BENNINGTON — The young people of Bennington were recognized on Saturday with the town's fourth annual Youth Appreciation Day, which saw good turnout despite the threat of rain.
The free event ran from noon until 4 p.m., and was presented by AmeriCorps VISTAs, the Bennington County Regional Commission, the Town of Bennington, and the Alliance for Community Transformations. It featured, music, dancing, food, games, and more, all sponsored by the Bennington Community. The major financial sponsors of the event were Southwestern Vermont Healthcare, Stewart's Shops, and the United Way.
AmeriCorps VISTA Rory Price said, "This event is all about the children. We really value the youth of the community, and we thought rather than just saying it, we'd show it."
The history of the event goes back to 2013, when students from the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center drafted a resolution, which was adopted by the Legislature that year, naming April 27 as Youth Appreciation Day. That same year, the Bennington Select Board named the last Saturday in April as Youth Appreciation Day. The event's conception followed a 2013 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey that indicated local teens did not feel valued by the community — 38 percent of high school students in the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union (SVSU) reported feeling that way, compared to the state's average of 50 percent.
"That was the idea behind it — [the number] was well below the state average," said AmeriCorps VISTA Nevin Lessard, "So we want them to feel like they're important."
This year saw another huge milestone for the event, as Governor Peter Shumlin signed a resolution that designated the month of May as Youth Appreciation Month.
The town's economic and community development director, Michael Harrington, thanked the facilities department for getting Willow Park ready for the festivities. "They worked their butts off to make sure the grounds were spectacular," he said.
Among the vendors and organizations that set up tables at the event were Highlander Bicycles, which offered free tune-ups and demonstrations; the Bennington chapter of the Vermont State Employee Association, which had arts and crafts for kids; the Bennington Oral Health Coalition, which was giving away gift bags with toothbrushes, dental floss, and more; the Center for Restorative Justice, which had ring-toss; The Gamer's Grotto, which had a game tent; Planned Parenthood, which had bubble-making; and ACT, which had a station for making Mother's Day cards. Second Chance Animal Center also had representatives in attendance. There was also basketball, t-shirt tie-dying, a bouncy house, and a barbecue.
For entertainment, there were performances by the Wild Country and Crossover Cloggers, demonstrations from Anytime Fitness, and performances from local bands Immune Friction and The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.