MONTPELIER — Dressed in Colonial era garb, Jonah Spivak and other supporters of legislation to create a statewide commission to plan for the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Bennington traveled to the Statehouse Wednesday to offer committee testimony and meet with lawmakers and state officials.
Spivak, a former president of the Bennington region chamber of commerce, is one of the creators of a bill to establish the commission, which would focus on marking such events as the August 1777 battle and Revolutionary War events that year in Hubbardton, Windsor, Westminster, Castleton, among other Vermont locations.
Bennington is beginning to gear up for the 250th anniversary of the battle in 2027, and Spivak and others hope to make the celebration one that leaves a lasting impression on potential visitors from around the U.S. and internationally.
Among his more ambitious proposals is to create a replica of the famous Catamount Tavern, where the Green Mountain Boys and others met, planned and drank around the time of the Aug. 16, 1777 battle. The Old Bennington tavern and inn burned in 1891.
Other proposals include enhancing historic sites and markers in key locations around the central battle locations in nearby Walloomsac, N.Y., as well as the army camp, march or storehouse sites in Bennington and Manchester and other towns.
"We went up to lobby for the legislation to create a 250th Celebration Commission," Spivak said Thursday.
The legislation has passed the Vermont Senate and is now in committee in the House.
"We testified in the House Government Operations Committee," Spivak said, "with the help and support of author Howard Coffin; Stephen Perkins, executive director the Vermont Historical Society), David Shutz, curator at the Statehouse, and Laura Trieschmann, the Vermont Historic Preservation Officer."
The group also met with Gov. Phil Scott and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman to discuss the bill and its importance, he said, and with members of the Bennngton area legislative delegation. Those included Reps. Mary Morrissey, Jim Carroll, David Durfee and Chris Bates, and Sens. Brian Campion and Dick Sears, Spivak said.
"I believe we were very successful," Spivak added. "I heard back today from [Morrissey, who serves on the committee], who said we made a powerful impression. We hope that the bill will move out of committee within the next two weeks and then to a vote on the House floor."
He added, "To put this in perspective, over 1,000 bills have been presented. Only about 100 will make it to the floor for a vote. So we have been working for now three years to get this legislation done."
Having a 250th Celebration Commission could be the first step in planning events for 2027, Spivak said, likening it to a similar commission in 1877 that resulted in the planning and eventual construction of the Bennington Battle Monument.
"If we want to do big things for our 250th celebration," he said, "this is that crucial first step."
As envisioned, the Vermont anniversary commission also would work to coordinate events here focused on the 1777 British invasion from Canada with those in Saratoga, N.Y., where the British advance under Gen. John Burgoyne ended in defeat and surrender that October.
Historically speaking, that American victory is credited with convincing the French to join the war against Britain and was a major turning point in our war for independence.
Spivak has said he'd also like to see the Vermont events also coordinated with the national July 4, 2026, anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and include involvement from surrounding states that sent militia units to Bennington to help defeat the British contingent sent here to confiscate supplies and military stores.
Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien