Summer solstice arrives amid a lot of fanfare; World Peace and Prayer Day ushers in longest of the year.
Even though the weather the past few days made it feel as though it had already started, summer's actual beginning is 7:29 this morning.
Weather people consider June, July and August meteorological summer. Astronomical summer, highlighted by 15 hours, 16 minutes and 28 seconds of daylight today, doesn't start until June 21.
While many people may be sipping a second cup of coffee while preparing for the new work week when 7:29 a.m. arrives, some will mark the day in special ways.
Denise Morrissey, park supervisor at Mount Wachusett State Reservation in Princeton and Westminster, said more people than usual will probably be at the mountain top this morning to greet the sun.
"People come pretty much every day," Ms. Morrissey said. "But we have staff that get here at 6 in the morning and there are always people up here. I do think people do come up here as soon as it's light to see the sunrise."
Meanwhile, the three-day World Peace and Prayer Day, which began Saturday, is scheduled to run from dawn to dusk today at Burgundy Brook Farm, 3090 Palmer St. (Route 181) in Palmer, event organizer Christina Hansen said. The farm is the home of Blue Star Equiculture Draft Horse Sanctuary and Organic Farm, which Ms. Hansen said is a nonprofit organization specializing in rescuing draft horses. It also does organic farming, offers environmental education and gives horse-drawn history tours.
Ms. Hansen said the public and church officials are invited to the free event, which will feature prayer circles, where people pray for world peace. She said Lakota Sioux Chief Arvol Looking Horse, who started World Peace and Prayer Day in South Dakota's Black Hills in 1996, will be in attendance to pray for "all horses, humans and Earth" today.
This is the first World Peace and Prayer Day in Palmer, and Ms. Hansen said she is expecting about 2,000 people to descend on the farm, especially if today's weather is as sunny and warm as forecasters predict.
She said the summer solstice is a revered day in the Sioux culture because it is the longest day of the year and a symbol of natural things that are growing.
Charlton horticulturalist Paul Rogers said mythical leaders in Celtic and Germanic cultures supposedly toured the earth the evening before the summer solstice checking out crops and other vegetation
"It was a most magical evening when the spirits of vegetation and past leaders walked the earth," he said. "Legend said the earth would come alive on the midsummer eve."
"We Celtics can never have enough tradition," Mr. Rogers said with a laugh.
Sunrise and sunset ceremonies are scheduled today on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst for the area around a 13-year-old, 130-foot-in-diameter sun wheel made out of granite stones.
Sunwheel creator Judith S. Young, a professor in the astronomy department at UMass, whose home answering machine informs callers they have reached the outer edge of the Milky Way, says as many as 223 people have met for the summer and winter solstice gatherings since they started in 1997. Weather and the time of day are big factors in the number of people who show up, Ms. Young said.
"More people tend to come for the sunset. Last year there were 25 people were here for the sunrise ceremony because the weather wasn't very good."
"The summer solstice is a big deal," Ms. Young said. "There are many ways you can look at this day. It's the first day of summer and it makes you pay attention to the natural environment. The summer solstice is also the day that marks the beginning of another season."
The sun wheel is the only astronomically aligned stone circle on a university campus in the world, Ms. Young said
The number of people was no doubt much larger at Stonehenge in England this morning, where a crowd similar to the 36,500 revelers who welcomed the 4:55 a.m. sunrise last year was expected. Many attend for religious and spiritual reasons and many attend simply to experience the event.
The summer solstice is a really big deal in Alaska, which had many Midnight Sun Fun Runs, Midnight Sun Dances, riverboat races and other festivals this weekend.
All of the summer solstice excitement reaches a bright, sunny peak at 10:30 tonight Alaska time, when the annual Midnight Sun baseball game starts at Fairbanks' Growden Memorial Field, which is the home of the Alaska Goldpanners. When midnight rolls around, the Goldpanners and their opponents, the U.S. Military All Star "Heroes of the Diamond," as well as a crowd that can reach 5,000 people, will stop the game and sing the Alaska Flag Song, Goldpanners Associate General Manager Todd Dennis said.
The sun drops behind the hills surrounding the field at midnight although it doesn't get dark enough to put on the lights, Mr. Dennis said. The game resumes after the singing, and when it ends, about 1:30 a.m., the sun has risen above the mountains and is shining brightly, he said.
Former Red Sox hurler Bill "Spaceman" Lee, 63, was one of the starting hurlers in the 2008 Midnight Sun game, 41 years after he pitched in the 1967 game. Reached at his home in Craftsbury, Vt., the southpaw and Goldpanners Hall of Fame member said he loved pitching in the 2008 game, which drew the largest crowd in the event's 105-year history.
"They asked me if I wanted to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and I said, `Sure, but only if I get to throw them all,'" he said.
Lee, who was then 61, threw more than six innings. He said he would love to head north again.
"It's an amazing day, and amazing game," said Mr. Lee. "You bet I'd like to pitch there again."
CUTLINE: (1) Christina Hansen, left, and Pamela Rickenbach, at Burgundy Farm in Palmer yesterday, are the organizers of the three-day Peace and Prayer Day to celebrate the summer solstice. (2) Dennis Fleury, educational director of Wildlife Center of the Hamptons, handles a red-tailed hawk that was being displayed at the Peace and Prayer Day yesterday. (3) Horses parade by during the Peace and Prayer Day yesterday.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/DAN GOULD