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Venue swap: Iconic Hollis Strawberry Festival moves indoors

By Dean Shalhoup - Senior Staff Writer | Jun 25, 2018

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Festival volunteer Bill Dwyer scoops ice cream onto bowls of strawberries, doing his part to ensure Sunday's annual festival and Town Band concert was successful.

HOLLIS – The Hollis Town Band staged a robust 75th anniversary year concert and Hollis Woman’s Club members and their volunteers dished out what may have seemed like 7,500 strawberry shortcakes and ice cream, even though a threat of storms took this year’s Strawberry Festival indoors.

“It doesn’t look like it’s stopping anyone from coming,” club member and longtime festival organizer Kat McGhee said of the move indoors, as she glanced toward the doorway of the Hollis-Brookline Middle School gym.

Volunteers barely had a chance to get set up when the first waves of guests began to arrive, and it wasn’t much after the 2 p.m. start time that lines had formed and begun snaking down the corridor that connects the gym with the school.

The steady, fairly heavy early turnout forced volunteers to pick up an already quick pace to keep the strawberry shortcake-builders in biscuits, which another team was cooking up in the kitchen.

Bill Dwyer, a return volunteer whose wife, Lori, is a member and former president of the Woman’s Club, took on the responsibility of putting together a table full of shortcakes and strawberry-and-ice-cream combos that were soon to be consumed by members of the Town Band.

By the time veteran band conductor Dave Bailey announced a break was next on the schedule, Dwyer had pretty much finished putting the finishing touches on the dozens of treats.

It’s been 30 years since the band and Woman’s Club began co-sponsoring the annual late-June festival, which is typically held on and around the Town Monument.

Bailey said Sunday that the band is playing a lot of military-themed pieces for its 75th anniversary year, including popular numbers such as “A Military Band,” “Days of Glory” and “Band of America March.”

Members have also brought out what Bailey calls “a special piece from the band’s history” in “Lustspiel,”

a German overture that they play in memory of the late longtime member Charlie Woods.

From there the band switched gears to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of renowned composer Leonard Bernstein, performing selections from the classic West Side Story.

The exact date Hollis’s annual Strawberry Festival debuted isn’t clear, but according to the Town Band’s history, it may date back to 1946.

The band, having been formed in 1943 as the Hollis Church School Band, was there for the first festival, according to the history.

“From the start, (the festival and band concert) was a community event requiring lots of helping hands,” it states.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.

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