FERRISBURGH — Back in the 1970s, Ferrisburgh held annual “Good Neighbor Days,” in which residents gathered and picnicked.
Early in 2010, Ferrisburgh native Karlene DeVine and other members of the Ferrisburgh Historical Society recalled Good Neighbor Days, which had long since faded from the town’s annual calendar.
They saw a need being unmet, especially DeVine, one of the first students to attend Ferrisburgh Central School when it opened about 50 years ago. DeVine had returned to Ferrisburgh in 2003 after two decades in Connecticut, and said one reason she headed home was because she missed the sense of community Good Neighbor Days embodied.
“There was huge community pride, and for me, I was living out of state, and I came back so I could be part of that,” she said.
DeVine and other historical society members particularly recalled the 1976 Good Neighbor Day, when a parade of farm equipment and antique cars motored along Little Chicago Road to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial. They realized others still yearned for community.
“We have a lot of new residents who want to be connected with the town, and we have older residents who have that community spirit,” DeVine said.
From the discussion that surrounded those memories, DeVine said the historical society members concluded the potential was there for a major town-wide event, and they came up with the concept for the town’s first Ferrisburgh Day, held in July 2010. The second is this Saturday.
“We realized we had a lot of businesses and organizations who could be represented,” she said.
Four key ones signed on quickly last year. The Lake Champlain Maritime and Rokeby museums offered free admission to town residents on the chosen Saturday, as they are again this weekend; the central school agreed to show off its composting program and host a meal, and will again this year; and the Friends of the Grange hosted an event, and will again.
Other sites included the home of organizer Al Van DeWeert, who displayed antique farm equipment and offered pony rides; the Ferrisburgh Fire Department; and the Ferrisburgh Historical Society, which calls the former town clerk’s office home. All are back for more this year after seeing up to five-dozen visitors per venue in 2010, according to organizers’ estimates.
“We think for the first time it was very good,” DeVine said. “We had a constant flow of people, and not so many that the visitors couldn’t appreciate what they were there for.”
Although the historical society had the idea, hosts at each venue take care of the logistics, making Ferrisburgh Day a community project.
“Each individual group has taken the lead to do its own efforts. That’s been the wonderful thing,” DeVine said.
All the day’s activities are free except for two meals. According to a press release about the day, there will be “a nominal fee” for lunch at the school. And the final event of the day is a fund-raising dinner for the North Ferrisburgh Methodist Church, its annual Lobster Fest (and Chicken) Supper, which requires reservations (425-3020) for its two seatings, at 5 and 6:30 p.m.
Events and opportunities run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. They are:
• From 9 a.m. until noon at the Ferrisburgh Solar Farm on Route 7, representatives from Alteris Renewables will hand out giveaways and information.
• From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Rokeby will open its walking trails to Ferrisburgh residents, and offer free admission to town residents to its 11 a.m. and 12:30 and 2 p.m. house tours.
• From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will offer free admission to town residents.
• From 10 a.m. until noon, residents Charlie Shapiro and Liz and Peter Markowski will offer residents rides in antique cars. Those interested may go to the historical society building, which is the former one-room schoolhouse on Route 7 that served for decades as the town clerk’s office.
• From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., the central school will offer tours of its student gardens and composting programs, with lunch served from noon to 1 p.m.
• At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the rebuilt Grange Hall, University of Vermont junior, Vergennes Union High School graduate and Ferrisburgh resident Elias Baldwin will host a slide presentation, “Ferrisburgh (and Vicinity) in Times Past: Historic Photos from the Bixby Library and Other Collections.”
The presentation will offer views of Ferrisburgh gleaned from the photograph collections of the Bixby Library, the University of Vermont Library’s Special Collections, the Ferrisburgh Historical Society and a few private collections, many of which previously have been unavailable to the public and which are gathered together for the first time.
Baldwin said the Ferrisburgh Day presentation will be the first step in what is hoped to be an on-going effort to document the history of the town in photographs. He plans to appeal to area residents with historic family photos to come forward and share them with a wider audience. Residents who own photos they think may be of interest may contact Baldwin at 989-3177.
• From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Van DeWeert will again offer his antique tractor collection for display; his home is across Route 7 from the town fire station. The Ferrisburgh Day press release promises other “family fun” at the site.
• From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. firefighters will display the department equipment and lead children’s activities.
• From 1 to 4 p.m., the historical society will host an open house at the former town clerk’s office, offering samples from recipes based on the 1912 Ferrisburgh Social Club Cookbook.
• At 1 p.m., Silas Towler will offer a tour of the town-owned Union Meeting House, across the road from the former town clerk’s office. This historic building is now rented to the Crossroads Chapel, and is known as the site of an anti-slavery speech given by famous orator Frederick Douglass.
• At 2 p.m., the Union Meeting House will host a concert by the Champlain Brass Quintet.
• At 5 and 6:30 p.m., the North Ferrisburgh Methodist Church will stage its reservations-required lobster and chicken dinners.
Organizers have every intent of making Ferrisburgh Day an annual fixture, and have special plans to celebrate the creation of a town that was founded in 1762.
“Next year is going to be Ferrisburgh’s 250th, and hopefully this is just a glimpse of the possibilities of a 250th celebration,” DeVine said. “Ferrisburgh has so much to show off.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]