Sunderland has no trouble scaring up talent for 300th

  • The Sunderland town offices on School Street. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Sunderland celebrated its 300th anniversary with a parade on June 16. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2018 10:51:11 PM

SUNDERLAND — Richard Lopatka will reprise his role as the Rev. Joseph Ashley this weekend. And Diane Gumaer is returning as Carrie Anna Harper.

But don’t expect either one to grace a stage.

Lopatka and Gumaer are two of nine people spotted throughout Riverside Cemetery, portraying some of the town’s earliest residents as part of the Oct. 6 events celebrating Sunderland’s tricentennial. The festivities began June 2 with the 2nd Annual Pound the Pavement 5K/10K and will end with Veterans Day services and the 300th Anniversary Ball on Nov. 11.

The Ghosts of Sunderland Tour will start as a horse-drawn carriage procession down Main Street to the cemetery. Volunteers playing the part of deceased citizens of yesteryear “will tell their own history from their time in the town while standing at the tombstone of their likeness,” according to the event’s organizers.

Ashley was the third minister of Sunderland Church and a Tory (an American colonist loyal to the British during the American Revolution), while Harper was the first Sunderland woman to earn a doctorate and became an English literature professor at Mount Holyoke College. Other residents being portrayed will be Major Caleb Hubbard, who was a minuteman at the skirmish in Lexington that produced the famed “Shot Heard Round the World,” and William Delano, who lived in the parish house depicted on the town seal and was in 1815 appointed by President James Madison as the first postmaster of Sunderland.

The ghost tours start at 1 p.m.

“It should be a fun time,” said Linda Lopatka​​​​​, co-chair of the Sunderland Historical Commission and wife of the man portraying the Rev. Ashley. “It’s kind of like going to Plimoth Plantation or Old Sturbridge Village. (The actors) talk about what it was like to live here during (the historical figures) time period.”

The ghost tours, which have an Oct. 13 rain date, will cap off the Oct. 6 events, which also consist of the Sunderland 300th Anniversary Antique and Classic Car and Tractor show on South Main Street and the Tricentennial Art Show at the First Congregational Church.

Bruce Weston, who is organizing the car and tractor show, said it will be open to all types of motor vehicles, including muscle cars, antique cars, motorcycles and trucks. The show will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It’s not going to be trophied. It’s just for the enjoyment,” he said, adding that he will bring his 1969 Ford Mustang to the show.

Weston said it is difficult to predict how many vehicles will be there, because car show attendance always varies based on the weather. He said some recent local shows have seen 100 to 150 vehicles. He said as far as he knows there are no other car shows in the area on Oct. 6, so it is reasonable to think 150 to 200 vehicles will show up.

“It’s generated quite a bit of interest,” she said. “With a nice day it should be a nice event.”

Tom Zimnowski, chairman of the Sunderland 300th Anniversary Committee, said the year of merriment is almost complete, but it has been an enjoyable ride.

“We’re pulling it all together,” he said about the years of preparation this occasion required.

The 300th Anniversary Celebration Weekend was held June 15-17 and included live music, a sheep-herding demonstration, dance and karate demonstrations, a parade and a fireworks display Zimnowski said he still receives compliments about.

“We have some very talented people on the committee and you can definitely see that,” he said. “It’s been a long time in the planning and any town that thinks they can pull something together in a year, good luck.”

Zimnowski said he helped plan the town’s celebration of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 and Sunderland’s 275th anniversary 25 years ago.

Reach Domenic Poli at or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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