Manchester's community and history celebrated on Heritage Day
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Wed., Jun. 12, 2013
Arts, education and Manchester's rich heritage were celebrated on Saturday, June 8, during Heritage Day. The day of events throughout the downtown region kicked off with a morning ceremony at Cheney Hall.
“Heritage Day is the finale to a wonderful week,” said Joyce Hodgson, chair of the Pride in Manchester Committee. The day's festivities capped the 22nd Annual Pride in Manchester Week, which celebrated the downtown area with free family-friendly activities such as concerts, craft shows, live music, social gatherings and historical events.
While this was the 22nd Pride in Manchester Week, Heritage Day's roots go back even further. “In 1914, the Cheney Brothers set aside the day of Saturday, June 13, as Homeland Day, whereas Homeland Day was celebrated to recognize the various ethnic backgrounds of those who emigrated to Manchester to work in the silk mills,” said Deputy Mayor Jay Moran, reading from a proclamation issued by the town to recognize Heritage Day. “Now Homeland Day, now known as Heritage Day, is the final day of Pride in Manchester Week, and began in 1991 as a celebration of our town's diversity.”
During the ceremony, the 2013 Hometown Heroes were honored. This is the third year the Pride in Manchester Committee has honored two residents who volunteer their time and energy to make the town a better place, and in so doing, inspire others to do the same. The first Hometown Hero named was Anne Miller, who was unable to attend the ceremony. Miller is extensively involved in many organizations in town, such as Police Athletic League, MARC, the Manchester Historical Society and Imagine Main Street. She is one of 22 people who founded the Little Theatre of Manchester 53 years ago.
The committee then honored conservationist Doug Smith, the chairman of the Hockanum River Linear Park Committee, who has worked tirelessly to beautify the community by maintaining the greenways along the Hockanum River and Bigelow Brook. The inspiration behind Smith's drive comes from the philosophy of Joseph Tanski, Manchester's town planner during the 1960s, who said: “To preserve things, you need to preserve our greenbelts around our towns and cities to minimize the effects of a sprawl,” Smith said. He took the opportunity to thank the volunteers of the Hockanum River Linear Park Committee, who have worked hard to enact this philosophy.
Guest speaker Jason Scappaticci, coordinator of transitional programs at Manchester Community College and a member of the Board of Education, gave remarks about the future of Manchester. “I believe we can have a future that builds on our strong past of quality education, diversity and shared traditions,” he said.
As a homeowner, Scappaticci explained that he understands the need to keep property values high, and that a strong school system keeps those values high. “Manchester is very fortunate to have many public and private options when it comes to educations,” he said, and highlighted the town's renewed commitment to reinvesting in the town's schools. He also said that the town should be proud of its higher education institution, Manchester Community College, which serves 10,000 students a year and is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“Are you aware that over 40 different languages are spoken in Manchester's public schools?” he said. “That means that children from over 40 different cultures come to our schools everyday, and they learn English. How powerful that is: we are giving these students the ability to achieve their American dream.”
Although Scappaticci has encountered residents who push back against the idea of immigrants in town, he strongly believes that “it is not the color of your skins or one's country of origin that makes you a Manchestorian,” he said. “Rather, it is the culture we share through events and our education.”
Scappaticci also highlighted the traditions that Manchester residents share. Be it going to Shady Glen for a burger or ice cream, watching a sporting event at Manchester High School, seeing a concert at Center Memorial Park or attending the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving morning, “these are the experiences that bind us together,” he said.