LACONIA, N.H. - The City on the Lakes celebrated its 125th anniversary Saturday with a party by land and by air. A daylong slate of events to mark the community's incorporation stepped off with a parade and concluded with fireworks. City residents lined the parade route that began at Laconia High School and made its way down Church Street, before turning on to North Main Street en route to Opechee Park. The sentiment of most parade watchers was that the weather couldn't have been any better. A blue sky day, the humidity gone, coupled with an occasional breeze. "It's nice to know this was a hometown parade. It was lovely. When you're in your 80s, you get to see a lot of changes," said Laconia native Pat Williams. Many pitched lawn chairs in prime shady spots. Others pulled youngsters in wagons and pushed infants in strollers while older kids sat on the curb. Some brought plastic buckets to collect candy thrown from passing floats. The parade included entries as diverse as high-wheeled bicycles and bagpipers to church groups and political candidates. Rick Nelson donned the uniform of a Civil War Union general to march in the parade. His genuine muttonchop sideburns and shock of white hair added authenticity to his costume. Both, he pledged, would be cut Sunday. "I wouldn't have missed it," Nelson said of the chance to participate in his native city's 125th anniversary celebration. A 1968 graduate of Laconia High School, Nelson recounted that he played the role of a Union general in a performance of the history of Laconia down through the years held as part of the city's centennial celebration. Calvin "Red" Dunn, who went on to run for governor, played the part of a Confederate general in the production, Nelson said. "When they announced my name, a woman thought I was the real Rick Nelson (the entertainer), fell down and broke her leg," Nelson recalled. "That may be fake news but that's what they told me," he said. Fishing in his pocket, he produced a centennial coin minted for that celebration that features a street car in homage to the Laconia Car Company, which operated in the city from 1882 to 1923. "It's a big parade for Laconia that hasn't had a lot to celebrate. A lot of people wish for the old city before urban renewal," Nelson said. Following the parade, what was billed as "The Party in the Park" began overlooking Opechee Cove. Entertainment included live music, local foods, crafts and tethered hot air balloon rides. Established as a city in 1893, Laconia was incorporated as a town in 1855 from lands at Meredith Bridge, Lakeport, Weirs and from a part of Gilmanton. The town's name was likely taken from the original company formed by Captain John Mason and the Masonian proprietors in order to sell parcels to the original colonists. Laconia is the seat for Belknap County, established by the Legislature in 1840 and named in honor of one of the most noted historians in New Hampshire, Dr. Jeremy Belknap.
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