BENNINGTON -- A week full of activities commemorating the Battle of Bennington concluded Sunday with a grand old parade down Main Street.
"You ready for some fire trucks?" a father asked his young son shortly before the parade. Coinciding over the weekend with the Vermont State Firefighters' Association annual meeting and conference, this year's packed parade was reminiscent of the last time Vermont's firefighters came to Bennington for their conference in 2009.
There were more than a dozen floats and bands apiece in the march, scattered between fire truck after fire truck, with the tail-end of the procession not hitting the beginning of the route on Main Street until an hour and a half after the front set off.
With thousands of firefighters boosting the throng of spectators, the lawn chairs came out early all along the route.
Retired Mount Anthony Union teacher Ken Carlsen of Shaftsbury said he had arrived at about 10 a.m., but was beat to the punch by Judy Pennock who said she set her chair out at 5:30 that morning. While this was Carlsen's first Battle Day parade in recent years, he remembered a "huge, huge parade" in 1977 for the 200th anniversary of the battle.
While parade conditions could not have been better, Catamount Access Television provided live coverage for those at home, which was also simulcast on Greater Northshire Access Television in Manchester.
Following the march, the best floats received prizes and a winner was drawn for the $5,000 Battle Day raffle.
Before the start, organizers recognized Jim Carroll and Natasha Garder-Littrell for their response helping to feed first responders and those taking shelter last year during Tropical Storm Irene.
Erwin "Smokey" Mattison, Charles "Chuck" Sawyer, and Joe Wassick meanwhile rode as grand marshals. Each with more than 50 years of service, the trio were recognized as the chiefs of the Bennington Fire Department in 1966 when local firefighters took over organizing the Battle Day parade from the Bennington chapter of the Jaycees.
On Saturday, annual firefighter games at the Bennington firehouse were boosted by dozens of departments courtesy of the VSFA conference. Teams took part in a myriad of muster drills including a hose lay and bucket brigade. Nearby, as a sort of super-sized cruise-in, the fire trucks were parked and shined in neat rows.
Activities at the Bennington Battle Monument through the weekend included a living history encampment and Saturday morning's Battle Day 5k foot race. The monument's encampment drew those looking for their history fix, both from Vermont and a fair number from out of state.
Westward in Walloomsac, N.Y., at the actual site of the 1777 battle, the Walloomsac Battle Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution conducted their annual commemoration ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 16.
At the battlefield Sunday morning, Greg Mihalko of Stephentown, N.Y., said he was drawn to the state historic site to learn more after a discussion about military strategy and the 235th anniversary of the Battle of Bennington. A member of the New York Air National Guard, Mihalko said it was amazing the British forces could be overrun in a day.
"From a military standpoint, this was the ideal spot," he said of the battle site, given its advantage in height. Courtesy of interpretative displays, Mihalko said he learned how the British forces were defeated from their perch: Superior numbers of rebel militiamen.
"It doesn't matter if you have the high ground, if you have the troops."
John Stark and Seth Warner had the troops that day, weakening the army of General John Burgoyne and setting the stage for the British defeat at Saratoga, N.Y., later that year.
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