NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> Sunny skies and cool autumn temperatures combined to bring record crowds to this year’s Market Day.
Hundreds strolled through the quaint, tree-lined streets in and around the Half Moon Inn as a day of historic exploration and treasure hunting unfolded in the heart of historic Newtown, melding 21st century America with Colonial times.
Organized by the Newtown Historic Association, Market Day revives a Newtown harvest season custom where long ago local farmers brought their crops to town to sell and enjoy a day of festivities and contests that culminated with a horse race down State Street.
While there were no horse races on Saturday, visitors did have the opportunity to take a horse-drawn wagon ride down Court Street and through the local neighborhood with Hutch Hamilton and his team of Belgian horses from Wrightstown.
Throughout the day, visitors browsed past booths chocked full of handmade crafts and stopped to watch as craftsmen demonstrated Colonial-era trades along Court Street, Centre Avenue and Mercer Street.
A group of people gathered around chair caner Frank Mayr of Yardley as he weaved strips of wicker through a chair seat. Nearby, members of the Hunterdon County Rug Artisans Guild demonstrated the craft of rug hooking.
Throughout the busy streets, the voice of Town Crier David Danner could be heard welcoming visitors to Market Day and announcing the day’s events, including musket fire demonstrations and one of the day’s favorite activities, the outdoor puppet show.
Danner, donning colonial garb and with his bell in hand, was showing off his newest addition - a gold medallion from the American Guild of Town Criers marking him as an official Town Crier.
The Half Moon Inn, once a respite for weary travelers and a local watering hole for the townspeople, served as the centerpiece of the day’s activities as Bill Dooley and the Coyotes entertained out front with acoustic roots music.
Inside, visitors tried their hand at scarecrow-making and learned about the tavern’s history from Mrs. Thornton, the Innkeeper’s wife, as flute music drifted through the rooms.
Today the building serves as the headquarters of the historic association and is home to a research center and a treasure trove of Newtown history.
In the lush backyard and gardens behind the Half Moon, members of the First Crossing Volunteers demonstrated how Revolutionary soldiers loaded and fired their muskets.
A series of loud pops, accompanied by white puffs of smoke, filled the air with the smell of sulfur as a group of onlookers applauded in appreciation.
Out on Court Street, stationed in front of the Half-Moon Inn, members of the Newtown Historic Association, including JoAnne Nardo and Dave and Mary Callahan shared stories from Newtown’s past and sold postcards, Newtown history books and other gift items to benefit the association.
Not far away, member Terry Keane meandered through the crowds, handing out postcards promoting the association’s 2019 Holiday Open House Tour on Saturday, Dec. 7. This year’s tour will feature 12 private homes and public buildings in Newtown Borough.
Nearby, Carol Richardson from the Newtown Mercantile Group was selling tickets for $5 each for a chance to win one of three Newtown Experience packages valued at between $410 and $760.
The packages include tickets to the Newtown Theatre, an overnight stay at the Temperance House, holiday house tour tickets, hair makeovers, gift baskets, flowers, restaurant gift certificates and lots more with proceeds benefitting the Newtown Historic Association and the Mercantile Group.
Tickets will also be sold at business locations throughout Newtown between now and the drawing on Oct. 26 at the conclusion of the Newtown Halloween Parade at Brian Gregg Park.
Overlooking the intersection of Court Street and Centre Avenue were members of the Countryside Gardeners who meet at the Half-Moon Inn and who care for the backyard gardens, which are among the most beautifully kept in town.
Member Lee Gittens reported brisk sales of their freshly handmade floral arrangements and bundles of hydrangea branches.
“The response has been crazy,” she said. “The best advertisement we have are the people walking around with our arrangements and the hydrangea branches. I can’t tell you how many people who have come by looking for them.”
By about 1 p.m, they had made and sold about 50 flower arrangements and were still busy making new ones to replace the ones they sold.
“This is a great event for us. It not only is our biggest fundraiser of the year, it puts us out there and lets people know that we are here,” said Gittens. “We’re basically dirt gardeners who like to plant, prune and grow.”
Carrie Wetherby, who chaired this year’s Market Day event, couldn’t have been more pleased with the large crowds.
“This is the most perfect day for Market Day. The weather is amazing. The vendors are all diversified and incredible. I think they are having a great time. Everyone is happy. I’m happy. We have a pizza truck. We have a waffle truck. We have any kind of food people want. It’s just an amazing day,” she said.
Wetherby spent a busy day interfacing with the police and visiting every vendor on the street to make sure everything was going smoothly. “I’m just making sure everyone is happy.”
Wetherby said the event not only supports the Historic Association, it puts Newtown on the map as a place to visit, explore and experience.
“Market Day brings everyone together through history, community and lots of fun,” said Wetherby. “What could be better.”