Vergennes Day draws throngs

VERGENNES — With a little help from Mother Nature, the 31st annual Vergennes Day drew a crowd on Saturday to the Little City and ran smoothly, according to city officials and its primary organizer, Marguerite Senecal of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce.
“The day couldn’t have been more tailor-made. It was gorgeous that day,” Senecal said. “And it all went like clockwork.”
Because no tickets are sold, officials have no good way to measure the crowd, which typically numbers in the thousands.
But organizers can cite a couple of data points: The Lions Club sold out of barbecued chicken on the city green, the main hub of activity for Vergennes Day, and the Vergennes Fire Department moved about as many all-you-can eat breakfasts as usual earlier in the day — just 10 fewer than in 2011, when the city-wide event celebrated its 30th birthday.
“That went real well,” said Vergennes Mayor Michael Daniels, also a longtime fire department officer.
After the day kicked off with a road race that saw a slight drop in participation this year — possibly, Daniels said, due to hot weather — the mayor said things picked up quickly once the official 10 a.m. kickoff time arrived and the roughly six dozen vendors set up in the park.
“It was a very good day, good turnout, a lot of visitors in town, good music on the bandstand throughout the day. Talking with some of the vendors, they were very pleased,” Daniels said.
Senecal agreed that most, if not all, the vendors had good days, another indication of solid attendance.
“There’s always those that do very well and are very pleased. And there’s always one or two that are not the happiest,” she said.
This past Saturday saw an unusually high number of first-time vendors, about 18, Senecal said. Most of them said it went well.
“The general sense from the vendors was definitely positive,” she said.
Attendance was down a bit at one satellite venue, Vergennes Union High School. VUHS hosted an antique vehicle show that included 39 cars, trucks and tractors, plus a well-received demonstration given by a Vermont State Police trooper and his canine partner.
“He did a fantastic job,” Daniels said.
Unlike some past years, attractions were not offered in the Otter Creek basin area, and St. Peter’s Church did not hold the rummage sale it typically does on Vergennes Day because of ongoing renovations to the church’s parish hall.
Two other elements fared well. Bixby Library Director Jane Spencer said offerings there were well attended and successful. Those included a used book sale, a bike helmet give-away sponsored by Kids Safe of Addison County, a raffle that benefited the library, and the culmination of the library’s children’s summer reading program, “Booked for Bikes.” 
Sponsored by the Bixby, the Vergennes Rotary Club, Kids Safe and the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad, Booked for Bikes gave seven bikes to kids between the ages of 6 and 17. Readers were able to put one entry per week into a raffle box for their age group, and on each they were required to write something about a book they had read this summer.
Overall, Spencer said she was pleased with the exposure the library got on Vergennes Day.
“It was great insofar as having lots of people come by and buy used books and buy 100th anniversary Bixby bags, and the Booked for Bikes program went well, too,” she said.
The Friday night street dance introduced a few years ago also has proven to be a hit, and was again this past weekend.
“There was a real good turnout at the dance the night before,” Daniels said.
Senecal took the trouble to count the dance crowd, and came up with 600.
“That’s an excellent crowd. They may not have all been dancing, but they sure were having a good time,” she said.
To sum up, Senecal is happy looking back at Saturday, even as she moves onto organizing her next big event, the Bristol Harvest Festival.
“I thought it couldn’t have gone better. It ran extremely smoothly,” she said. “It was good to get good feedback from the new booths, so all in all, can’t complain. A decent crowd. Definitely a decent crowd.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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