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Newton Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Fig Newton

April 11, 1991

NEWTON, Mass. (AP) _ The 100th anniversary of a cookie may not be considered a milestone for the history books, but residents of Newton believe the Fig Newton’s first century is something to celebrate.

″Newton is an all-American city, and the Fig Newton is an all-American cookie,″ said Linda Plaut, the city’s director of cultural affairs. ″We’re all proud of that.″

″You don’t hear about Fig Philadelphias or Fig New Yorks. No, you hear about Fig Newtons,″ said Theodore Mann, mayor of the city of 90,000 residents 10 miles west of Boston.

Representatives of Nabisco Brands Inc. and the city announced plans Thursday for a 100th anniversary celebration, including a community-wide barbecue on May 7 to kick off the month-long observance.

The barbecue will feature singer Juice Newton, chosen for her surname but known for the country hits ″Angel of the Morning″ and ″Queen of Hearts.″

″It’s a perfect merger,″ Mann said about his city’s association with the cookie. ″It’s no wonder both of us have lasted this long.″

The Newton, as it was originally called, was created in 1891 at the Kennedy Biscuit Works in Cambridgeport, now known as Cambridge, said Mark Gutsche, a Nabisco spokesman.

″In those days the plant manager was naming cookies after suburbs and landmarks in Boston,″ he said. ″They had the Brighton, the Melrose, and a cracker called Cambridge Salts. And, of course, the Newton.″

Today, the Fig Newton is made at plants in Chicago and Fair Lawn, N.J. It is Nabisco’s third best-selling cookie, behind the Oreo and Chips Ahoy brands, Gutsche said.

Last year, Fig Newton sales jumped 25 percent, Gutsche said. Nabisco officials like to think the boost was because of the trend toward healthier lifestyles. Each cookie has 50 calories, with a relatively low 9 calories from fat, according to the book The Fat Counter by dietians Annette B. Natow and Jo-Ann Heslin.

As part of the celebration, Nabisco will offer three scholarships annually to Newton high school students over the next 10 years, provide benches for the grounds around city hall, and contribute to an aid fund for Newton’s veterans of the Persian Gulf War.

″They’ve adopted us, in a sense,″ said Mann. ″And we’ve adopted them.″

Aides in Mann’s office said he has been passing out Fig Newtons to anyone who visits his office for several months.

″It seems he has an endless supply,″ said Plaut.

One member of the community wasn’t as enthusiastic.

Rick Belsanti, a manager at Petrillo’s Market, said his store hasn’t been stocking Fig Newtons.

″They just don’t sell well here,″ he said, also admitting he didn’t know about the name association.

Asked if he knew the cookie was 100 years old this year, Belsanti joked: ″No wonder people don’t buy them. Who wants to eat a cookie that’s 100 years old?″

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