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Local Man Tries to Resurrect Bunker Hill Day Carnival

Local man tries to bring the carnival back after a 38 year hiatus.

Each year on the Sunday closest to June 17, Charlestown closes its borders and celebrates Bunker Hill Day, commemorating the Revolutionary War battle that colonists lost, but fought so valiantly that they emboldened other colonies and gave the British pause. It was a pivotal point in the American Revolution, and world history.

Residents fly their Bunker Hill flags, their Gadsden (Don’t Tread On Me) flags, or different regimental flags. People line the streets and throw parties on the parade route, but it’s all over in a day. 

It didn’t used to be that way. In fact, Charlestown used to call it “Parade Week,” and according to long-time Charlestown resident Patty Driscoll Gould, “It was the official start of summer."

"Others had Memorial Day," Gould said. "We had Bunker Hill Day as our start of summer. We even got new parade outfits!” 

The parade lasted a day, but the carnival lasted a week, and Townies of a certain age all have carnival stories to tell, but no one under 40 has any first-hand memories of it at all.

The last carnival was in 1974, when, on Sunday, June 16, a 20-year-old Cambridge woman named MaryBeth Pero was killed and 19 others were seriously injured in an accident on a ride called the Hurricane. Charlestown held the parade the following year, but there would be no more carnivals.

Sean Boyle, an earnest 20-year-old student and fourth-generation townie, grew up hearing stories about the carnival from his father, uncles, aunts, and neighbors, but he never got to attend one.

Boyle and some of his friends have formed a group called The Townie Association. They’ve sought input from neighborhood groups, contacted vendors and sponsors, scouted locations, enlisted support from the community, appealed to the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, and even Mayor Menino’s office in an effort to bring the carnival back to Bunker Hill Day celebrations.

“We're doing this because it’s what my generation wants—the younger generation who never got to experience our very own carnival, want this to happen. At all the safety and parade committee meetings, we were constantly told if you want something to happen, then make it happen. So that's what we are doing.”

Boyle enjoys the parade, but he feels that it is “geared more toward the older generation.”  

The Townie Association is trying to resurrect the carnival to give back to the community where its members live, work, and go to school. The group wants to give younger townies the kind of experiences that his parents’ generation cherish.

In a follow-up email Boyle wrote: “Another reason is because it would be an awesome way to surprise the older generation Townies. Think of their faces when this carnival happens; the memories of their childhood will come back to life. It would also be an awesome reason  for Townies who no longer live in Charlestown to come back. It will reconnect people to their hometown.”

Lisa McGoff Collins February 10, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Go for it sean, it was so much fun..and what a perfect way to tie the Parade week all together, maybe a way to make a little bit of money for the Town. I like the idea>>
Tina Hamilton February 10, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Was this the carnival that was once in Hayes square? Or are we talking about the one that was down schraffts? Either or, I think its a great idea!
Charlestown Working Theater February 10, 2012 at 01:25 PM
GREAT idea!!
Dennis Moore February 10, 2012 at 02:07 PM
It all started @ the parking lot across from Hood's and then moved to the Neck. And yes we should try to bring back the happier times of our days in CHARLESTOWN. I say "GO FOR IT" !!! :)
Sean Boyle February 10, 2012 at 02:11 PM
We are going for it! Hopefully our venue's approve of the idea. 20% of the proceeds will go towards the parade.
Sandra Griffin McLaughlin February 10, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Great idea....
Lillian Sgro February 10, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Yeah Sean I stand behind you 100% if you need any help I've got your back :)
Lynn Sorrentino February 10, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Go for it!! Great Idea!!
Tom Jackson February 10, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Great idea !
Jeannie B February 10, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Couldn't wait for the parade, because I knew we would be going to the carnival after ~ Great idea : )
Joseph February 10, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Nice work Sean. Just remember folks, no eating before getting on the Round-Up!
Joe Shadroui February 10, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Sounds great!
Anne Mc Carron February 10, 2012 at 05:27 PM
That is a wonderful idea Sean, I think back every parade day of how much fun we had going to the carnival each year at the neck, they would have fireworks the night before the parade and the excitement of it all filled the air for the week that it was in town. People of all ages enjoyed it and all the hype that came along with it.
Matthew D. Fichtner February 10, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Really hope this happens!
Noreen Buckley February 10, 2012 at 06:37 PM
What great memories! Good luck Sean. It's a great cause!
ConcernedTownie February 11, 2012 at 02:30 AM
NOT A GOOD IDEA. I vividly remember the 1974 carnival and the aftermath. There were more police cruisers and wagons which came into this town following the accident then I had ever seen before and since. While it is true that one girl was killed from the accident, many were injured because a large fight broke out afterwards, hence the need for the large show of police presence. Rutherford Avenue and Main street were filled with a parade of police vehicles that rainy night. Also, the article was wrong, the 1974 carnival was not the last carnival. They tried for another carnival in 1980, however, that was closed down due to a large fight breaking out. Who willl put up the money for the police details? We will certainly need them!!!
Judy Cleveland-Young February 11, 2012 at 06:57 AM
Good luck. It was fun because you seen everyone at the carnival. Everyone came out for it. people you hadn't seen all winter you would run into down a the carnival. I hope it does come back.
Laura Bourgeois February 11, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Great idea Sean. I think everyone remembers the horror of that 1974 accident and the 1980 incident. I think times have changed and hopefully our younger generation are a lot smarter than we were. Why shouldn't it be a celebration to try again? The younger generation would like some kind of connection to our past what is more beautiful than that?
afrats February 11, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Although I don't know the details of the accident, let's remember it was just that- an accident. Technology is extremely improved since then, so why not give it a try and get this carnival up and going. Fights are unfortunate (and happen everywhere) but if we set ourselves up for failure based on the what ifs, and past experiences, nothing will ever change. Let's stay positive, give the younger generation just another reason to love where they come from. Sean- you're doing an awesome job with your efforts to make charlestown what it used to be! Good luck, and I support you 100%
Jo-Anne Wallace February 13, 2012 at 03:17 PM
so so much fun.
Bill Bratton March 08, 2012 at 03:54 AM
As Lisa my childhood neighbor said, it was Charlestown's kickoff of summer, that along with the opening of the pool,and Summerthing those were the great old days Charlestown was the greatest place in the world back then, go for it amd Good Luck. Billy Bratton
Jessica March 09, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I will say I think it is a wonderful and promising idea. My son heard of this idea on FB and is thrilled over its possibility. He is excited about the opportunity to experience a piece of my childhood within his own. I think it's great Sean!
Linda Plante March 23, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I remember the carnival, we went the parade, then the carnival, they gave out free hoodsies and there were fireworks-a great part of my childhood memories. ps. maiden name Boyle, we are probably second cousins-I'm quite older!


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