PARIS – Under a blue-and-yellow canopy late Saturday morning, Lenwood “Pete” Andrews skillfully strummed an amplified bass viol that stood taller than the 91-year-old leader of The Old Parisians band.
Andrews, who turns 92 next month, and the band were performing old-time tunes and big-band numbers for hundreds of people attending the 29th annual Founder’s Day festivities on Paris Hill in Paris.
“I like to see the people responding. They evidently like the old tunes,” he said in between songs of about 40 people gathered around the simple bandstand listening to fellow musicians Terry Twitchell on drums, Ivan Proctor on saxophone, Malcolm Smith on trombone, and Arthur Lagasse on keyboard synthesizer.
Some in the seated crowd clapped hands and tapped feet along with the slow-gaited beat, others softly sang along with band crooner Esther Nava of Norway.
“It’s something we look forward to and, as you can see, they do, too,” Andrews said.
Nava said Andrews started the band in 1921, but Andrews said he was 14-years-old when he started playing the banjo with the Parisians band of West Paris.
“I played the banjo and sax, but then I had a lung go bad, and I had to go to the bass viol,” said the man who for 50 years was funeral director of a six-generation business.
Andrews and the band launched into “The Tennessee Waltz” as people of all ages casually strolled onto the village green, checking out several vendors selling everything from antiques to area minerals and lime rickeys.
Behind the band and food area, a group of small children had set up a lemonade stand near the Hamlin Memorial Library and Museum, for which Founder’s Day events like Bob Bahre’s display of antique cars, raise money.
Founder’s Day honors Dr. Augustus C. Hamlin, the nephew of Hannibal Hamlin, a Paris Hill resident and vice president to Abraham Lincoln. Augustus Hamlin served as a medical officer for the Union during the Civil War, and later owned the Mount Mica tourmaline mine. He bought the former Oxford County Jail, deeded it to the Ladies of Paris Hill Library Association in 1901, and the building eventually became known as the Hamlin library and museum.
The children, John, Colin, and Gretchen Gilmore of Glen Ridge, N.J., and their cousins, Bo and Luke Brooks of Paris, weren’t too keen on the local history. However, they were doing their part in the fundraising, brewing “Jailhouse Lemonade” – so named because they tapped the former jail’s water spigot. Although their pink and yellow lemonade was free, people pitched in small-change donations, which the youngsters promptly ran inside the library and gave to librarian Jennifer Lewis.
“This is my first Founder’s Day and I’m stuck inside the library. We’re lucky to get such good weather,” Lewis said of the breezy but sunny, blue-sky day. “We’ve had a good turnout and people are coming in to see the museum. I’ve had more than 200 in in the first 1 hours. I’ve been pretty busy.”
Saturday was also the first Founder’s Day for Kathryn Lawrence of Norway, who was helping the Norway Paris Lions Club sell tickets to win a yellow-and -black antique 1971 Volkswagen convertible Beetle, which the club purchased last year.
“I think (Founder’s Day) is awesome with all the old cars and, it’s beautiful up here,” Lawrence said.
“This is great,” said John Gilmore, one of the adult halves of the lemonade kids from New Jersey. “We had a really good time at this last year, so, we’re trying to make it an annual event for us.”