A flag once flown over the State House in Concord was raised at Wicwas Grange Saturday at its open house. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — The Lake Wicwas Grange celebrated National Grange Month with an open house Saturday afternoon, at which a new American flag which has flown over the New Hampshire State House and was presented to the Grange by state Sen. Jeanie Forrester. It was raised in an opening ceremony.
The organization also presented the Granger of the Year and the Citizen of the Year awards. Jeanne Lowrey, a life-long resident of Meredith Center who has been a member of the Grange for six years, was named Granger of the Year for her role in making sure that the Grange hall is always in tip-top condition and that the flowers on the grounds are always taken care of.
Citizen of the Year award was presented to Adam Hirshan, publisher of The Laconia Daily Sun, who, according to Steve Durand, Grange master and co-chair of Meredith's 250th Committee, donated $25,000 in in-kind services to the committee which will help it publish a history of Meredith, including the Grange, for its 2018 celebration.
"He went above and beyond to help us," said Durand, who said that the history of the town is being prepared in cooperation with the Meredith Historical Society and will sell for around $39 when it is published.
Ed Engler, founder and former publisher of the Daily Sun, accepted the award on behalf of Hirshan, who as out of town on a family vacation over the weekend and unable to attend the ceremony.
There were displays by Meredith Center Maple, DD Forge, Gouin Farmstand and the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of New Hampshire. Nicholas Durand, owner of DD Forge, demonstrated his blacksmithing skills throughout the day and later in the evening served as DJ at a sock hop at the Grange.
Also on display was a history of the national Grange, which was established in 1867 as a fraternal organization fostering mutual cooperation to further the economic fortunes and civic interests of rural, farming communities. Known as the National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, its membership topped 850,000 within a decade and, by the turn of the century, the movement had spawned numerous consumer cooperatives as well as contributed to the regulation of railroads and grain elevators and the introduction of the cooperative extension service, farm credit system and rural free mail delivery.
Also featured in a display was the Grange dictionary project, which distributes more than 300 dictionaries each year to third-grade pupils at nine public and three private schools in the Lakes Region.
The Wicwas Lake Grange was established in 1901. The Grange Hall in Meredith Center was built in 1925 and, after burning to the ground, was rebuilt a year later. Durand said that in New Hampshire Granges were instrumental in bringing power and police to rural towns with the formation of both New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and the New Hampshire State Police.
The local Grange was revived by residents of the Meredith Center area starting in 2010 with a membership drive which led to repairs and renovations to the historic building and has made the Wicwas Grange the largest in the state with nearly 100 members.
Linda Phelps, who first joined the Grange as a 14-year-old in 1967, recalled that her aunt Irene Greenleaf was master of the Wicwas Grange, who worked hard over the years to help keep the organization running.
She said she remembers many weddings, anniversaries and reunions as well as baby showers being held at the Grange hall and was among those who went around the neighborhood leaving letters of invitation to the 2010 meeting which led to the revival of the local Grange.
She is also the master of the Baker River Grange in Rumney, which she said is currently conducting a membership drive with the hope that it can revive the organization in that community.
Winners of the dance-off competition held Saturday night were Herb and Karen Vadney, who won a gift certificate to Hart's Turkey Farm; Jack and Vicki Carty, who won a prize from Louis' Pizza; and Paul Fielders and Rosemary Mellon, who won a prize from the Waterfall Cafe.
Nicholas Durand displayed his blacksmithing skills at an open house celebrating National Grange Month which was held at Saturday at the Wicwas Lake Grange in Meredith Center. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Jeanne Lowrey was honored as Grange Member of the Year at an open house held at the Lake Wicwas Grange Saturday. She was presented with the award and flowers by Steve Durand, Grange master. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)