The Historic Fairhaven Association’s (HFA) Dirty Dan Day celebrates the village’s history, from its first settlements, to the transformation with the creation of the Village Green nearly 20 years ago, to today’s preservation and beautification.

“When we look back at history, we learn so much about ourselves in the present. The things we elevate and celebrate say more about who we are today than what happened in the past. If you look back and celebrate the perseverance, creativity and collaboration, you’re going to see that in the present,” said HFA President Ria Van Weerdhuizen.

The festival has grown over the years to encompass and reflect more of that history in its various offerings.  Now, about 1500 people attend the family- and dog-friendly event, which takes place rain or shine. The daylong event features many activities throughout Fairhaven: a costume contest, live music, many food and craft vendors, steam punks adding to the flair, beer garden, Acme Ice Cream café’s sweet eating contest, and more.

“It’s a fun way to get people into the village to have a good time, see great street vendors, eat great food, and hangout. The HFA information booth highlights the history of Fairhaven. It’s important for people to know how old Fairhaven is and why we’re there. It helps enhance our preservation mission,” said Festival Chair Hilary Friedrich. 

Friedrich draws a variety of vendors that form a community around the festival, with a sense of connection that lasts beyond the Festival.

Events Honor History

This year’s festival features a maritime theme. This is a fun way to celebrate the marine history of Fairhaven, particularly Pacific American Fisheries, which had a major impact on the economy during its operation, 1899 to 1966.

People’s Bank is sponsoring a Fish Toss, where six partners in different age divisions will mimic the famous Pike’s Place Market throwing fish.

The piano race comes from Dirty Dan lore: apparently, Harris sold a building that had a piano in it, causing some controversy with the new owner. Harris got so angry that he pushed it down the hill, right into the ocean.

Whether that’s true or not, the piano race lives on, celebrating the village’s rich history, with three teams of four racing down the hill, then pushing the piano back up.

This year, we will also honor the creation of the Village Green. Just 20 years ago, this vital community gathering place was just a muddy lot. A small group of people got together to sell bowler hats, raising money to turn the Green into what it is today. Although early designs suggested walking lanes surrounded by flower beds, the open space has allowed for many different events and community gathering points.

Sitting just above the festival, another nod to Fairhaven’s history is the brand-new Fairhaven Towers. The eponymous tower is in honor of the Fairhaven Hotel, and the developers were intentional to celebrate the historic building. Frances Larrabee, a “Who’s Who” of Fairhaven history who made a major impact on the region, lived in the old hotel for 20 years, before moving into the home they built – now known as Lairmont Manor.

“Preserving the common ties, the threads that run through our history and community, is important. Just like there are so many aspects to the HFA now, Fairhaven had so much going on back then. We encourage people to come down and visit Fairhaven and the festival, to take in all this rich history. We want people to be a part of the history we’re creating now,” Van Weerdhuizen said.  

Courtesy of Southside Living | Written by Lauren Phillips

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