It’s disappointing that Hopkinton’s first Autumn Festival planned for last weekend had to be canceled. It was the town’s attempt at bringing a fall celebration to the area due to the loss of the popular Swamp Yankee Days.
Swamp Yankee Days was a big celebration sponsored by the Chariho Rotary Club that filled Crandall’s Field in Ashaway every September for the past 20 years with various displays, an antiques market, tractors, cow chip bingo and many vendors.
Swamp Yankee Days in Ashaway was canceled in February when the Rotary found it lacked volunteers to pull the big event together. It had been the club’s major fund-raiser for its scholarship fund and it must have been a hard decision for the organization to make.
Now, the cancellation of the Autumn Festival and Hopkinton’s loss of Swamp Yankee Days to the Washington County Fairgrounds in Richmond has proved to be bittersweet.
The vendors that Hopkinton had hoped to attract to its festival were already committed to the new Richmond Swamp Yankee Days on the following weekend.
A few months after the Rotary announced it was canceling Swamp Yankee Days, Scott Barber, Richmond’s director of public works and chief of the Richmond Carolina Fire District, decided to lead an effort to resurrect the festival at the Fairgrounds.
And in an unfortunate bit of scheduling, the festival in Hopkinton and the new Swamp Yankee Days were scheduled too close together. We can’t blame the vendors who opted to stay with the Swamp Yankee Days because it has a proven track record and will more than likely attract even more people at its new location, offering more potential for commerce.
The new Swamp Yankee Days will offer many of the activities that made the festival so popular, including exhibitions of traditional skills such as corn meal grinding and chair caning, and the popular cow chip bingo. There will also be bluegrass music, old-time fiddlers, Celtic music and rock ’n roll.
It will also offer new activities like a Future Farmers of America woodsman competition, a Frisbee dog demonstration, and an antique tractor pull.
We can only hope that Hopkinton officials will not give up on their Autumn Festival in the future. Rather we hope they work to coordinate the dates so that this can be avoided. The two celebrations can co-exist, but there has to be some breathing room between the two.
Hopkinton Recreation Director Mary Sawyer said, “We felt sad about it, but we do wish them the best. As far as any festivals and Crandall field are concerned, we’ll just have to think long and hard about what will be the right fit for us.”
Perhaps Hopkinton will find that holding its new festival earlier in September will offer warmer weather and more of an appealing opportunity for the vendors it needs.
There is room for everyone.