A 300 year anniversary to remember in Westfield

As this year marks 300 years since Westfield was founded, the town had planned a variety of events and gatherings to celebrate. Due to COVID-19, plans are now being shifted and Westfield is choosing a different way to honor this milestone anniversary.

In 2019, the planning for Westfield 300 officially began and Mayor Shelley Brindle worked closely with a committee to come up with ways to celebrate, but the ideas for an extravagant celebration has been in the works for several years.

Photo by Westfield 300 Committee
The logo for the Westfield 300 anniversary celebration.

Westfield’s intended celebrations ranged from an enhanced Memorial Day Parade to a big Fourth of July celebration in Tamaques Park with fireworks. There have been some events that have taken place already like a colonial dinner that took place on Feb. 23 at 16 Prospect, where they served food and spirits that dated back to 300 years ago.    

Despite the fact that most of these activities are likely being canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, the optimism from the community members is overwhelming. The Westfield community has chosen to come together during this global pandemic in a variety of ways and the celebration of Westfield 300 will continue when the time is right. 

Due to the cancelation of events, the committee is coming up with ideas that allow people to remain distant from each other but also become educated on the history of the town. Specifically, there was an idea of coming up with a trivia game that will allow people to test their knowledge of Westfield and also a scavenger hunt around town where people can remain in their cars but receive clues that direct them to new places.

The town has called for submissions from residents to document their time in quarantine. They plan on creating a time capsule with all of the entries they receive from residents like essays, artwork and letters as a sentimental reminder of this difficult time. 

Councilwoman Dawn Mackey explained one of the current celebratory projects for the art commission as a collection of fiberglass butterflies that will be installed throughout town and it will be called “Art takes Flight.”

This idea came up before COVID-19, but Mackey feels it now has a much greater significance. “As we are allowed back into the world, we may not be able to all gather in a building, but hopefully as we walk around town we will have these big gorgeous sculptures to enjoy,” said Mackey. “I think about [social distancing] as us cocooning. I think that this exhibit, for me, has just deepend in its significance and meaning.” 

Mayor Brindle emphasized that although we may not celebrate 300 years as a town together in-person, the things we are doing now are more memorable and show off the uniqueness of our community. Brindle stated that, as a town, we have created the We Love Local fund and raised over $220,000 to help over 150 businesses who are struggling during this difficult time. 

“So far, those checks from the community are the only financial assistance [the businesses] have received since this all started,” said Brindle. “It is as much about the financial system as it is a message of hope.”

Mayor Brindle hopes that years from now, what will be remembered about this situation and Westfield’s 300 year anniversary is “how this community came together and responded to this pandemic.” 

This time poses a lot of uncertainty, including the Westfield 300 celebrations. Mayor Brindle said that there will be something eventually, but the way the town is coping with this pandemic is more memorable than any celebration could have been.