BURRILLVILLE – The parade of cars filled a field with visitors lining up along the roadway for a chance to give the couple their well-wishes.
Ken and Madeline Putnam celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Thursday, May 14, and friends and family surprised the well-known couple with a massive parade by their doorstep.
The event was planned by the Putnam’s children as an alternative to a conventional party during a time when distance is required to curb the spread of Covid-19. Son Brian Putnam and the couple’s grandchildren hung banners and set up balloons, photos of the family and even a table for gifts outside the home while the Putnams unknowingly sat inside eating an anniversary dinner.
At 6 p.m., when Ken and Madeline came outside, vehicles were lined up and waiting across a field on a neighboring lot also owned by the family. And they watched as dozens pulled up, many with signs and decorations, waving and yelling greetings as they drove through.
“This here is really a surprise,” Ken said as the parade continued. “We’ve got half of Pascoag here.”
Brian organized the event with help of social media, calling neighbors and friends. With parents in their late 70s, the surprise provided a safe alternative to face-to-face interactions.
“There’s no hanging around,” Brian said of the parade. “We’re going to just keep the line going and driving through.
At 6:30, the cars were still coming and unbeknownst to the surprised couple, a “second wave” of family members was due to show up at 7 p.m.
Visitors included friends from the Putnam’s church, neighbors from their lake cottage and many who worked with Ken during his years as a general contractor. The couple was also involved in the organized battle against a proposal to build a power plant down the road from their Wallum Lake Road home, and cars filled with their fellow former activists lined the field.
The couple had three children – Brian, and his sisters Ruth Loghry and Carol Fontineau – and their grandchildren helped out with the celebration, greeting guests as they drove up.
Brian said he wasn’t surprised by the massive turnout.
“Everyone loves my mother and father,” he said. “I thought a lot of people would come.”
“They’re exceptional parents and friends, and we’re lucky to have them.”