BENNINGTON -- This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Bennington Battle Day parade, and the Bennington Fire Department plans to make it special.
The department held its annual meeting Thursday, where members voted to reelect everyone holding an elected position, from president to chief.
Chief Steve Crawford said the Select Board has budgeted an additional $5,000 for this year's parade. Normally the department gets $10,000 and does a great deal of work to raise more and pay for marching bands and other costs associated with the parade and surrounding events, which include a cruise-in, kids' day, and "Vegas Night."
He asked for an advisory vote on whether or not the department should continue to plan the parade. Right now about 15 people sit on the Battle Day parade committee, and those people are growing older while few young people are stepping up to replace them.
A vote was not held, but many voiced their opinions. Department members felt more of their number should step up to help plan, but there were other ideas floated to take the burden off, such as seeking aid from the Better Bennington Corporation and other such groups. Another suggestion was to stick to the parade and consider cutting the surrounding events.
Other members said that despite the work load, planning the parade is a great source of pride for department members and offers them a chance to get together more often than they would without it.
It seemed to be agreed that the matter would be discussed further at a later date.
Deputy Chief Jeff Vickers said Friday in an interview that between 15 and 20 members sit on the main Battle Day committee, then split off into sub committees. The fire department handles much of the initial planning, but as the even draws closer other groups such as Bennington Police and Bennington Highway Department, as well as Bennington Rescue Squad, play a role. Many volunteer to work at the events, but do not plan them.
Vickers said about 1,500 hours of planning get recorded, but many small efforts are not logged.
Public Safety Director and Police Chief Paul Doucette said at the meeting he mentioned to the Select Board that the department might do the parade every three years. This was not received well, he said, as the board supports the parade.
Bennington Battle Day is on Aug. 16. It commemorates the Battle of Bennington, which occurred in 1777 in neighboring Hoosick, N.Y. British troops sought to capture a supply depot in Bennington. The Bennington Battle Monument also pays tribute to it.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.