Bennington's Battle Day Weekend starts Friday, parade is Sunday

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BENNINGTON — The 53rd annual Bennington Battle Day Weekend kicks off Friday.

Events are planned through Sunday and are hosted by the Bennington Fire Department. They commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Bennington.and culminate Sunday with the Battle Day Parade. Lineup starts at 10 a.m. and the parade kicks off at 12:30 p.m. The route is one mile long, starting at Main and Safford Streets and moves west to Depot Street; heads north on Depot Street to River Street; then east on River Street before it ends at the fire facility. A viewing stand will be at the Four Corners.

This year's grand marshal will be Charles Becker, of Shaftsbury. A longtime member of the Shaftsbury Fire Department, he joined in 1948 and within a few years was elected chief, a title he held for 16 years. Becker was the Vermont State Firefighters' Association president from 1973 to 1974 and 1985's chief of the year. He is an active department member today as a pump operator. Becker has also been a parade judge for many years.

Battle Day is a state holiday unique to Vermont and observed on Aug. 16. It's on that day in 1777 when a colonial force made up of up to 2,000 New Hampshire and Massachusetts militiamen defeated a detachment of 700 British soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum. General John Burgoyne sent Baum to raid Bennington for horses, food and other supplies, believing the town to be lightly defended. Unbeknownst to Burgoyne, the militiamen of General John Stark had recently been stationed there. During the battle, Stark's men were reinforced by Colonel Seth Warner and members of the Green Mountain Boys. The Bennington Battlefield site is in nearby Walloomsac, N.Y.

Today, the battlefield on Route 67A is a New York state historic site. It will host a reenactment honoring the battle on Saturday and Sunday, with encampments open to the public starting at 10 a.m. both days. Reenactors will storm the "Dragoon Redoubt" Saturday at 3 p.m. On Sunday, the rebel attack on the Tory Fort will take place after 1:30 p.m. For a complete schedule, visit www.bennington240.com.

Battle Day Weekend events start on Friday at the River Street fire station. Department members will serve lunch at noon; hot sausage, burgers and hot dogs will be available for purchase. A chicken barbecue dinner starts at 4 p.m. and runs while supplies last; the cost is $10 per person.

The 13th annual Battle Day 5K Road Race takes place Saturday at the Bennington Battle Monument. The cost to register is $18 beforehand and $20 the day of, or $15 and $17 for Battenkill Valley Runners. Race registration starts at 8 a.m. and the race begins at 9:30 a.m. For more information, call 802-447-0550 or visit www.benningtonbattlemonument.com. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Bennington Battle Monument.

The USS Bennington Memorial Service, with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ship's Bell, will be held at noon at the town offices, 215 South St.

A Kids' Day, sponsored by the fire department, is from 10 a.m. to noon at the recreation center 655 Gage St.

A Firefighter's Challenge will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. at the River Street fire facility. Firefighters from the area will don protective equipment and breathing apparatus will complete 10 stations, including a climb station on a ladder truck, competing for a trophy to be awarded at a ceremony after Sunday's parade.

The Bennington town offices and Public Works Department will be closed Monday. Offices will reopen on Tuesday at 8 a.m.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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