MICHELLE KARAS

Editor

BENNINGTON -- More than 160 incoming freshmen and athletes from Southern Vermont College took to the streets of Bennington following the first day of their orientation on Tuesday.

As part of a "Taste of Bennington" progressive dinner, the students visited a number of downtown restaurants, from which they could pick an appetizer course, an entree course and a dessert course, according to John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation.

"It’s just SVC freshmen, athletes and staff coordinators," said Shannahan, who was taking in the fun on Main Street on Tuesday while the event ran from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. "This is the second year we’ve done this and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been great working with the colleges."

Ramunto’s Pizza was a popular stop for its appetizer offering of garlic knots, Jimmy Joe’s Curbside Grill often had a line for its entree burgers and Village Chocolate Shoppe was well patronized for its ice cream. Other participating businesses included Crazy Russian Girls Bakery, Lil’ Britain and Bennington Pizza.

Jerrikka Henry and Tinesha Davis, two SVC freshmen, enjoyed a couple of ice cream cones from the Village Chocolate Shoppe and said between licks that they were enjoying the evening very much.

Businesses including Evans News took advantage of the plentiful foot traffic by extending evening hours to accommodate the young shoppers, and offering the students free popcorn as they strolled by.

At the end of the evening, as the SVC students prepared to board a bus back to campus, Shannahan and Michael Harrington, Bennington’s economic and community development director, handed each student a "swag bag" filled with small gifts and coupons donated by downtown merchants.

The Bennington Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Bennington, Better Bennington Corporation, and local colleges partnered on the swag bags and the official welcome to the new college students into Bennington’s downtown.

Contact Michelle Karas at mkaras@benningtonbanner.com or via Twitter @bannereditor