WESTFIELD – 570 residents filled out a survey in January on how best to observe Westfield’s 350th anniversary. The official date of Westfield’s incorporation was May 19, 1669, which makes 2019 the year of celebration. To the question of whether it is important to celebrate the anniversary, 77% of respondents said that it is very important.
The survey was created by the steering committee formed to explore ways to recognize this milestone, headed by Amber Danahey, the city’s community outreach coordinator and community development director Peter Miller, who said their first order of business was to seek community input.
When asked what kinds of events residents would attend, a parade came in number one at 64%. Also high on the list were a musical performance by a local artist at 58% and a community block party at 47%, which tied with an old-fashioned community picnic and field day. Also tied were a youth-focused event and historical Westfield stories at 43% of respondents. 41% said they would like the celebration to feature historical re-enactments, and 38%, a visual arts show. 18% said they would attend a celebration ball, and 17% said they would participate in a bicycle race.
When asked what time of year the city should plan for the celebration, 64% chose May, the month the city was incorporated. July came in second at 36%, June third at 23%, and September at 13%.
Mayor Brian P. Sullivan said, “It would be nice to celebrate the 350th throughout the year in order to give the people a chance to participate in the festivities. It will also give the committee a chance to highlight the many different parts of the city with long histories.”
Another question on the survey asked what project or contest would be of most interest to people. A photography project was the most popular on the list, scoring 53%. A bound book of community memoirs received 37% of the votes, and a video documentary 36%. Also receiving votes were a youth essay contest (22%) and a multi-generational oral history project (20%).
When asked how people would want to get involved, 55% said they would help with event planning, 35% with fundraising, 32% with historic research, 17% with marketing, and 13% with technology.
There are currently 18 steering committee members, and the group will be looking to expand as sub-committees are formed and ideas are put into action.
“We don’t have any definite plans yet, and are still in the process of forming subcommittees. I will be collecting names of anyone who is interested so that when the time comes, we can match their interest with what committees are available,” Danahey said.
The work of the committee became official on Thursday, when the City Council voted on a resolution for the acknowledgement and recognition of the 350th Anniversary of Incorporation of the City of Westfield. Ward 4 Councilor Mary O’Connell called it a “great, great committee,” saying Danahey and Miller were “perfect for it.”
Plans for the celebration may also be followed on a new Facebook page at Westfield 350.