Each year since 1997, Lawrence residents have gathered outside the Brearley House on New Year’s Eve to literally burn their troubles at the Hogmanay Bonfire. This year’s gathering, sponsored by the Lawrence Historical Society, will take place in the Great Meadow at 6 p.m.
The first bonfire was suggested by Joe Logan, who was a Lawrence resident and an active historical society member. Logan’s idea was combined with Hogmanay, a Scottish celebration of community at the new year which almost always includes a bonfire.
The main event at the bonfire includes bringing or writing a list of things you’d like to leave behind at the turn of the new year, symbolized by tossing it into the flames. Pencils and paper will be provided for anyone who’d like time to think about their list when they arrive. According to Lawrence resident and Hogmanay Bonfire coordinator Laura Nawrocic, almost everyone at the event, children included, partake in this part.
What makes this year a little different is that there will be two separate stamps available for those who collect them in their National Parks Passport. LHS will offer the Hogmanay stamp as well as the Colonel Edward Hand March stamp to guests this year.
“There are people online who collect these stamps all over the country from different national parks and historic sites,” Nawrocic said. “We’ve gotten quite a response from people that are interested in coming just to get the stamps.”
The turnout for the event has grown over the years. According to Nawrocic, 1,200 people attended last year. “Usually we get more and more people each year because of word of mouth,” she said. “People must be enjoying it if more people come each year.”
Parking is offsite and shuttle buses will be provided, as well as a lighted trail to the Great Meadow. Because of the large volume of guests, LHS has tried to make it more convenient for guests and coordinators this way.
The event is free, though donations will be accepted online or at the event. Guest are welcome to walk through and view the Brearley House during the event. The tradition will live on with Graham Kronk’s fiddle and bagpipe performance, and food from Captain Paul’s Firehouse Dogs will be available for purchase.
Nawrocic believes the event is so popular because, according to the feedback LHS gets from people, it is a great way to celebrate the New Year with the whole family, even the young ones. “It’s also early enough that if somebody does want to go out somewhere else later they can go to the bonfire with the family and then go out later on, because it’s usually done by 8,” she said.
For the most part, this is a rain or shine event. Nawrocic said that the weather would have to be extreme to interfere, and they’ve only postponed the bonfire once in the last 10 years. Many Lawrence residents and nonresidents look forward to the Hogmanay Bonfire every year. Nawrocic believes that “it’s one of these things that has sort of taken on a life of its own, it’s become a community event.”