Depending upon how you count, it’s actually the 25th anniversary of the event, which started in 1998, though skipped 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has returned with strength since then, and this year’s edition should be no different. Well, actually, it will be a bit different, with a photo booth from the Recreation & Parks Department, a digital payment option for tickets, and more for what’s expected to be at least 8,000 attendees (no dogs allowed).
Rec & Parks takes the lead on the event, supported by the Natick Center Cultural District, plus sponsors.
For Rec & Parks Director Travis Farley, this will be his first Natick Days since joining the town. However, he comes to Natick from Norwood, where he was superintendent for the Recreation Department, and that community had a big festival of its own.
Farley says he’s looking forward to seeing how Natick Days plays out with more than 130 tables, more than it’s had since before the pandemic. Food trucks, games, and other activities should keep young and old entertained.
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Deputy Town Administrator Jon Marshall, a Natick native, says Natick Days emerged to address a need for charitable groups to raise awareness and funds. An increasing number of them had started to inundate the Rte. 135/27 intersection in Natick Center by collecting money in boots during traffic stops, and the then Board of Selectmen recognized a need for a different approach to be taken.
Former Selectman Jay Ball, former Rec Superintendent Dick Cugini, Natick Farmers’ Market co-found Deb Sayre, and others were among those who got and kept the event going.
“From the start, it’s been a collaborative effort among Park & Rec, public safety organizations, local businesses, and others,” Marshall says. “It’s become a really good showcase for all the groups that support the community.”
Among those being showcased is Keep Natick Beautiful, which will be doling out homemade walking sticks and milkweed seeds, among other goodies.
Tens of thousands of dollars are raised through the event for good causes.
As for Marshall’s own fond memories of the event, he reflects on an opportunity he had to go up in the bucket truck as part of the Sassamon Trace golf ball drop. This raffle involved dumping a bunch off golf balls with people’s names on them from the sky and a lucky winner getting a membership.
Why is Natick Days called “Days,” plural? Sayre tells us that “It was Days because there used to be a Friday night football game at the high school which we said was the kick off…and Days sounds better than Day.”
Athena Pandolf, executive director for Natick Center Cultural District, summed up the event this way: “I think the focus on a town hosting an event that supports its non-profits & high school groups for over 20 years shows its commitment, in word and deed, to the community members.”