Bristol Progress Days, started as a one-day town picnic in 1969, is celebrating 50 years this weekend.

Carol Nichols, a member of Bristol Progress Days Inc., said Thursday it was her father, Earl Hollister, a member of the town Recreation Board, who came up with the idea.

“After the first year they held a contest to name the event,” Nichols said.

It was Maybelle Houtsinger, who ran the grocery store, who came up with the name Progress Days, Nichols said.

Three of the original Recreation Board members — Don Wienke, Ed Gillmore, and Katherine Glembocki — will be present at the annual banquet that kicks off the event tonight at the Brat Stop’s Parkway Chateau. Other members of that board were Clarence Hansen, whom the festival site Hansen Park is names after and Marion Ling.

Subsequent generations kept the event going. Much of the festival history is preserved in scrapbooks created by the late Doris Magwitz, a former town treasurer. Those scrapbooks will on be on display at the banquet, Nichols said.

Some of the significant firsts in the history of the event include:

In 1970, Lenny Eibl and Laura Kempf were named King and Queen.

In 1971, rather than name a King and Queen, two Outstanding Citizens — Arthur Magwitz and Margaret Malski — were named.

In 1972, the Miss Bristol pageant was added.

In 2001, Bristol Progress Days, Inc. became a non-profit organization.

In 2013 Brett Niederer was named the first Junior Outstanding Citizen.

In 2015, the decision was made to begin naming two Jrunior Outstanding Citizens, one boy and one girl of elementary school age.

Nichols said Doris kept the programs from each of the banquets, having those named in it collectively sign it. There are no programs prior from the first five years, which suggests the banquet was added in 1974.

Early on, Nichols said the local fire department put on the fireworks display. In keeping with the “Progress” theme, that task was eventually outsourced, Nichols said.

One constant has been the parade, referred to as the “candy parade” by many.

“There has only been one year the parade did not start promptly at 12:30 p.m.,” Nichols said, adding a short storm rolled through that year that delayed its start.

John and Shirley Davidson, both among those named Outstanding Citizens over the years, have fond memories of the annual festival and parade.

“I drove my 1923 Dodge Touring car in the first parade,” John said, adding he still has the vehicle. “I bought it in 1951 from the original owner for $50.”

The historic town hall moved to Fireman’s Park adjacent to the Village Hall, was named Davidson Hall in honor of the couple’s contribution to its move and restoration. It will be open to the public before and after the parade, John, a member of the Bristol Historical Society, said.

Members of the board who helped plan the 50th Anniversary event are: Sue Kaminski, president; Carol Gorsuch, vice-president; Cheryl Nichols, secretary; Carol Nichols, treasurer; Brittany Gauger; Lila Muhlenbeck; and Village President Mike Farrow.

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