Shire town will mark 250th birthday with fireworks, fun

MIDDLEBURY — Children will take center stage during two days of festivities this fall as Addison County’s shire town marks its 250th birthday with some epic games, drama and fireworks.

It was back on Nov. 4 of 1761 that Middlebury was chartered by colonial Gov. Benning Wentworth. The charter was awarded to John Evarts and 62 others. The town added a college and grew by leaps and bounds during the ensuing two-and-a-half centuries, to a point where more than 8,400 residents and students now call Middlebury their home.

An ad hoc Middlebury 250th Committee has been organizing events to involve citizens in the town’s landmark birthday. The party gets off to a start on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 2 to 4 p.m., as part of the annual “Spooktacular” Halloween celebration.

Organized by the Better Middlebury Partnership, or BMP, the Spooktacular has regaled families — and in particular, children — with sweet treats, entertainment and added exposure to all the shops and restaurants that the town has to offer. This year, the Spooktacular will embrace a 250th birthday theme, with a number of historical twists, including:

•  Some children’s games plucked from the 18th century. Donna Donahue, the BMP president and a member of the Middlebury 250th Committee, said officials from the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History are helping organize the games. Children will be given a special 250th commemorative coin designed by Danforth Pewter.

•  A time capsule. Children will be invited to include in the capsule items that are important to them, including pictures, notes, or even a favorite baseball card. Organizers ask that the items be wrapped in a sandwich baggie to ensure their longevity. The capsule will be stored in the Sheldon Museum. Donahue will suggest that it be opened in 50 years, for Middlebury’s 300th birthday. “The children (who contribute items) will be alive and will be able to reminisce about what they put in,” Donahue said.

•  A special appearance by “King George III,” who will issue a proclamation about the 250th and related activities. One of those activities will be a historical scavenger hunt, to take place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3. Participating “hunters” will get entry forms through the Spooktacular or Ilsley Library and will search for clues at 10 separate historical sites in Middlebury. Those who successfully complete the hunt and who drop their forms off at the National Bank of Middlebury lobby by Nov. 3 will be included in a special drawing for an iPad.

The iPad drawing will take place at the Town Hall Theater during a culminating (and free) celebration beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, that will include a short skit commemorating the signing of Middlebury’s town charter; the presentation of a Middlebury Community Television short film in which interviewees were asked, “What does Middlebury mean to you?”; a talk by former Sheldon Museum Executive Director Jan Albers; and the sharing of a birthday cake (provided by the Waybury Inn).

Also to be featured at the theater: A series of paper quilts depicting scenes of Middlebury. Those quilts will be made by students at area elementary schools.

“Most of these events have been created for children, to give them a sense of the history of Middlebury,” said G. Kenneth Perine, leader of the Middlebury 250th Committee.

The actors in the skit are children and are poised to deliver great performances, according to THT Executive Director Doug Anderson. He said the ceremony at Town Hall Theater will last around 45 minutes.

“Our motto is, ‘Educate people about then, but celebrate now,’” Anderson said.

At around 6:30 p.m., townspeople will stroll down to the new Cross Street Bridge to view a fireworks display.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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