June 22, 2018

Ringing in 250 years

Town finalizes anniversary plans

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

On June 7—the 250th anniversary of the signing of Williston’s town charter—residents can step back from their day-to-day lives and learn to appreciate Williston all over again.

A community dessert potluck—including a giant Williston-themed sheet cake—is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Williston Central School cafeteria, followed by the premiere of Williston filmmaker Jim Heltz’s updated documentary “Williston Revisited—A Community Portrait.”

Working on the film gave Heltz a new appreciation for his hometown, taking him off the same few roads he drives every day and into all the corners of town.

“When you’re going out and filming and stopping and really looking at all these beautiful places the town has, it is amazing how beautiful the town is,” he said. “That’s one thing I hope to capture.”

The aptly named film is an update of “Williston: A Community Portrait,” an award-winning documentary Heltz made 20 years ago as a relative newcomer to Williston.

“I love the town and I really wanted to do it, and it’s been a great experience,” he said. “As you step back and reflect and really look at it again, it makes you appreciate it a lot more…. This was a great opportunity for me to sort of really look at it again and appreciate everything Williston is.”

Heltz, who teamed up with local photographer and journalist Stephen Mease for “Williston Revisited,” interviewed 16 people for the film, capturing 16 perspectives on the town and the fast-moving changes in the past 20 years.

The first thing he filmed, in March of 2012, was the Isham family sugarhouse. Changes at the Isham Family Farm reflect those in Williston, Heltz said. The farm has developed and diversified—shifting from a dairy farm to producers of berries, syrup, sunflowers and corn, with solar panels on the roof and plans to develop an event space.

The film also touches on a community effort to restore the Brennan Barn, a relic of Williston’s past as a farming community. Though plans are to restore it as a historic structure, it will be used for a new purpose, adapting to the changing needs of town residents.

“There have been changes in the town but, everyone has adapted to the changes in different ways,” Heltz said. “There’s always going to be this old and new.”

Heltz and Mease will show the high-definition film on the big screen June 7, and have copies available for $20. The film will also be shown on July 4. A collection of Mease’s photos from the “Williston Revisited” project will be displayed at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, beginning June 1.


Also on June 7, all Williston residents are encouraged to take part in a daylong photo project to capture a day in the life of Williston in its 250th year. Residents can take photos of their activities throughout the day and post them to photo-sharing website Flickr.com, using the tag Williston250. Or, post photos on Instagram or Twitter, using the hashtag #williston250.

Posting photos allows them to be shared town-wide and considered for the Observer’s 250th anniversary photo special, published June 13. By uploading the photos, you agree to let the Observer print them without compensation, though photographers retain all the rights to their photos.

For more information about the process or to upload photos, visit www.flickr.com/groups/williston250/.


After snapping photos, feasting on desserts and taking in the movie, residents can keep the festivities going on June 8 with a town-wide photo shoot at the Williston Community Park at 9 a.m. Every resident in Williston is invited to gather at the park for the commemorative group photo, which will be published in the Williston Observer on June 13.


Williston will soon have its own town beer to celebrate its 250th anniversary.

Local brewer Marty Bonneau, Fiddlehead Brewery and McGillicuddy’s Irish Ale House are teaming up to create a special Williston brew.

Todd Balcom, manager at McGillicuddy’s who spearheaded the project, said they settled on a pale ale, though they have not settled on a name yet.

“A pale ale is a common style that might have been brewed in the late 1700s by Thomas Chittenden or some of the other folks who were brewing in New England,” he said. “And pale ales are extremely popular today.”

Bonneau is set to begin the brewing process at Fiddlehead on June 12. It should be on tap at McGillicuddy’s on July 1 and throughout the summer. Beer afficianados can also try the beer and buy growlers at the Fiddlehead Brewing Company in Shelburne.

“It’s fun to celebrate our history. Most folks in New England I think have a strong connection to their roots,” Balcom said.

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