Family, Friends Reunite At Sherman Day

In a summer of uncertain weather, the second day of the 31st Sherman Day event dawned bright and sunny.

By 9:45 am, Sherman residents had staked out their spot on the parade route along Main Street waiting for the Chautauqua County Mounted Division to lead the floats on horseback at 10 a.m. sharp.

Kids scooped up candy from the street with their baseball hats thrown by parade participants as the 40-minute spectacle floated by.

“The sun is out,” said Sherman Village Clerk Ann Gilbert who’s been a part of the planning committee for the past seven years. “We’re happy to see the sun today.”

The theme for the festival this year was “Marching Through Time,” and floats – like a real stagecoach pulled by horses – echoed the history of the town that was founded in 1823.

The much anticipated summer festival kicked off Friday night with the Sherman Central School alumni dinner and meeting held in the school gymnasium, followed by a bonfire and live music at the Firemen’s Grounds at dusk.

“We had a large turnout for the bonfire,” Gilbert said. “Bigger than last year.”

Pam Warner is a member of the Sherman Historical Society who, standing in the warm sunshine, thought to underscore the importance Sherman Day holds for the town.

“It’s a big deal in Sherman,” Warner said. “It’s almost like an old home week. It’s a homecoming for people who have been away for a long time. A lot of families have family reunions this weekend, so it’s a big community and family affair.”

Back-to-back events were scheduled for Saturday, including a car and antique tractor show, a scavenger hunt, a pie eating contest, a petting zoo, the third annual lawn tractor poker run and the highly anticipated firemen’s chicken barbecue.

When the firemen opened their doors at noon, a line had formed across the parking lot and then spilled out into the street, the smell of chicken filling the afternoon air.

“You can’t beat the firemen’s chicken barbecue,” said Sherman resident Bonnie Meeder, standing at the end of the line. “The sauce they put on it is always tasty and they do an amazing job with the sides.”

In keeping with the historical theme of the festival, events were scheduled throughout the day to highlight Sherman’s rich and interesting history.

Standing under a tree in front of Sherman’s public library was Jari Villaneuva, director of the National Honor Guard who was dressed as a Civil War bugler. His special two-hour presentation included demonstrating a variety of bugle calls and dispensing the history of past Sherman resident Oliver Willcox Norton, a Civil War bugler credited with co-authoring the timeless military tune “Taps.”

Representatives of the Yorker Museum waited for their chance to shine as festival goers drifted in and out of the grounds of the reconstructed mini village, with its six restored buildings that depict Sherman life in the mid-19th century – complete with an old schoolhouse, general store and chapel.

“This is a hidden gem,” said Sherman resident Ralph Aikens, referring to the museum. Back in his school days, Aikens had helped restore the museum complex when he was a member of the Yorkers in Sherman – a youth chapter of the New York State Historical Association.

“I really like the fact that they are keeping this museum up, “Aikens said. “I helped restore a lot of the antiques in here.”

Meanwhile, the pie eating contest was underway on Main Street, where four contestants were fast at work devouring a chocolate pie with their hands behind their back.

“This is my favorite part of Sherman Day!” shouted the contest’s emcee over a microphone before asking the last two contestants if they’d given up yet. In the end, 13-year-old Reece Bates ate the most pie and looked relieved as he stared out with two eyes from a face full of chocolate pudding.

As a tribute to Sherman Mayor John Patterson’s wife – who is a two-time survivor of breast cancer – the Sherman Day Committee sold the chance to shave the hair off the mayor’s head Saturday afternoon. Patterson had not gotten his hair cut since last September and he colored his hair pink – the color adopted to promote breast cancer awareness – for the event.

All the money from the fundraising project was donated to cancer research at Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo.