There’s been a lot of agreement that this year’s Jubilee Days ran smoothly and there is consensus that Hagerstown wants to keep its late-summer festival going. The question: Who will do it?
The longtime festival chairwoman, Robin Nugent, convened a meeting about that on Sept. 26. She and four of the six other active members of the sponsoring Nettle Creek Lions Club attended, along with four interested members of the public. Several other people said they want to be involved with Jubilee Days but couldn’t attend, Nugent said.
She had approached other local organizations before the Aug. 17 festival, looking for groups to take over, telling anyone who’d listen that she would be giving up as chairwoman.
“Up until Aug. 17, Robin was done with Jubilee and I think our club had decided to give it up,” she told last week’s meeting. “But this year’s Jubilee was a great one” and she’s decided to continue.
Nugent has been actively involved in the festival for decades, following the path of her father, the late George Justice. Her brother, George “Tad” Justice Jr., has become parade announcer — a role George Sr. shared for years — and does many other Jubilee-related jobs. Robin’s husband, Ed Nugent, is deeply involved. Her grown daughters, Brittany Ritter and Chelsea Jones, are key players, adding an online “Too Cute Kid” contest and soliciting food trucks and other vendors on social media.
Jubilee Days started in the early 1950s, an extended weekend of fun before the kids went back to school. Teenage girls ran for Sight Queen — nearly 20 some years — riding decorated cars in the parade and raising thousands of dollars for Lions Club charities. The Lions Club had a big fish fry; there’d be talent shows, a soap box derby, sometimes children’s theater and concerts. Many Hagerstown High School alumni came to town for class reunions.
Now, school starts more than two weeks before the festival, and Jubilee has shrunk from almost three days to about a day and a half. No one runs for Sight Queen. Alumni still have reunions. Standing activities include a gyroscope contest, car show, parade, the marketplace, a kids zone of inflatable bounce houses and other games, and an entertainment tent. For a few years, a go-kart racing circuit raced for a day on town streets but left when the Lions wouldn’t expand that to two days of racing.
Members of the public agreed that town residents want to continue having Jubilee Days.
That opinion had been expressed at the Sept. 5 Town Council meeting, when the police chief, fire chief, town manager and council members all commented on how smoothly things ran.
The group decided to continue planning for the 2024 festival and looking for help. “We would not turn down any group that wants to do almost anything,” said Tad Justice. “Just don’t ask us to man it.”
The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, in the old Red Man lodge building, 101 E. Main St.
Robin Nugent said after the meeting, “I was pleasantly surprised that they came with suggestions and will be back, following up.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 4 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.