Inaugural town fair full of smiles, sunshine and service

The Williston town tent at the fair featured hands-on exhibits and handouts for visitors from town departments and committees, the library, and the American Red Cross. Observer photo by Karson Petty

“Folks were happy to green up and interact with the town in a new way”

By Karson Petty 

Community News Service

Over 200 residents stopped by the Williston village green on Saturday to take part in the first-ever town fair. 

Town planners hoped to usher in a new springtime tradition for Williston with the fair, one to go along with Vermont’s 50-year-strong tradition of greening up roadsides across the state. 

Willistonians upheld the established tradition well, nearly exhausting the town’s supply of green-up bags by 2 p.m. on Saturday. 

“I think we might have four bags left out of 700,” Senior Town Planner Emily Heymann said after the fair. 

“I think for a first-year event it was very successful,” she added. 

Heymann was very pleased with the fair’s turnout and felt that her colleagues on the town staff were also. 

A large tent in the center of the green acted as a hub where several town departments and volunteer organizations were stationed. Those included the town manager’s office, Planning Commission, Recreation and Parks Department, Energy Committee, Catamount Community Forest Committee, the Vermont Chapter of the Red Cross and the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library. 

Snacks and beverages were also provided inside the tent. Heymann was thankful for donations from Healthy Living Market & Café, Garuka Bars, OWL Energy Bars, Shaws and Starbucks. A smaller, adjoining tent housed the Williston Observer and the Williston-Richmond Rotary Club. 

Residents could sign up for giveaways, win prizes and get arts-and-crafts ideas in both tents. 

Heymann organized some family activities outside the main tent, including lawn jenga, a tug-of-war duel, and a game of cornhole. 

“(The activities) were really popular this morning with a bunch of kids running around,” she said. 

Primetime for the fair was between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. when activities like library storytime and a meet-and-greet with Rep. Erin Brady were scheduled. Library storytime began at 10:30 a.m., when Youth Services Librarian Bonnie Lord started to read three environmentally themed stories to a crowd of about 20 children and parents.  

“It’s been a wonderful outreach event,” said Library Director Jane Kearns. 

Kearns took over the position in November 2019. Since then she’s been occupied with overseeing pandemic operations. It was refreshing for Kearns to connect with people in person and see the enjoyment on the children’s faces during library storytime. 

“It’s been a picture-perfect day,” she said. 

Rep. Brady was joined in her visit to the fair by Lt. Gov. Molly Gray. They both met with town staff and residents alike, but Gray also got the opportunity to learn about the new zoning regulations for Taft Corners (Form-Based Code) from Planning and Zoning Director Matt Boulanger. 

Boulanger saw the fair as a great opportunity to interact with residents and talk to staff in other departments he wouldn’t normally work with. 

“It’s been really awesome to do things in a different form than we usually do,” he said. 

The fair also allowed Boulanger to reflect on the community he serves. 

“(Williston) is a vibrant community with a lot of heavily involved citizens,” he said, “and that’s what it’s all about.”   

Kate Alberghini, executive director of Green Up Vermont, also made an appearance at the fair to meet with Green Up volunteers and drop off a couple extra rolls of bags for the town. Heymann was grateful for the official donation. 

“We got lucky when (she) stopped by in the morning,” she said. 

She also felt lucky that the Williston Fire Department participated in the fair. 

Firefighter Dan Sisco thought the fair was an ideal way to interact with residents and get children acquainted with the fire department. 

“It’s great being able to get people to see the fire trucks,” he said. “Getting kids to interact with the vehicles and see what we have for equipment is always really helpful.” 

Senior Firefighter and Paramedic Anthony Simanskas thought the fair was a great way to encourage residents to participate in Green Up Day. Firefighters pitched in by filling three bags around the fire station before coming to the fair, he said.

Lt. Keith Baker also felt that the fair was successful. 

“We’ve been here meeting and greeting people, and it seems like a pretty heavily attended event,” he said. 

Another activity offered at the fair were tours of the historic Stovepipe School House. Around 100 residents entered the one-room building for a look around. 

Williston Historical Society Membership Chair Peter Callas said that most people entered the schoolhouse in the morning, when his colleague Richard Allen led the tours. 

A few families came through for tours when Callas volunteered as guide in the afternoon. He appreciated the children’s interest in the old desks and noticed them practicing fractions on a chalkboard. 

“Everybody’s been very friendly and enjoyed being here,” he said, “It’s nice to be (around) when people are doing what they want and seeing what’s going on.” 

Callas thought that the fair was a good addition to Williston’s schedule of events and felt it was nice to have another excuse for people to get together. 

Newly-appointed Energy Coordinator Melinda Scott thought that the fair was an evolutionary step compared to past Green Up days. She said she was glad to be a part of an event that showed how much the community cares about their environment. 

“It brings people together in a really positive way and gives them something to feel good about,” she said. 

Reed Parker, who represented the town Energy Committee and Catamount Community Forest Management Committee at the fair, thought the town did a great job of organizing the event and that it should be repeated for years to come. Parker also thought that the fair was just the right size to encourage community interaction. 

“It’s not too big, but I don’t think it needs to be,” he said. “It’s a good event for a town to sponsor and show their faces to people.” 

Heymann is optimistic for future versions of the fair. 

“Feedback has been great and folks were happy to green up and interact with the town in a new way,” she said. “Next year, with more lead time and the experience we’ve learned this year, we should be able to include more groups and organizations from around Williston.”