Celebrate Southampton returns Saturday with music, food and festivities


Staff Writer

Published: 08-09-2023 3:12 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Established almost 250 years ago, the small town of Southampton has plenty to commemorate at its annual Celebrate Southampton event this Friday and Saturday.

Each year, friends, neighbors and visitors come together for food, music, games, booths and other activities in the “fun-filled family event” free to the public, according to Tammy Walunas, president of the Southampton Historical Society (SHS), which sponsors the event.

The celebration stems from “Old Home Day,” a three-day event established all the way back in 1897 that featured a parade, homecoming dinner, concerts and exhibits at Conant Park.

“It was a time when sons and daughters of old Southampton returned to their hometown and celebrated,” said Walunas in an email. She explained that the event was a way of remembering town happenings throughout the year, including marriages, deaths, births, school leaders and municipal officials.

But in 1996, when nobody stepped up to lead it, the event stopped happening.

That is, until 2019 when Walunas, along with the SHS Secretary Becky Nimmons, rekindled the event now known as Celebrate Southampton.

It began as a one-day event that included a memory hour, parade, picnic and bake-off, and eventually grew to take place over the course of two days. Last year, the celebration drew over 510 people.

This year’s festivities were planned by Walunas, Nimmons and SHS Treasurer Candy Iwanicki, who began organizing in January and won’t stop until the day after the event.

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“There are many things to plan out and have in order to get this day to run smoothly,” said Walunas.

To kick off Celebration Southampton 2023, a grab-n-go dinner — ham, baked beans, potato salad, summer veggie salad, and a cookie, all for $12 — will be held at the First Congregations Church of Southampton from 5-6:30 p.m. on Friday.

Then, at 7 p.m. a free concert will take place at the Conant Park Pavilion, where attendees are encouraged to bring their meals and enjoy the performance.

Saturday will be “packed with activities,” according to Walunas.

At 10 a.m., a presentation called “David Parsons and his Kinfolk” will take place at the church. Festivities will then return to the Conant Park Pavilion at 11:30 a.m. for the town picnic, where attendees can bring their own lunch or purchase a meal from two food trucks.

At 12:30 p.m., the “Citizen of the Year” award will be presented and a group photo will be taken.

The rest of the day will be full of activities complete with a bounce house, barnyard animals, a balloonist, music, raffles, free popsicles and a dunk tank.

Thirty local craft vendors, along with eight town organizations, will also have booths set up throughout the day.

Walunas said student and adult volunteers are needed for Saturday’s event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., particularly for setup and takedown. Those interested can reached out to tamwalunas@gmail.com.

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com or on Twitter @MaddieFabian.]]>