By Neil Fater
The Andover Townsman
---- — Near perfect weather led to perhaps the most successful Andover Day yet.
Thousands descended on Main Street this past Saturday, as the downtown was closed to traffic for a civic festival that has become one of the most well attended events of the year.
People were able to enjoy a variety of entertainment, with performance stages hosting musical groups at each end of downtown Main Street. A kind of mini Clown Town, with a handful of carnival rides by the amusement company used by the Andona Society, was available to young children in the town’s Olde Andover Village parking lot.
To top it off, 60 artists showed their works in the Park one block off Main Street, as Art in the Park was held on the same day.
“I used to always come [to Bazaar Days] with my daughter when they were younger. It was fun,” said Diane Sherry of Andover Street, who attended Andover Day with her husband of 43 years, Colin. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been. All the kids are older and married now. We said, ‘It will be nice to go and see what it will be like, if it will be like the old days.’”
Bazaar Days was a popular event for several decades, promoting the downtown and its businesses. After it petered out, a new downtown business group, the Andover Business Center Association tried to create a new event, Andover Day.
If anything, Andover Day has become bigger than anything that came before it.
Lady Jayne’s Gourmet Popcorn, one of dozens of food vendors at the event, estimated that it had popped 100 pounds of kernels as of about 3 p.m., and served 350 gallons of their crunchy snack. It was the first day for the new business started by Andover residents Scott and Jo-Anne Gibson, and named after Jo-Anne’s mother.
“This was our kickoff. Our goal was to hit today because we knew there would be 10,000 people here,” said Scott Gibson. “Today’s been an incredible day.”
Because so many people were expected, most new businesses -- or even businesses planning to open soon -- made a point of being there, such as Sense of Wonder, Fisichelli’s Pastry Shop and Mad Maggie’s Ice Cream.
With 129 tents on Main Street representing local businesses and nonprofit organizations, people had a chance to find a new favorite place or hobby. Wess Murphy, executive director of Andover TV was able to tell people about the town’s cable TV station and its studio inside Andover High School’s Collins Center.
“A lot of people don’t know that we exist - or how we exist,” he said. “It’s a good time. Awesome weather.”
Kids carried balloons, kicked apart plastic blocks in the hands of martial arts instructors, and even wowed the crowds with their musical abilities on the stage at the southern end of downtown Main Street.
“We just moved into town and came in to explore and take in some of the local venue,” said new Pilgrim Drive resident Kerry Buckley, as her son Sean had a Batman symbol painted on his cheek. His sisters, Jaden and Ainsley, elected to have a sun and a shooting star painted on their faces, while their cousin Kalli Archambault chose an ice-cream cone.
“It’s such a beautiful day and you get to take in some of the local vendors. It’s nice to get to know the [community],” said Buckley.
Calvin Deyermond split the day helping both the Town Republican Committee and the Veterans Services tables. He said Andover Day provided him a chance to catch up with old acquaintances and make new ones.
“It’s great for me because you get to see a lot of people you haven’t seen in a long time,” said Deyermond. Later he joked, “I’m a newcomer to town - I’ve only been here 66 years. I get to meet a lot of new people who have come, who think Andover is the place to be.”
Politicians made sure they took advantage of the opportunity to meet so many people, with candidates for everything from U.S. Congress to Register of Deeds attending.