The excitement bubbling among three organizers of this summer’s Great Newtown Reunion was palpable before they even reached the front room of the Dana Holcomb House March 12. Wendy Lee Hewitt, who graduated Newtown High School in 1974, Sharon Dest Pacenka .representing the Class of ’77. and classmate Una Lucey settled into comfy armchairs for a chat with The Bee, eager to get the word out about the planned communitywide celebration set for July 27.
While the organizers have a firm date for the event, they are still in the final stages of locking up a location and preliminary logistical details. They also stressed the need for attracting sponsors whose underwriting can help drive down ticket pricing to a level of affordability that will attract the maximum number of attendees.
“We already have a lot of people interested in coming, but we want to hold off on pricing tickets until we can get a few sponsors on board,” Ms Hewitt said. “The more sponsors we can bring on, the cheaper tickets will be — so we hope people will be patient about that.”
The daylong event is designed in two parts, a family-style picnic with activities and food that will begin in the midmorning, and a more formal evening event for attendees age 21 and over. Tickets will entitle attendees to access both stages of the reunion.
Despite the fact that the trio of NHS grads share an alma mater, the Great Newtown Reunion is not exclusive to those who attended Newtown High School.
“We want to welcome anyone who attended school in Newtown, public or private, for any period of time,” Ms Hewitt said. “So if you got you GED after attending Newtown High for a few years, or you attended lower grades in town and moved away, or one of the local private schools, or were a member of the faculty, we hope to see you here on July 27.”
A new website, greatnewtownreunion.org, was recently established. Those looking for information via popular search engines may also run across the committee’s earlier website as well — which Ms Pacenka says will redirect them to the new site.
“Attendance is also being driven by our Facebook site,” Ms Lucey added. “That site already has a lot of pledges to attend.”
The new website has links to area hotels for the many former Newtowners who are planning to travel back for the activity.
“Anyone reserving rooms at the establishments listed on the Great Newtown Reunion website should mention the event for available discounts we’ve been able to negotiate,” Ms Hewitt said.
The site has a blog where old friends and classmates can catch up or post photos, a volunteer registration form, and a forum where those attending arrange ridesharing for the day of the event. Visitors to the site can even sign up for interactive bulletins.
“People who sign up for our e-mail blasts will be the first to hear when we announce the location, and of course when we release tickets,” Ms Hewitt said.
Sponsors can also connect with organizers via the website.
“We’re not just looking for event sponsors,” Ms Hewitt said. “We can use sponsors who want to provide or underwrite food, beverages, entertainment, the sound system, even the port-a-potties!”
The organizers say the idea for the reunion came about after the 12/14 tragedy, and they hope that everyone attending will keep those affected by the terrible event close at heart while celebrating all the things that make Newtown and its residents great.
“It will be an opportunity for folks to come home and connect with old friends, no matter when they attended or taught school in town,” she said. “So far we even have interest from members of the [NHS] Class of 1955. And we hope each and every one coming can play a role in the community’s healing process.”
Ms Lucey said up until recently, when she mentioned she came from Newtown, she would have to explain that it was a sleepy New England town between New York and Boston.
“But now when I mention where I’m from, I can’t get away from talking about the tragedy,” she said. “I think we can reclaim some of that quiet New England charm by bringing together people who know Newtown for so much more than what happened that terrible day.”