GREAT VALLEY — A summertime tradition of long ago was brought back to the town of Great Valley this past weekend as residents, former residents, friends and neighbors celebrated the town’s bicentennial with a parade and Old Home Days.
At noon Saturday, an hour-long parade with more than 50 units began from the firemen’s campgrounds on Klawitter Road and proceeded to the grounds of the Great Valley Volunteer Fire Company on Depot Street where family events were underway.
The parade was complete with floats, marching units, fire trucks, rescue vehicles, horses, heavy equipment, wagons, old cars, and candy thrown to the children. Along with her court, Bicentennial Queen Brooke Eddy reigned over the festivities, and 100-year old Shirley Lindell rode in the parade as an honored guest.
One eye-popper was an antique Case steam tractor that thrilled everyone with its shrill steam whistle as it passed by. A handsome pair of horses pulling a red stage coach from The Crosspatch Stage Line also turned heads, as did Pumpkinville’s train.
Just like the old days, local children decorated their bikes with ribbons to ride in the parade. Several locals drove their vintage tractors in the parade and local farm families brought some of their animals on floats for all to see including calves, sheep, ducks and chickens.
One of the highlights of the parade was The Hitmen Brass Band from the Rochester area with their sassy-style and humorous routine. Other musical units included The Buffalo Five band, 23 Skidoo with their Dixieland music, and the Blue Mule Band. Even the Shriners go-cart and motorcycle unit from Gowanda was there to entertain the crowd.
In addition to the parade, there was food, fun and entertainment for the entire family including live music and other entertainment. Kids enjoyed a bounce house, a dunk tank, a waterslide, and fire truck demonstrations in the kid’s zone, sponsored by the Great Valley Fire Company. A street dance began at 7 p.m. with live music by Wild Card, and the day’s activities ended with a fireworks display sponsored by the fire company.
The day was a time of reminiscence for old friends and neighbors. One woman was in the area for her high school reunion in Ellicottville and she decided to come to the bicentennial event to see what it was all about.
Jennette Kent and her husband, Gregory, were in attendance at the bicentennial parade.
She remembers the parades from when her children were small and they used to have the “Old Home Days” every summer, along with a carnival and a parade with bands.
“That’s when marching bands were popular and every high school had one. It was at least 30 years ago,” Jennette said. “I think a lot of the younger kids didn’t realize that Great Valley used to have this event every year.”
Gregory’s family has lived in Great Valley for a long, long time. As a kid, he remembers his grandfather pulling with horses at the horse pulls held at the Old Home Days.
Former resident Ramona Pierce Dineen said she used to live in Great Valley and she just had to come and see the parade and enjoy the Old Home Days weekend. “For little, old Great Valley, it was wonderful,“ she said. “I remember when they used to have Old Home Week and the firemen would have a nice parade.”
According to Great Valley historian Marilyn Eddy Siperek, who serves as Bicentennial chairperson, Great Valley Old Home Days started in 1968 for the town’s 150th anniversary, and the town’s last Old Home days celebration and parade was held in the early 1990s. She said the last parade in the town was in 1993 when Great Valley quietly celebrated its 175th anniversary.
The weekend continued Sunday with a self-driving tour of Willoughby that began at the old McNamara farm on Humphrey Road. The next stop included an interior tour of the Italianate-style house previously occupied by the Brown, Ehman and Gelen families located across from Berry Patch. Next, was a visit to three historic buildings remaining in the business district of Willoughby including the Old Willoughby Cheese Factory, old store and views of the old Willoughby School. The Willoughby Cemetery was next on the list where Mark Rust answered questions and told a story or two about the inhabitants. The tour ended at the “Farming Now and Then” event at the Snow Brook Farm.
Previous bicentennial events have included the “Pioneer Tea” and “Town’s Birthday Party” held April 15 at the Evergreen Tea Room. “The Great Gatsby Costume Party” took place May 19 at the town hall. On June 29, the Great Valley Airport and Katy’s Fly-In Restaurant hosted the “Planes and Poodle Skirts Party,” and there was a “Vintage Aircraft Fly-In” all that weekend.
The final bicentennial event will be Aug. 5 when the Kill Buck Community Picnic will be held at the Kill Buck Firemen’s Park. Hot dogs, salads and water will be provided. People should feel free to bring other non-alcoholic beverages. Local songstress Sally Marsh will be performing and also donating a quilt to be raffled off. Family games and activities will be offered, and attendees will have the opportunity to vote on a park name.
(Contact reporter Deb Everts at firstname.lastname@example.org.)