Joann Ernehouse

The State Legislature proclaimed 2015 as the Year of the Arts in Vermont. Alex Aldrich, Executive Director of the Vermont Arts Council is excited about promoting art projects around the state in 2015.

The Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce has always valued the work of our many area artists. Not only do they create amazing works to admire and enjoy but they add vitality to our economy. I hope all our arts organizations will consider doing special projects in 2015 and give Alex plenty to promote. He enjoyed his trip to Bennington for the celebration of the Bennington Museum’s Exhibit: Alice Neel/Erastus Salisbury Field: Painting the People July 5 through November 2. Go see it if you can -- it is extremely interesting.

Something else that is worth seeing: The Oldcastle Theatre Company’s production of "4,000 Miles" which is a play about life. The actors are great and you will really enjoy the show. It is very realistic and has wonderful characters. The play runs through July 27. The cast is from New York and they very talented. Don’t miss this one. For tickets and times call 802-447-0564.

The Ninja Bike Trail Committee received an amazing contribution from the Bennington Cycle Club on Friday. Their generous check will go far in helping to secure materials to make the trail Loop on Phase I more secure and permanent. Now we can get back to work and clear the Trail in preparation for weed barrier fabric and then gravel.


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I will be calling in for donations of gravel so if anyone has extra -- don’t dispose of it. The Ninja Team will gladly use it. We want this trail used by everyone. It is a wonderful way to connect our community with each other and provides an alternate means of transportation and access between Downtown Bennington and ultimately Bennington College and North Bennington.

The Chamber Mixer is scheduled for July 24 at the Bennington Museum. We are looking forward to a wonderful evening and encourage you members to bring potential members to this and be sure to introduce them to us. The Museum is looking forward to hosting us from 5:30-7 on Thursday, July 24. Please call 802-447-3311 and tell Marie that you plan to attend. See you there!!!

July 25 is Mexican Fiesta Party at the Village Chocolate Shoppe, part of their Funtastic Fridays programs. This will include a Pinata, Music, and taco’s.

At the V.A.C.C.E. meeting last week the Governor and Lt. Governor both came and gave us updates and stayed to answer questions. We also had their two challengers in the upcoming elections spend time with us. We had a long meeting but it was very worthwhile in that we had each guest individually and could really talk. I have to issue a disclaimer and say that the Governor stated that he had not decided to run again or not. So it was not a campaign presentation. Thanks to all of them for letting us know their plans and ideas. The V.A.C.C.E.organization as the representatives of 11,000 businesses which include over 160,000 employees we want our leaders to know that our opinions matter. V.A.C.C.E. is the Vermont Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. We are all independent Chambers and meet together to learn how to better benefit our memberships.

The Summer Sonatina performs every Thursday at 6 p.m. at The Bennington Center for the Arts through July. These concerts are free to the public. This is a great opportunity to enjoy new performers and encourage them as they entertain you. Thank you to The Bennington Center for the Arts for hosting this wonderful summer program.

Last week at the Rail Advisory Council Meeting we were presented with the draft of the State’s 2015 Rail Plan. Our task will be to review it and make suggestions for priorities. Funding is always the issue. The U.S. House passed funding through May of 2015 for the Highway Trust Fund. Now the Senate must vote on it. Without the Highway Trust Fund other sources must be sought out to keep projects from being delayed or modified. The other funding source to watch is the Federal High Speed Rail program. The good news is that the Tiger 5 Grant has had the federal money granted to Vermont so the process is progressing and we now have 2 years to complete the project. The Rail Division in Vermont is sending in a proposal to a new federal program once it is funded that if we succeed could give us money to complete the Western Corridor, including Bennington and Manchester. Also, the FRA (Federal Rail Administration) has rated our Bridge Management Program as a "good job." I have to say that there is real work being done by the department and progress is happening.

While I was in Montpelier I checked in with the Aviation Department to see how the Infrastructure repairs and upgrades project here at the Morse State Airport was coming along. The NEPA and FONSI environmental reports are moving along according to schedule. There is no plan to extend the runway, but the facility is in need of repairs and updating which it looks like will happen and will benefit the community.

A huge "Thank You" to all the Chamber Sponsors, Event Sponsors, Catamount Sculpture Merchant Sponsors, Artists, Auctioneer, Colgate Park, Thyme Table Catering, Committee Members, the Standard Clams Musicians. The Bennington Banner, Tri State Pennysaver, CAT-TV, WBTN-AM 1370, Volunteers and all the guests who bid on our fabulous Catamounts making the Midsummer Night’s Prowl the amazing celebration that it was. Please check our website for a complete listing of our friends and sponsors who make these massive public art projects possible for the Bennington Community. We are so pleased to be able to thank our artists in a tangible way and to be able to contribute to the local Cancer Research & Recovery program. You are all another reason for "Why I Love Bennington."

Joann Erenhouse is executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column appears weekly in the Banner.