ORWELL — Almost every day for the past month, an Orwell resident has awoken to find an outhouse on his or her front lawn that wasn’t there when they retired to bed the previous night.
Whether they welcomed the new facility in their yard or despised it, all knew that it was there for a good cause. A committee had organized the depositing of the old fashion port-a-potty around town as a way to raise money for this weekend’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Orwell town charter and to get people excited about the big party.
Here’s how it worked: At the suggestion of Rick Buxton, carpenter Matt Barnes built the wooden latrine, and some others painted it and rode it through town in the Memorial Day parade. Then, for a $10 donation to the 250th anniversary celebration, an Orwell resident could have the portable privy deposited in front of a friend’s or neighbor’s house for 24 hours — anonymously. Betty Walker in the town clerk’s office accepted the money and kept a chart of where the outhouse would go next.
Anyone who didn’t want to be the one-day home for the toilet could give Walker $25 to be a guaranteed “Outhouse-free Zone.” About a half a dozen people paid the $25.
In all, between $300 and $400 was raised for the big party, said Buxton, who borrowed the idea from a similar fundraiser his sister in Maine described to him. But the money was only part of the happy result.
“I really do think it was a catalyst in bringing the community together,” he said. “It was done in a light-hearted manner that was fun.”
With the traveling toilet having set the tone of fun and community, Orwell is ready to embark on a two-day celebration to commemorate the granting of the town charter by Royal Colonial Gov. Benning Wentworth on Aug. 18, 1763.
After a year of preparations by a committee of eight people headed up by Barnes, everything appears to be ready, Orwell selectboard chairman Roland “Ted” Simmons said this week.
“Both of the days have different focuses,” Simmons said. “The 17th is more family oriented, while the 18th is a celebration of history.”
The Orwell Historical Society Museum will be open both days, with interesting exhibits reflecting life in town in years gone by (see story on Page 15A).
On Saturday, there will be a number of events on the green that the entire family can enjoy. On the playbill beginning with a noon picnic are pony rides, three-legged races, face painting, beanbag tosses, and raffles. Numerous food vendors will be on hand throughout the day.
Two bands will keep things hopping into the evening. Snake Mountain Bluegrass will play beginning at 6 p.m., with all in attendance invited to dance. They will be followed by another popular band, Barbed Wire Halo. Look for fireworks at dusk. The evening is scheduled to wrap up at 10 p.m.
On Sunday, activities start at 9:30 a.m. with an ecumenical church service hosted by the Congregational Church of Orwell. Afterwards, the festivities will move back to the green, where the Seth Warner Mount Independence Fife and Drum Corps will play and former Gov. James Douglas will read the town charter.
In addition, David Bane will deliver an address on the history of Orwell, and Peter Young will offer a history of the town’s churches.
Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, the head of the Vermont National Guard, or one of his representatives, will then recognize the service of Orwell residents who fought in Vietnam, and he will present them with medals.
Hopefully all that will wrap up by noon, when there will be a public barbeque on the green with fried chicken and salads.
Sometime before the Orwell Town Band begins its final concert of the season at 2 p.m., officials will unfurl a new town flag created by George Macedo for this occasion. The flag features a green background with images of the village and livestock, as well as “Orwell, 1763-2013.”
Residents are invited to bring to Sunday’s event items they would like to put in a town time capsule. School children have already prepared some items for the capsule — a piece of PVC pipe that is 8 inches in diameter and 4 feet long — and others have gathered maps, replicas of fire department badges and photos of every home in town to seal in the tube. Matt Barnes, an independent carpenter, said he would include one of his business cards and photos of his two sons, Silas, 14, and Porter, 15 months. Rick Buxton said images of the open land in Orwell will be included so that people can see how land use changes over half a century.
The capsule will be sealed and buried in the town green in a ceremony slated for 2:30 p.m. It is hoped that Orwell residents will dig it up in time for the town’s tricentennial in 2063.
After the time capsule is buried and the town flag is raised, the birthday party will end with cake and ice cream.
“We’ve been working hard and a lot of people stepped up to make this happen,” Simmons said.
Whiting planning its own 250th birthday party
WHITING — In addition to Orwell, the other Addison County town marking the 250th anniversary of the granting of its charter this year is Whiting. Colonial Gov. Benning Wentworth issued Whiting’s charter on Aug. 6, 1763.
Residents of the rural community of Whiting (population 419) are planning a celebration of the town’s birth on Sept. 7 at the elementary school.
Suzanne Denis and Grace Simonds are heading up a committee planning the festivities in Whiting, and they would still welcome help from all comers. If you’d like to lend a hand, contact Denis at 623-8951 or Simonds at 623-7811 or at the ton offices at 623-7813.