfront tent, where from 5 to 9 p.m., 30 of the finest craft brews will be on site for sampling.

For more information, tickets and a complete schedule of events, visit http://www.yankeehomecoming.com.

Swindlehurst said the organizing team is still looking for volunteers. 

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