A little girl, who had been waving to marchers, collects candy tossed during Friday's Veterans Day parade in Bennington.

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Watching the Veterans Day parade Friday as it moved down Main Street and on to the VFW and the Vermont Veterans’ Home on North Street for a wreath laying, we were struck by how Bennington honors its past while also embracing its future.

Veterans of all ranks and past wars marched in formation or rode in vehicles, as groups of observers along the parade route cheered, applauded and waved. A busload from the Vets’ Home was part of the lineup, as were veterans on Harley-Davidson and BMW motorcycles. Some were in uniform; some carried flags.

They marched through a downtown that now features the town’s first retail marijuana store, a Jamaican restaurant, breweries and other businesses that reflect our youth, growing diversity and future.

And marching right along behind were young cheerleaders from Mount Anthony Union High School, performing gymnastic routines, children from the Village School in North Bennington carrying little American flags and calling out to people they knew along the route, and Boy and Girl Scouts from our area joining in to honor our veterans.

Our past and our future in lockstep. We were moved by the display.

Also on Friday, the Banner featured an A1 story about the historic Vermont Mill on Benmont Avenue being sold to a New Hampshire-based redevelopment group. At a time when vacant and abandoned historic mills are crumbling in communities throughout the state and the nation, Bennington’s Vermont Mill has remained active and well cared-for.

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Reportedly, the new owner remains committed to that vision (for more on this story, see today’s front page). We certainly hope so.

This lovely horseshoe shaped building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, houses dynamic tenants like a yoga and wellness studio, a florist, a college nursing program, a Fitness Club and much more — another example of blending our past with our vibrant future. The mill has always been — and hopefully will continue to be — an important piece of our economy.

The Banner was also pleased that the Bennington Select Board recently voted to continue with the study of converting the old Bennington High School building on Main Street into desperately needed housing units, recreation programs, Meals on Wheels and senior services, and more. Not unlike the Vermont Mill, this is a historic downtown building that was central to our past and now can be preserved, renovated and play a key role in our future.

Bennington is not locked into the Benn Hi project. The town and Select Board continue to study the feasibility, funding and challenges of restoring Benn Hi, with important guardrails built in to protect taxpayers.

The Banner remains optimistic that a final proposal that makes sense for our community, takes advantage of rare federal ARPA funding and brings new life to this treasured building becomes reality.

The healthiest communities fight to preserve the best from their pasts; the strongest — like Bennington — embrace that history as they enthusiastically build dynamic futures.


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