Melrosians celebrated history, community, and the unofficial start of fall on Sunday with the 39th annual Victorian Fair.
“It couldn’t be a more perfect day..,” said Lauren Grymek, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, which stages the beloved event each year. “Lots of incredible volunteers, lots of vendors, lots of people giving up their Sunday to be here.”
Many of the businesses with booths along Main Street on Sept. 8 have been part of the fair for decades.
“We love being part of it,” said Maria Haggerty, assistant executive director of the Fitch Home. “It’s just great to see all ages out and about, meeting new faces and reintroducing ourselves to the community again.”
“It’s a great celebration, we like giving back to the community with it,” said Ryan Cassidy, owner of Cassidy Landscaping, which every year provides pumpkins and art supplies for kids to decorate them. “A lot of families love it. It’s why we keep doing it.”
Another favorite tradition is the martial arts demonstration staged by students at the Karate Pro Dojo.
“We’ve been doing it since I was a student, probably like 1991,” said Kevin O’Connor, now the dojo’s owner chief instructor. “It’s a great event, we always get students from it, and a lot of them go on to do it for years and years.
Other longtime participants tried something new this year. For example, Melrose Bank brought in two favorites from Toy Story to take pictures with kids.
“We’ve been here for as long as the Victorian Fair’s been going on, I think we’ve had a booth,” said the bank’s Jessi Eisdorfer. “We decided to bring in the characters, Buzz and Woody. You’ve got a friend in Melrose Bank.”
Follow Your Art has long had a presence at the fair, but this year owner Kris Rodolico used her booth to debut the new Community Studios, the nonprofit incarnation that will open this month, hosting artists, classes, demonstrations, and more.
“The fair’s pretty awesome, there’s a ton of people out here, and the energy is really positive,” Rodolico said. “We’re reintroducing ourselves. There’s a lot of people who don’t know about us yet.”
City officials past and present, were among the participants as well, including Gail Infurna, enjoying her last fair as mayor, but not her last as a Melrosian.
“I certainly hope to be around and stay involved,” Infurna said, adding the weather had cooperated again this year. “It’s all about the weather. It really has played out perfectly. The sun is hot, the shade is cool.”
Former Mayor Robert Dolan, still a resident of Melrose, reflected on the fair and the many other events that have arisen since its beginning.
“Almost every month now Melrose has a different event that people can participate in, from Home for the Holidays to Healthy Melrose,” he told interviewer Julie Nolan on the fair’s center stage. “If anyone ever has an idea, go with it, it might become a great community event.”
Grymek said there’s a reason both longtime Melrosians and newcomers turn out year after year.
“Traditions like this are more and more rare in this busy world,” she said. “Even if you just came down for an hour and had a slice of pizza, you were a part of something.”