September 22, 2011

Street Pageant

Since ancient times historical pageants have provided entertainment, education, and community. Here in New London, even the nation's 1976 bicentennial failed to match the elaborate production of the town's Sesquicentennial Celebration of 1929. Role-players, horses, and oxen dramatized the town's early settlement and later growth. Seven "episodes" were acted out on a hilltop field under the banner of "Hills Against the Sky." The logistics alone were impressive: a first aid tent was erected on the site; exhibits were displayed at Assembly Hall; questions could be directed to the Information Bureau at Post Office Square (i.e. old Four Corners); a Housing Committee lodged visitors at local hotels and guest houses. Altogether, the pageant's organization required the services of nearly one hundred volunteers.

A scene from The Hills Against the Sky (August 1929)

In the same tradition, albeit on a smaller scale, New London's historical society last Saturday presented a walking tour of Main Street—complete with actors portraying a governor's wife, a Grange master, a pair of young entrepreneurs, a long-term resident of the Inn, and a town librarian and photographer's assistant. Each related stories about the earlier life and times of New London.

A group visits Colby Academy's lower campus (now Sargent Common)

Those performances were supplemented by guide-narrators, who imparted local lore on subjects ranging from town halls to pharmacies to college dorms. All of those facts, figures, anecdotes, and images were drawn from published histories and from our collections; much of the research and writing was conducted here at the Archives.

If you attended the sold-out tour and would like to follow up on something you heard along the way, please contact us. You may also review the tour's historic images at our online gallery. And if you missed the tour, watch for another one next year, as the historical society plans to move the pageant stage farther down the street.