Oxford celebrates its 200th birthday

OXFORD – You only need to drive by the historic bank building that now houses the Oxford Village and Town Offices to know something is going on in town.

Organizers of this year’s bicentennial festivities have looked to the past for inspiration as they set about the task of celebrating this historic milestone.

The building, draped in patriotic red-white-and-blue bunting, looks much as it did 100 years ago for Oxford’s Centennial Celebration. The large flag adorning the western side of the building is the actual flag that hung over Main Street (then called State Street) for the centennial.

But don’t think that a few decorations are the extent of the celebration. Much more is in store for residents and visitors this weekend as Oxford celebrates its 200th birthday. Community leaders and organizations have been working diligently to plan a host of exciting things to see and do for the whole family.

According to Village of Oxford Mayor Terry Stark, the goal for the event was three-fold. “Our goal was to celebrate the long history of Oxford and to educate people, especially young people, on our heritage and help them understand that they have a responsibility to preserve it. We also wanted to plan events and activities that people would find attractive,” said Stark.

The mayor believes that the village has succeeded in these goals. “The Bicentennial Celebration will be good for the community, good for residents and good for anyone who is interested in attending.”

The weekend’s events kick off at 5 p.m. tonight with an outdoor Block Party at the American Legion complete with music, food and dancing. The Oxford Blackhawks Alumni Association Ice Breaker will follow at 7 p.m. inside at the same venue.

In honor of the bicentennial, the Oxford Fire Department has added an exciting twist on their 7:30 p.m. Bingo game: Enthusiasts will have a chance at a guaranteed $1,000 payout.

Perhaps the most anticipated event of the weekend is the Bicentennial Parade at 10 a.m. Saturday. Organized by the Oxford Lions Club, the parade will present a “flowing 200 year history of Oxford.” Each of the more than 20 floats will represent a theme from one of four 50-year blocks of time between 1808 and 2008 and will be grouped accordingly.

The parade route will trace a path from the Oxford High School to LaFayette Park at the village’s center where emcee Tom Emerson will announce each float as it passes before continuing across the river to end behind the Oxford Middle School.

The American Legion Color Guard will lower the flag at LaFayette Park as the parade arrives and raise one provided by Lt. Col. Matthew Redding, Commander of the 626th Brigade Support Battalion, 101st Airborne for the occasion. Redding provided the flag, which was flown over Camp Stryker near Baghdad, as an expression of appreciation for the Oxford Troop Support Program in honor of the bicentennial.

Led by Grand Marshall Bud Mohr, the parade will include themed floats sponsored by a number of local community organizations, churches, businesses and school groups. Costumed historical figures, Native American dancers, local officials and an impressive array of fire vehicles, classic and modern automobiles as well as farm machinery will join them along the route.

The Bicentennial Ceremony will take place immediately following the parade with speeches by local dignitaries on the steps of the Middle School.

To help entice spectators to follow the parade to the ceremony, event organizers have added a financial incentive. Five lucky winners will walk away with $200 in honor of Oxford’s 200th birthday. Tickets will be handed out along the parade route and a drawing will follow on the steps following the ceremony.

The parade marks the beginning of a host of other activities that will take place throughout the afternoon at LaFayette Park, Fort Hill Park and around town. A musical performance by the Dixieland Band, a chicken barbecue sponsored by St. Joseph’s Church and a self-guided walking tour of Oxford’s historic homes organized by the Oxford Rotary are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Fort Hill Park will be the site of a civil war encampment, horse & wagon rides and Oxford Memorial Library’s Kids Fair from noon to 4 p.m. complete with carnival games, information booths, crafts and a “bounce on the park.”

Across town, the 2008-2009 Chenango County Dairy Princess, Katy Kammeren, will be holding court at LaFayette Park. Visitors to the park will also get a chance to see the Mother Earth Native American teepee

The Oxford Fire Department will conduct a variety of educational (and entertaining) demonstrations throughout the day. Spectators will have the chance to witness an airboat in action, experience what it’s like to be inside a tornado and watch the fire hose “push ball” competition at 3 p.m.

Not all of the afternoon’s events will take place downtown. Visitors won’t want to miss the Visit Our Vets! Cruise in & Car Show at the New York State Vets’ Home. Parade spectators will have a sneak peak at the cars that will be on display as many will participate in the parade.

The celebration will continue into the evening with a Community Dance from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Oxford Fire Station. Admission for the dance, which includes musical entertainment provided by Bruce Beadle, will be $5 per person.

Saturday’s bicentennial events will come to an explosive finish just after dark with a fireworks display behind Oxford Middle School.

The bicentennial celebration itself will draw to a close on Sunday with an all-you-can-eat breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. at the American Legion, a 10 a.m. “Homecoming Celebration” worship service at the United Methodist Church and a 7 p.m. concert by Seamus Kennedy at 6 On The Square.

Visit the Oxford website for more information on any of the events listed above at www.oxfordny.com.

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