It’s Happening on the...
Don’t call it the Green!” says City Historian Ed Ashey. “It’s the Common, or – the real name – Colburn Park.” He adds, in perhaps a slightly dismissive tone, “The Green is in Hanover.”
Whatever the name, this focal point in Lebanon has been drawing people and events since it was given to the town in 1792 by Robert Colburn as a site for a meeting house. Many changes since then probably all caused protest and debate, except for the patient growth of the trees.
Ed Ashey says that roads used to criss-cross the space, “right through the middle. In 1864, when the park was fenced, it caused quite a ruckus, because people didn’t want to have to go all the way around!”
Anyone can “rent” the Common – there’s no charge to do so. Lebanon’s Recreation and Parks department is in charge. One result of this generous policy is that Colburn Park is a busy spot. Farmers’ market, Skip’s Run, Bark in the Park, Monday night concerts, Opera North celebrations, Thursdays in the Park – these are just some of Colburn Park’s recurring events.
Thursday’s midday programs are planned for children, but who doesn’t love seeing a magician or a juggling clown? Alas, we’ve already missed the July appearance by Kilted Colin. He has traveled the world from here to New Zealand with an act that combines bagpipes and a unicycle. Not something most people would try!
For a month of midsummer Tuesdays, there is a noontime family fitness program, and on Wednesdays a storytelling session. During Thursday farmers’ markets, which run from 4 to 7 p.m., there is live music every week.
Thursday evening programs begin at 7 p.m. as the farmers’ market closes. With support from the Byrne Foundation and Three Tomatoes, Lebanon Rec has lined up concerts leaning towards funk, with world music and soul for seasoning. A special end-of-summer celebration on August 25 spotlights performers from Tuck’s Rock Dojo from 4 to 7 p.m., a great opportunity to hear what the next generation is developing. At 7 p.m. the Conniption Fits return for the Sixth Annual Dancefest.
Monday evening concerts run towards jazz, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll, often with opening acts called “picnic previews.” Most of the performers live locally, though occasional just-passing-through performers earn a place on the schedule.
Once-a-year events include the Upper Valley Humane Society’s Walkathon and Bark in the Park, a fundraiser in May that this year raised over $19,000 to support the work of the shelter. The Walkathon uses the nearby Northern Rail Trail, and in the Park various shows and games take place. Proud owners accept awards for showing the smallest or largest dog, or the best dressed. Ingenuity (of the owners, who have to persuade their pets through it) is tested by an agility course.
Food trucks around Colburn Park are nothing new. - Lebanon Historical Society Facebook page
On Father’s Day, Skip’s Run took over the Park for the 13th Skip Matthews Memorial Run, to honor Skip’s memory and raise money for brain tumor research at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. This year over 400 runners took part, some testing themselves against the clock, others proceeding at a more personally set pace. Colburn Park provides a naturally central start and finish, a welcoming shady rest and recovery spot as runners return from their four-mile trip out the rail trail and back on Bank Street Extension.
Recently Opera North has initiated opening-performance celebrations in the Park that are proving popular. Anyone can buy a ticket (separate from their opera ticket) for the VIP wine and cheese reception in the Park before each opening. About 50 opera-goers have gathered to socialize with a handful of cast members and other opera personnel. The crowd shares their anticipation of the show, while trading recollections of other operas. “It’s a nice atmosphere, with lights on the trees, and so conveniently right across from the opera house,” says one participant appreciatively.
Learn more about what’s happening in the Park at Recreation.LebNH.net.