Whiting to celebrate 250th birthday with big shindig this Saturday

MIDDLEBURY — When a town the size of Middlebury schedules a “community celebration,” organizers have good cause to be ecstatic if 5 percent of the total 8,180 residents show up.
When the town of Whiting organizes a community shindig, chances are decent all 400 residents will be able to make an appearance. And since a town only fetes its 250th birthday once, planners of Whiting’s birthday bash are hoping to see all of their neighbors this Saturday, Sept. 7, for a variety of events for what promises to be a spirited semiquincentennial bash.
“We hope everyone feels welcome,” said resident Suzanne Denis, organizer of the Whiting 250th Anniversary Celebration, which will begin at 4 p.m. on the Whiting School grounds.
“We’re making it a nice, community-based event.”
It’s a major undertaking that has been in the works since this past spring. Things will kick off at 4 p.m. with a social hour, followed by a reading of the town charter at 5 p.m. A free pig roast and potluck dinner (participants should bring a dish to share) will ensue at 5:15 p.m., followed by a street dance on the school basketball court from 6 to 9 p.m.
The party will finish with an explosive exclamation mark with a fireworks show.
Organizers are working with an event budget of $3,500, of which $2,500 has been found within the municipal budget. The very active Whiting Community Church is supplying two pigs for the roast, among other things.
Participants will also be able to enjoy a historical display of Whiting along with a view of the local fire department’s equipment. And children will have loads of fun with a bounce house, snow cones and popcorn, among other things.
But of course history will take center stage at the event, which will be held rain or shine. That extensive history is chronicled in a book titled “Our Whiting,” by Harold and Elizabeth Webster. The book, which will be on sale at the birthday bash, notes that the Whiting charter was granted by colonial Gov. Benning Wentworth on Aug. 6, 1763, to 48 proprietors for an area spanning 14,424 acres. The community was named “Whiting” for five Connecticut brothers bearing that name — Eliphalet, Asa, John, Lewis and Captain Nathaniel Whiting.
It is estimated that approximately 20 families settled in Whiting prior to the Revolutionary War, according to the Websters’ book.
Elihue Marshall was the first to come to Whiting, during the summer of 1774. He built a cabin and cleared some land on what was called Walker Road that extended from the present Route 30 east to the Leicester-Whiting Road. Marshall would return to Connecticut when the Revolutionary War started, however.
Other interesting historical facts about Whiting include:
•  Residents Samuel Beach and Jonas Hubbard were among those who helped Ethan Allen collect more men to assist in the 1775 assault of Fort Ticonderoga, then held by the British.
•  The town was a stop on the Addison Railroad, built in 1867. Service on the rail line — which operated from Port Henry, N.Y., to Leicester Junction — was abandoned west of Whiting during May of 1951.
•  There were once five schools operating in Whiting, according to the Websters’ book. They closed, one at a time, until 1950, when the current school was built.
•  The first mill erected in the town was a sawmill, built by Jehiel and Moses Munger, in 1803.
•  All eyes of the state were focused on Whiting in 1997, when Vermont passed Act 60, a new public education funding law. The new law came in response to a Vermont Supreme Court decision which had, as its plaintiff, Whiting student Amanda Brigham. Supporters of the Brigham case argued that Vermont’s prevailing education funding system was unconstitutional because it favored towns with higher real estate values over towns with smaller grand lists. The state’s highest court agreed, resulting in the Legislature’s passage of a new funding scenario that adjusts the property tax rate in each town based on a Common Level of Appraisal system.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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