By Ella Stern, Natick High School ’23
Once a year, it seems like all of Natick fills the town center. Once a year, booths spill across Natick Common and onto the surrounding streets, music echoes through the air, and balloons float overhead. Once a year is Natick Days.
“[Natick Days] really celebrates a lot of the wonderful things about Natick, in that we have volunteer organizations, we have community service organizations, we have government organizations, and we’re all here with one goal, which is to make Natick the greatest place to live, work, and raise a family,” said Natick’s State Representative, David Linsky.
Natick Days, held this past Saturday, has been a beloved community event for more than two decades. It began simply as a safer way to fundraise, but has become a celebration of the organizations and people in this town, focusing on both fundraising and fun.
Over twenty years ago, local organizations were fundraising through voluntary toll booths on the corner of Route 135 and Route 27, causing traffic and safety hazards. In response, Jay Ball, a Natick Select Board member, came up with the idea of a fundraising fair, and the first Natick Days was born. The event has grown in the years since; this year, thousands of people showed up.
“This has been a long-standing event, Natick Days, and it’s an opportunity for all the nonprofits to strut their stuff,” said Ann Marie, who ran the Natick Center Cultural District booth at Natick Days.
She said the booth was a fabulous way to inform the public about what the Cultural District does and about the artists and events they promote.
Whether raising money, awareness or both, booths across the event were successful. Some received an abundance of interest from new Natick residents.
Several booths were hosted by high schoolers representing a club or organization, many of whom had grown up attending Natick Days. Hildy Wicks, a Natick High School junior working the booth for the Natick Community Organic Farm, said that Natick Days provides a great opportunity for high schoolers to connect to their community.
Marly Rotenberg, Natick High School senior and president of the Natick High School choir program, sees her progression from helping out at the Natick Drama Workshop booth in eighth grade to being in charge of the choir booth this year as a nice bookend to her high school career. It has also helped her see how much planning and preparation goes into Natick Days, and how much the town wants the event to happen.
Many booths featured games and prizes, making Natick Days about fun as well as fundraising. For example, kids of all ages loved winning stuffed animals at the Natick High School Sailing Team booth, and the bouncy house was a clear favorite among young children.
For many attendees, part of the fun of Natick Days is the community there. Natick residents caught up with people they hadn’t seen all summer, Rep. Linsky listened to the issues on the minds of his constituents, and newcomers to Natick met their neighbors.
In the words of Debra Sayre, a member of the original Natick Days committee, “the Natick Common is ideal for community events. And it’s a very strong community.”
Despite overwhelming support for Natick Days, some members of the crowd suggested improvements to the event. The main complaint was that there wasn’t enough food. Ideas for refreshments to add included food trucks, funnel cakes, chicken wings, and more places to buy pizza (to reduce time spent waiting in line). Lauren Glidden, a new Natick resident, said that local restaurants should have booths at Natick Days, as this would allow people to try a variety of food and encourage them to return to the restaurants in the future.
In addition, Natick High School junior Yasi Reza suggested stronger outreach to Natick High School before the sign-up date for a Natick Days booth. Not all high schoolers are familiar with the Natick Days sign-up process, and increased communication with the high school would help ensure that all clubs that want to participate can.
However, for most Natick Days attendees, these complaints were outweighed by Natick Days’ importance as a source of fundraising and fun for the community. As Rep. Linsky puts it, “Natick Days is the greatest day in the greatest town in the greatest state in the greatest country in the history of the universe.” It only comes once a year, and it’s not to be missed.
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