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Crowd pleasers

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People choose to live in different communities for a variety of reasons.

Some of the most important aspects of finding a place to call home include good schools, reliable municipal services and stable property values. These all factor into decisions about where to plant roots and raise families.

But let’s not overlook the value of just having fun. To be able to plan and attend enjoyable community events can make a huge difference in where we live.

Two big events over the weekend drew crowds in different communities, and there is no doubt they created a lot of lasting memories.

The first one took place in Thompson Park in the city of Watertown. On Friday night, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and members of the City Council unveiled a sign reading “Watertown’s Area 51” in the park.

An urban legend has been affiliated with Thompson Park since it opened in 1905. An area inside the park is called the vortex, and stories have been told of people disappearing momentarily and then reappearing again, possibly entering time warps.

The Area 51 designation has unique connotations. Anyone knowledgeable about the history of UFOs understands that Area 51 refers to the government facility in Nevada where alien spacecraft were believed to have been observed.

It turned out that it was actually employed by the CIA to test airplanes used for spying. Another nickname of Area 51 is Watertown, named as a tribute to Allen W. Dulles. The one-time CIA director was born in Watertown and helped develop the aircraft research programs at Area 51.

Adding to the mystique of the event in Thompson Park was the fact that we were treated to a full moon this weekend as well as a partial lunar eclipse Friday night. Mayor Graham came up with the idea of putting up a sign in Thompson Park to pay tribute to the site’s connection to this local lore. It was a very creative way to link bits of history and urban legend, and the event drew at least 250 people.

The other event took place Saturday in Clayton. The second annual Punkin Chunkin Festival attracted many people eager to show off their techniques for hurling pumpkins into the St. Lawrence River and enjoy the barbecue food items offered.

A new feature added to this year’s event was the Chuck Wagon Punkin Chunkin, organized by the Clayton Rotary Club. This allowed children to come up with their own ways of projecting pumpkins into the river.

But it also encouraged the children to raise food for local food pantries. Five teams participated in the Chuck Wagon Punkin Chunkin activity, which resulted in 2,081 pounds of food being donated.

“What happens here is they have fun and help the community,” said Rotary Club President David Neuroth. “Here, they get to go out, gather the goods and see that it makes a difference. They become more involved by doing something physical.”

There were eight teams involved in the regular Punkin Chunkin event. They displayed great creativity in devising trebuchets and catapults used to toss their pumpkins into the water.

Coming up with fun and enjoyable events is a great way to help people identify with their communities. These were but two events throughout the north country this past year that keep residents engaged and entertained. As colder weather approaches, we look forward to seeing what other ideas people develop to keep themselves and others in their communities amused.

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