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Two very young dancers delight the crowd at the Festival, October 1999
Two of the youngest dancers delight the crowd at the 38th Festival, October 3, 1998. Photo: Peter MacDonald

Festival of the Hills (Conway)

In the hills of western Massachusetts, eighty-five years ago, on July 3rd and 5th, 1915, the people of Conway, Massachusetts, held a "Pageant of Patriotism in honor of Independence Day and the 100 years of peace between the United States and Great Britain." That event, so long ago, was the inspiration for the revival of a Conway festival in 1962.

The renewed event, held to generate funds for Conway's bicentennial in 1967, featured displays of works by local artists, round and square dancing, and smorgasbord dinners. In addition to highlighting local painters and craftspeople, the Conway event soon utilized the talents of Conway's dancers, singers, musicians and actors. The Hill Town Talent Show debuted in 1964, and in its various forms since then -- skits, one-act plays, stand-up comics, instrumental and vocal virtuosi -- has become an eagerly anticipated Festival event. In the years since 1964, a 10K road race and parade have been added to the Festival. Proceeds from the present-day Festival go into a Conway Student Scholarship Fund; over the years, $30,000 has been awarded to graduating Conway High seniors.

The Conway Festival of the Hills marked its 38th anniversary with its October 3, 1999 event. Hundreds of people lined Main Street, the town's historic district, to watch the parade and enjoy food, fun, and music. In addition to arts, crafts, road race, parade, and music, a replica of the old Conway Electric Trolley took loads of the curious on a 30-minute trip along the history-filled roads and ways of the town. There were the perennial log-splitting, pumpkin-stacking, and skill-tossing contests, as well as demonstrations of wool spinning, oxen driving, bee keeping, and sustainable agriculture.

Project documentation comprises a history of the event, 15 8 x 10 black-and-white photographs, news clippings, and programs from 1991 - 1999.

Originally submitted by: John W. Olver, Representative (1st District).



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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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