UPDATE: This story has been updatd since it was originally posted to correct the information about Vergennes activities — the Legion is sponsoring Wednesday night fireworks, but it is not hosting any live entertainment.
ADDISON COUNTY — Folks in Greater Addison County are gearing up to celebrate 237 years of American independence on and around the Fourth of July this week. No matter how residents like to spend the holiday, there are events in the area for all who want to put on the red, white and blue during the week of July 4.
Activities in Brandon, Bristol, Salisbury and Vergennes include musical performances, contests, food, and an annual outhouse race, not to mention many fireworks displays. Those who wish to focus on the historical aspect of the holiday need look no further than Mount Independence in Orwell and Fort Ticonderoga just across Lake Champlain.
CELEBRATION IN BRISTOL
Bristol’s Independence Day celebrations will begin on Wednesday, July 3, at 6 p.m. Activities will be held at the recreation area ballpark and will include food and craft vendors, games, and live music from the Willoughbys. The night will end with a fireworks display beginning at dusk.
Events will continue the next morning at 7:30 a.m. with the annual 5K Road Race in memory of Pam Paradee. The race will begin at Mount Abraham Union High School and will snake its way through the village and end at the town green.
Somewhat less serious competition continues later in the morning with the Great Bristol Outhouse Race. Starting at 9 a.m., spectators are invited to cheer on their favorite teams of entrants pulling outhouses down West Street to the finish line.
Teams build a regulation outhouse — or some sort of outrageous facsimile — and then push it (with a rider wearing a helmet) in a straight line from the crosswalk in front of St. Ambrose Catholic Church on West Street to the finish line at the traffic light in front of Holley Hall. The actual course length has never been measured.
There are usually three or four outhouses entered per heat and there are usually four heats. The winner of each heat then moves on to the final heat to determine who will be the World Champion Outhouse Racer.
Next on the list of events in Bristol is the oldest continually run parade in Vermont. Beginning at 10:30 a.m., the parade will feature color guards, firetrucks, bands and floats. Grand marshal Max Dumas will lead the parade, which this year has the theme “Disney.” It starts eastbound at the corner of Liberty and Pleasant streets, turns south on Mountain Street, back westbound on Main Street and continues to the Rec Field.
Festivities on the town green will begin after the parade beginning at noon. This centerpiece of the celebration in Bristol will include food and craft vendors, pony rides, and an inflatable family fun center. The main event always features an award-winning group, and this year the musical guest will be Helen Weston.
The Fourth of July Committee and the Bristol Police are asking that pets be left at home. Police Chief Kevin Gibbs warns that police officers may seize any dogs or other pets found in vehicles during the events and owners may be charged with criminal cruelty to animals if they do leave an animal in a vehicle. He also warned that vehicles impeding traffic throughout the events of the holiday will be towed and ticketed.
July 3 also marks the start, as well as the end, of the Independence Day celebrations in the city of Vergennes.
American Legion Post 14, which is a sponsor of the fireworks set off at the high school. The Legion's Armory Lane clubhouse is open this evening and welcomes guests, but, contrary to earlier reports, does not have any live entertainment planned for Wednesday evening.
The annual fireworks display begins at dusk.
SALISBURY ICE CREAM SOCIAL AND A BOAT PARADE
On the Fourth from 1:30-4:30 p.m., the Salisbury Congregational Church will hold its 39th annual ice cream social.
Everyone in Salisbury and beyond is invited to come, visit with neighbors, and enjoy ice cream by the cone or the dish. There will be the usual wide range of toppings and accompanying choices of home-baked pie or cake. Organizers said the quantities are large, and the prices are reasonable.
The event will be held rain or shine. The church is in Salisbury village.
If you’re over at Lake Dunmore on Wednesday, hang around for the annual boat parade. Participants deck their boats (and sometimes themselves, too) in red, white and blue, then gather at North Cove near Kampersville at 2 p.m. and then proceed on a counter-clockwise route around the lake. Boat owners may join the parade anywhere on the route, and anyone may enjoy it from a dock.
For those who don’t get enough celebration on the Fourth, the town of Brandon kicks off its Independence Day celebrations on the evening of Thursday, July 5. The Food Fest and Street Dance at Central Park is intended to provide a night of dining, dancing and fun for the whole family. Food vendors will open at 5 p.m. and the street dance runs from 6 to 10 p.m.
The festivities will begin again on Friday, July 7, at 9 a.m. with the celebration’s main events. Morning activities include food and craft vendors and karaoke in the bandstand of Central Park. Additionally, a silent auction will be held at 10 a.m. in the back of the park. A bounce house and games for all ages will be available behind the Brandon Inn.
The town’s annual parade kicks off at 1 p.m. at the top of Park Street and ends at Route 73 near the post office. This year’s parade theme of “Old Home Days” should inform floats, and there will be bands, cars and even a few politicians.
The action continues late into the afternoon with a live band playing in Central Park from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. Shortly after, the Great Ball Race will begin at 3 p.m., with balls on sale in Central Park for $5 each until 2:30 p.m. Participants have the chance to win up to $600 in total prizes.
Beginning at 3:30 p.m., the Brandon Town Hall will host an unusual historic play that recreates the famous 1858 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Brandon native Stephen Douglas. “The Rivalry” is a riveting depiction of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and uses texts from the original debate transcripts to bring to life in an on-stage style of drama, the fierce competition between the future president and the incumbent senator. The performance will feature former Vermont governors Madeleine Kunin and Jim Douglas and local talent John Dilts.
The day will come to a close on Saturday night at Park Village with a fireworks display beginning at dusk. Food and craft vendors will be available for purchases starting at 6 p.m.
TWO HISTORIC FORTS
Visitors to Fort Ticonderoga (easily reached by crossing the lake via ferry from the end of Route 74 in Shoreham or by car on the Lake Champlain Bridge about 10 miles north in Addison) can walk in the marching steps of Continental soldiers at Fort Ticonderoga circa 1776 as historic interpreters demonstrate period weapons and explain the daily military duties of soldiers garrisoning the fort. Family programs highlight the fight for independence and Fort Ticonderoga’s fifes and drums play patriotic music.
The fort hosts a special holiday living history weekend, July 4-7, where visitors can meet the soldiers of the Northern Department of the Continental Army see artificers in action in the public store busily working to resupply soldiers with clothing and equipment. Discover how these soldiers prepare their cannons, ammunition, and themselves to meet the British army. See rations cooked, logs hewn, and the Fort’s 1776 restoration in action.
Back in Vermont, directly across Champlain, the Mount Independence State Historic Site in Orwell will host a program on Friday, July 5, to commemorate the major Revolutionary War decision of the Americans to withdraw from Mount Independence in the face of British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne and his fleet on the night of July 5 and 6, 1777. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
At a small encampment near the museum, visitors can talk with soldier re-enactors who are preparing for the arrival of the British and a possible withdrawal toward Hubbardton. What would they need for fight — or flight? What was the experience like and how did the American officers make their decision to withdraw or not? How did this affect other important events in the summer and fall of 1777? In the afternoon there also will be period music from the Seth Warner Mount Independence Fife & Drum Corps.
Both Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence charge admission.