GROTON -- "Buddy" may have only acquired his nickname last year, but the gilded rooster has stood on top of the Old Groton Meetinghouse for centuries.
So when it came time Saturday to put the newly restored weather vane back up on his usual perch, dozens of history buffs, re-enactors and curious onlookers were on hand to witness the spectacle.
"It's always been there," said Steve Lieman, a Groton resident who oversaw the restoration project. "It was there in 1776 when Minutemen gathered on the common."
A mixed crowd of families and longtime Groton residents stood on the lawn outside the church, staring up into the sky as a crane raised Bob Levesque Jr., the contractor who restored the weather vane, and architect Lynne Spencer to the steeple hundreds of feet in the air.
Onlookers broke into applause when Levesque and Spencer pulled the final piece of cloth off the weather vane, allowing its gilded exterior to shine out from the cloudy sky.
Members of the Groton Minutemen attended in full costume to provide a drum roll while the weather vane was being unveiled and to fire a volley of blank musket shots in celebration.
Gary Babin, a Groton resident and a Groton Minuteman himself, said it was important for the group to attend because of the historical significance. As he told it, the original Minutemen of Groton mustered during the Revolutionary War on the same lawn where he stood Saturday.
"There's a real keen interest in history in this town," he said. "Groton was, at one point, the frontier.
Several women stood nearby in hand-sewn, period-appropriate attire to complement the Minutemen. Ginny Babin, Gary's wife, described the outfits as "1775 eye candy."
The 3-foot-wide weather vane had been restored at various points in its centuries-long life, but the last time was more than 40 years ago and it needed "extensive repairs," Lieman said. So last summer, amidst a larger renovation project for the First Parish Church where the meetinghouse is located, workers took the rooster down from its usual spot and prepared to refurbish it.
Funding for the project came from a mix of grants, town money and private donations. Levesque came up with the nickname "Buddy," and soon enough, the name stuck.
One of the weather vane's defining features, Lieman said, is that it is more or less three-dimensional -- various portions are thicker than others to fill out the rooster shape, whereas a more typical weather vane might be essentially flat. Workers were also surprised to find that Buddy was designed with a metal skeleton structure inside.
"The more we worked with him, the more everyone got excited," Lieman, who previously chaired the Old Groton Meetinghouse Advisory Committee, said.
During the ceremony Saturday, several local historians spoke, as did the Rev. Elea Kemler, the First Parish Church's pastor. In his remarks, Lieman said he hoped the installation could be a sort of celebratory punctuation mark as the first phase of church renovations came to a close.
"Putting Buddy back on the steeple is the last step of a very long process," he said during remarks to the crowd. "We wanted to make something that would last."
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