SAUGUS — For the 38th year in a row, Saugus’ biggest community fundraising event packed the streets in front of town hall.
Founders Day, the all day, family and dog friendly celebration, was host to more than 130 vendors and tables on Saturday. Near the end of the Central Street, games and bounce houses served as entertainment for the crowds of kids.
“This is my first year,” said Leah Freethy, an 11-year-old Saugus resident. “My family and I got here at like 9 this morning.”
Freethy said she was really enjoying hanging out with her friends and being allowed the freedom to buy items from the array of vendors. She said she thinks Founders Day is about celebrating the town and the person who found it “hundreds of years ago.”
Levi Boyer, another youngster, was running around and gabbing with his friends while chowing down on a slice of pepperoni pizza, almost as big as his head. He said he’s lived in the town for the majority of his life and he loves everything about Founders Day.
While the large supply of local food keeps most residents in Saugus year round, some have to travel back to town to get their Founders Day fix. Adam Haohoul grew up in Saugus but moved with his family to Florida a few years ago. He came back just in time for the community celebration.
“I love getting to see everybody, and kind of just hanging out,” said Haohoul. “I’m glad to be back. You just can’t keep a Sachem away.”
Crystal Cakounes was leading the charge for the day’s scheduled events and keeping up with all the fundraiser’s vendors. The programs director for the town’s recreational department was attending to the needs of everyone who donated their time to be a part of the day.
Cakounes took over the position a few years ago, after working closely with Donna Gould, the town’s former programs director. She said the Saugus Youth & Recreation started organizing in May. They took in applications for vendors, compiled a database, and started mapping out the long day of events.
“We try to get everyone (all the vendors) in before the deadline,” said Cakounes. “Some people tried to apply last week but we ran out of space.”
Cakounes, who is eight months pregnant with her first child, said she loves her job because it allows her to have a significant role in getting Founders Day up and running every year. She said she can’t wait for next year, when she gets to see her child experience it for the first time.
“I loved it when I was a kid,” said Cakounes. “I used to come home from college just to go to it. I just like seeing everybody and talking to them.”
The day-long event not only had vendors, games, and a surplus supply of food, but also long list of scheduled performances. Tiger Institute showcased a taekwondo presentation, there were two dance productions, and a performance from the town’s theater company. Gino Figliola, the 12-year-old drummer, had the large crowd roaring with applause.
The event’s biggest highlight was presenting the awards to Saugus’ man and woman of the year. Peter Manoogian and Janette Fasano were the recipients during this year’s mid-day ceremony.
“Founders Day is a big community event where all the schools come out and sell stuff,” said Cakounes. “They make money and it’s a big fundraiser for people who come out and see their friends, who a lot of them haven’t seen in awhile.”