Sunday August 7, 2011

BENNINGTON -- A full slate of events is scheduled to begin later this week as part of this year's Bennington Battle Day celebrations.

This year's parade steps off next Sunday, at 12:30 p.m., two days ahead of the officially designated state holiday on Aug. 16. This year's schedule includes many returning popular events, some new ones, and a few notable omissions.

"The parade is shaping up great," said organizer Ricky Knapp, who promised it would be "one of the largest, being a non-firefighters convention parade." (A high mark was set in 2009, when the Battle Day parade coincided with the 120th annual convention of the Vermont State Firefighters Association, held that year in Bennington.)

A new addition this year sure to please -- and hard to miss -- will be the Aaron's Outdoors Monster Truck. The rent-to-own store's towering creation will take part in Sunday's parade and also be on display at the Bennington Fire House on Friday night.

"A lot of people enjoy their monster trucks," said Knapp.

Four days of events

Events begin this Thursday with the annual Willow Park softball game, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The game pits members of the Bennington Fire Department against those of the Police Department.

Knapp, a member of the fire department, said that the police "slaughtered" his team last year, but that the match was usually even and always a good-natured game.

On Friday, Aug.


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12, lunch will be held at both the Bennington and North Bennington fire departments. Beginning at 4 p.m., the Bennington Fire House will host a chicken barbecue dinner and Chinese auction, new this year.

In addition to the monster truck on display, the Bennington Fire House also hosts Friday's car cruise, at 6 p.m., and is the starting point for the cruise down Main Street, which begins at 8:15 p.m.

From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. that same night at the fire house, Las Vegas Night returns with DJ Ben Patten from Magic 590 AM.

The 6th annual Battle Day 5k Road Race starts at 9:30 a.m., on Saturday, Aug. 13. Pre-registration begins at 8 a.m. The race, sponsored by Friends of the Monument, starts and ends with cannon fire at the Bennington Battle Monument in Old Bennington.

Awards are given to the first male and female overall, as well as to the top finishers in different age groups. A half-mile kids' fun race follows.

A living history encampment will be set up both Saturday and Sunday on the grounds of the Battle Monument, with drill presentations, musket demonstrations, educational exhibits, activities for children, and Revolutionary War reenactors.

Not included on this year's schedule are any activities at the Barnett Homestead in Walloomsac, N.Y. The homestead, situated across state Route 67 from the battle site and previously maintained for historical interpretations, lost its funding for such purposes last year and is no longer open to the public.

The Bennington Battlefield Historic Site on state Route 67 in New York remains open and available to the public daily through Labor Day. On Saturday, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., members of local Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution chapters will be at the battle site to answer any questions. There will also be displays of artwork and images depicting events of the American Revolution.

On Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m., a formal commemoration ceremony will take place at the battle site, according to John Sheaff, president of the Walloomsac Battle Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Kids' Day takes place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday at the Bennington Recreation Center on Gage Street. Firematic Games take place during the day Saturday at the Bennington Fire House.

Another new attraction will be tethered balloon rides by RE/MAX, which will lift off from the Vermont Veterans' Home on Saturday evening between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., weather permitting. Only 100 rides will be available, at $10 each. Tickets will be on sale at the fire house.

Knapp said that there would be 13 musical units in Sunday's parade, which will follow the same route as in years past. New this year will be the Pittsfield Red Knights Drum and Bugle Corps.

Knapp said that funding the various Battle Day events had been tighter this year and that organizers were still in the process of raising funds.

But the annual, reoccurring tradition of many of the events is indicative that each attraction draws its own crowd. "Everything we have, people very, very much enjoy," Knapp said. "We just try to improve it each year."

This year marks the 234th anniversary of the Battle of Bennington, and the 47th annual Battle Day celebration. The battle is considered by many to have been a significant factor in the later defeat of the British during the Battle of Saratoga that same year.

Entry to all state-owned Historic Sites is free on Aug. 16.

Contact Zeke Wright at ewright@benningtonbanner.com.