By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — After to shrinking to little more than a handful of members, the Wicwas Grange now numbers close to 100 and, as the largest Grange in New Hampshire, will host an open house on Saturday, April 23, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., to celebrate National Grange Month.
The National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry was established in 1867 as a fraternal organization fostering mutual cooperation to further the economic fortunes and civic interests of rural, farming communities. Its motto is "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity." Within a decade membership topped 850,000 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 service, farm credit system and rural free mail delivery,
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. Steve Durand, the president of the Wicwas Lake Grange, 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.
In keeping with the Grange's commitment to "American Values, Hometown Roots," Durand said that the Wicwas Lakes Grange posed the challenge to the businesses, nonprofit organizations and residents of Meredith by contributing the first $250 to the project and pledging to match its donation for the next three years.
Durand said that the open house will begin at 1 p.m. with the presentation of an American flag that has flown over the New Hampshire State House by state Sen. Jeanie Forrester. There will be displays by Meredith Center Maple, DD Forge, Gouin Farmstand and the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of new Hampshire.
In addition, the Grange will feature its 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.
"I love it," said Cookie Boulanger, who recalled one pupil asked if he could give it to his father so he could learn to read, and another who wanted to offer it to his grandfather as a birthday present.
The Grange will also honor both the Granger of the Year and the Citizen of the Year in a ceremony at 2 p.m.
On Saturday evening, the Grange Hall will become a dance hall as Grange hosts a sock hop to the spinnings of DJ Nick. Admission is $5 with no charge for those 12 and younger. Those 12 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.
Sen. Jeanie Forrester presents an American flag in 2013 to Steve Durand, president of the Wicwas Lake Grange, which after flying above the New Hampshire State House graced the Grange Hall in Meredith Center for several years. (Courtesy photo)
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