July 29, 2014

Town begins 250th anniversary preparations

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Benning Wentworth had a productive day on June 7, 1763.

With 10 flicks of his pen the royal governor of the Province of New Hampshire signed the papers that chartered 10 townships—including Burlington, Colchester, Essex and Williston—in the territory known today as Vermont.

Last Thursday, three days into the 250th year of Williston’s history, a group of eight local citizens met in the Vermont Room of the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library to discuss plans for the sestercentennial celebration of that historic day in 1763.

Each of the group members was tasked with a specific component of what is envisioned as a series of events leading up to the June 7 anniversary.

State Rep. Jim McCullough discussed “Williston Moves,” a yearlong town fitness challenge that kicked off the 250th anniversary festivities with a Jan. 5 snowshoe event at McCullough’s Catamount Outdoor Family Center.

State Rep. Terry Macaig said he is in discussions with fellow House member Tim Jerman of Essex Junction for a proposed 250th anniversary convention on June 9 at the Champlain Valley Exposition. Other local towns celebrating 250th anniversaries in 2013 include Jericho, Milton, Shelburne and St. George.

Local historian and retired Williston Central School teacher Richard Allen offered to host a slideshow at the library that will provide a concise history of Williston from 1763 to the present. His suggestion met with the agreement of Library Director Marti Fiske, who said the library is planning a series of Williston history workshops during the spring.

Retired educator Bill Skiff, an Observer columnist, said he will talk to area brewers about a special 250th anniversary beer.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett, the group’s leader, said she has secured permission from Williston Central School to hold a potluck dinner on March 4, prior to Town Meeting. Dinner entertainment will include a mock debate that will use town records to recreate a historic town meeting. Williston Historical Society guru Ginger Isham suggested creating a photo booth at the event where attendees can have their picture taken with a life-size cardboard cutout of original town settler Thomas Chittenden.

Photographer Steve Mease volunteered to lead an all-day photo project on June 7 that will capture a day in the life of Williston. The following day, a Saturday, a group photo shoot featuring any Willistonians who wish to attend will be held at Williston Community Park.

Mease is also collaborating with filmmaker Jim Heltz on “Williston Revisited: A Community Portrait,” a documentary that will chronicle the past 20 years of town history. Heltz said Tuesday that he plans to debut the film at Williston Central School on June 7.

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