story & photo
by Larry Greene
People in the City of Norwich are gearing up for some major celebrations this summer. On Saturday, January 10th, at the Dime Bank Community Room, Norwich, volunteers gathered to learn about the events planned for the Semiseptcentennial Celebrations in honor of Norwich’s 350th birthday, the festivities will feature many historic highlights. Norwich is one of America’s oldest non-indigenous communities.
Evelyn Bessette, Event Chairperson for the past three-and-a-half years, described how plans for the celebrations expanded from ten days to a five week schedule of events. “It took on a life of its own,” she said. “The more the word got out, the more other organizations volunteered to be involved.” Evelyn, was excited about the recent turnout during the volunteer drive. “I think this is a good start,” she said. “We hope to get 350 volunteers.”
Beginning June 6, the first event of the celebrations will be a re-enactment of the deed signing when colonists obtained land from the Mohegan Indians. Living plays, concerts and historic tours will be held at various locations throughout Norwich. Most events will be held in the downtown area or in the waterfront Howard T. Brown Park. Fireworks, laser shows and tall ship tours are all on the agenda.
Bernadette Grecki, co-chair for publicity, said there will be regular updates on the celebrations website at www.NorwichCT350.com. “Many of the events will be free to the public,” she said, “but there will be a charge for tours of the tall ships.”
Brigadaire General Dan McGuire (ret.) is overseeing the visit of the tall ships. “There will be a Parade of Sails on the Thames River from the Gold Star Bridge in New London to the Norwich Harbor,” he said. The ships will reflect Norwich’s post-Revolutionary War history as a world-class shipping port. “All the ships are unique and there will be classes conducted on the ships demonstrating what they do,” said Dan.
Ruth Ouimet, Norwich, was one of the dozens attending the volunteer drive. “I came here to see what opportunities there were,” she said. “I’ve always lived in the area and this is a way to learn more about the rich history this area has to offer.”
Michigan transplant, Charles Shaw, loves old homes and was volunteering to be part of the historic home tours. “I’ve always liked New England and this is a good way to be part of the community,” he said. Charles describes himself as a history buff with ancestors from southern New England.
Celebration memorabilia is being sold to help raise money to fund the events. A collectable medallion can be purchased for $10 at the Norwich Tourism Office, Backus Hospital Gift Shop, City Clerk’s Office, Otis Library and at the various events. Skateboards, sweatshirts and other items are also available. Rose City Wine is available at Town Liquor, Discount Liquors, Universal Liquors and Bean Hill Package Store.