Planning started on Battle Day celebration

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BENNINGTON — The citizen group that formed to commemorate this year's Bennington Battle Day after cancellation of the traditional parade events because of the coronavirus epidemic now has a name — the Bennington Battle Day 2020 Celebration Committee — and planning has begun.

"We don't know what's coming in terms of limitations to the size of public gatherings, among other things," said Jonah Spivak, who was elected co-chairman at the first of two recent video conferences. "But we've begun to explore a variety of ideas suggested by members of the committee and the general public."

The idea of a man dressed as Col. Seth Warner parachuting onto the grounds of the Battle Monument, proposed by a member of the public, had to be rejected because of liability concerns. But two other aerial ideas — a flyover by members of the Vermont Air National Guard in the Burlington-based F-35 fighter jets and a fireworks display — are getting further study, he said.

One element of Battle Day planning has already fallen into place: Gov. Phil Scott is expected to attend and preside over what has been a Vermont state holiday since 1894. What form any ceremony will take is still undetermined; public gatherings are currently limited to 25 people.

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"But make no mistake, there will be a public ceremony of some kind," said committee co-chairman Phil Holland. "We intend to honor those of our fellow Vermonters who are helping us get through the present crisis: health care workers, essential workers, and volunteers like the Green Mountain Mask Makers, among others."

Other ideas under consideration involve a "reverse car parade" like the one that the Vermont Arts Exchange recently staged in North Bennington; a virtual tour of local sites related to the history of the battle, which took place just over the New York State line along the Walloomsac River on August 16, 1777; a procession to the Monument from the site of the former Catamount Tavern on Monument Avenue in Old Bennington; and a talk on the occasion of the centenary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote when it was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920.

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Decorations suggested

Additional suggestions from residents include decorating the town in patriotic colors for Battle Day; ringing church bells and scattering trumpeters and other musicians about town at a particular hour to create a communal experience of sound; encouraging artists of all ages to create representations of the Battle; and creating face masks with the design of the Bennington '76 flag.

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The committee emphasized the role that can be played by local cable network CAT-TV to enable people to enjoy Battle Day weekend activities from home. And the Bennington Fire Department plans a drive-by chicken barbecue in place of the traditional sit-down.

"It won't just be virtual chicken, either," said Chief Jim Wright, one of the members of the committee.

Also joining the committee since its first meeting in April are state Rep. Mary Morrissey; Tracy Martin, Historic Sites Section Chief for the State of Vermont; and David Pitlyk, Historic Site Assistant for the Bennington Battlefield in New York.

Members of the public are encouraged to discuss ideas with members of the committee, or by emailing bennbattle2020@gmail.com, or by commenting on this release on the Bennington Museum's Facebook page.


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