It seems a debate has been sparked by the Community Day put on by the Bicentennial Committee. An observation by an attendee of this event was that it was “the greatest event ever held in Red Hook”, which prompted Charlie Rubin to write a letter to this newspaper proffering his opinion that this distinction actually belonged to the “monster clambake” put on by Mr. Robert Chanler in 1906.
I would offer my own opinion that “the greatest event ever held in Red Hook” is, by the definition of history, an evolving thing, subject to the march of time.
I would submit that most of the attendees of the recent Community Day were not around to witness or partake of the clambake event, and so cannot personally compare the two, but if we examine the parameters of each, the accolade could easily be conferred upon the event put on by the preservers/chroniclers of Red Hook’s history, so assiduously working to bring enlightenment and entertainment to the public.
Firstly, let us examine the motivation of the folks who put on the two events. Mr. Chanler had his sights set on political office and was hoping to garner as many votes as possible by his event, which “won him the election and kept him in the legislature for six years”. Though indisputably generous, he was also, quite obviously, a man of means, who could afford to underwrite his feast, offering free food, drink, and entertainment to the masses. The Community Day was put on by ordinary citizens with a desire to pay homage to the roots of this community and the hard-working people who built it, by employing the same means that their forebears did: hard work, cooperation among neighbors, long hours (months) of planning and diligent fundraising, working hard to recruit people in the community to give of their time and expertise to mount the event.
Notable for his brainpower, creativity, generosity, diligence, determination, and longtime dedication to the community is Larry Thetford, Chairman of the event, who, with his great team of over 100 volunteers, put it all together and made it run smoothly. Imagine coordinating all that! Their goal was to honor the past citizens, while educating and entertaining the present ones, which they did quite stunningly. The Puppet Parade was a terrific highlight of the event, bringing together the community-at-large, who fabricated and bore the creations with great pride. A highly-regarded local author and historian asked me with great excitement, “Did you see me in the parade?”, and a friend asked me with equal excitement if I had seen her young daughter in it, commenting that it was wonderful how they found a way to include whoever in the community wanted to participate.
So, while Mr. Chanler’s clambake drew 3,000, Community Day drew 3,500, and the pride in it all can be shared by organizers, exhibitors/participants, and attendees alike, rather than just one individual, who cemented his place in history by his undertaking, which, after all, was politically motivated! You can be the judge of which was “greater”, especially in its impact on the community.