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The Oakmonitor

The Westminster Cracker Festival to Make its 8th Appearance Next Month

An Early Look into Dawley’s History with the Factory
Grace Alatalo
The Westminster Cracker Factory, where it all started

So many towns have one important event that sets them apart from all others. For the past 7 years, Westminster’s has been the Cracker Festival, which is rich in history, and, all in all, an entertaining experience.

Since 2015, the town of Westminster has been hosting an annual Cracker Festival on the third Saturday of October in the village center. The festival provides an outlet for the community to showcase some of the businesses and products they are famous for. And, of course, the Westminster Crackers we all know and love. With the surplus of food and craft vendors, you’re bound to find something that speaks to your interests.

According to the Westminster Cracker Festival website, “People make the pilgrimage from all over the country to visit.” They say that their main goal is to draw visitors interests so they can come and experience all the town has to offer. Better yet, the money made goes towards improving the town.

The Westminster Cracker Company itself has an interesting history with one of our staff members here at Oakmont; our very own Mr. Eric Dawley has ties to the factory, and it’s been in his family for years.

From 1828-1845 the white house next to the factory was where the crackers were actually made and Dawley’s grandfather (Porter Dawley) was born and lived there his whole life. Not long after Porter Dawley (grandfather) entered the business, Peter Dawley (father) came in at only 19 years old. But the company was slowly dying, and in 1982, Peter sold the recipe to Pillsbury, keeping the production rights.

Despite all that, Peter brought the crackers back in 1988, changing the location to Rutland, Vermont. More and more residents of Westminster had been approaching him, begging for the crackers to come back. Of course, so much had changed; all the new breakthroughs in technology made things a lot easier.

Throughout everything, the recipe for the crackers stayed the same. Dawley was able to recall a time when he’d been working in a restaurant, and his colleagues would grab a few as a late night snack during their shifts. He would just smile to himself, imagining how they would react if they knew what a big part of his family the crackers were. When asked about the festival, Dawley mentioned how the town has been so successful and that the Cracker Festival is an amazing way to provide even more opportunities. It is so much more than just the crackers that made the town popular. It’s a real “celebration of Westminster and what they have to offer,” he said.

The engrossing history isn’t all the festival has to offer.

One of the most unusual occurrences is the parade of the king and queen. Just kidding of course, well mostly. The two oldest people in Westminster are awarded the honor of being chauffeured into the festival as royals. It’s such a heartwarming sight, and a great way to show appreciation for the people that have been living there from the start.

Keeping on track of events, I interviewed Carmela Manago, a member of the festival committee, and she said that by far, the most popular event is the chili chowder contest. People from all over come to show off their cooking skills, and hopefully take home first place.

At the end of the day, there are so many different reasons to go to the Westminster Cracker Festival. Whether it’s the food, the history, or even just because you want to kill a few hours.

I would like to thank everyone that helped make this article possible. Mr. Dawley, Carmela, and the staff at The Oakmonitor are the reason I was able to write this. Thank you for all your support.

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About the Contributor
Grace Alatalo, Reporter
Grace Alatalo is part of the Oakmont Class of 2027. This is her first year being a part of The Oakmonitor team. She is currently a member of the school’s girls’ JV soccer team. In her free time, she enjoys writing stories and reading, as well as spending time with her dog. “My mother always used to say: The older you get, the better you get, unless you’re a banana.” —Rose (Betty White), The Golden Girls

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  • B

    Brian SandjongSep 27, 2023 at 9:04 am

    When is this year’s cracker festival

  • E

    Eric DawleySep 19, 2023 at 1:51 pm

    Such cool history coming out of our small North Central Mass community. The Cracker company has had an amazing impact on countless families around the country. Many folks, including my mother, recall the entire town smelling of the bakery as well as grabbing handfuls of broken crackers that were left in barrels outside for anyone to take. The festival continues to be a great celebration of the town’s history as well as what Westminster currently has to offer. Well done!