Organizer of county events leaves chamber

ADDISON COUNTY — Despite the departure from the Addison County Chamber of Commerce of organizer and promoter Marguerite Senecal this month, the signature events she coordinated — including the Vergennes Day celebration — will still go on.
Chamber President Andrew Mayer said French Heritage Day, the Bristol Harvest Festival and the Better L8 Than Never Car Show, all of which Senecal had a hand in, are still on the calendar as well.
He said Senecal left as of April 4 because her position at the chamber was made part-time last month as a result of the loss of income and members resulting from the ending of the Vermont Association of Chamber Executives (VACE) Insurance program.
The chamber had about 200 members participating in the health insurance plan through the VACE; but that plan will go away because of the Affordable Care Act, Mayer said. The chamber anticipates losing some of those 200 members, but he does not yet know the full impact on numbers.
Mayer said this was an opportunity for the chamber to re-examine its benefits to members.
Senecal, who worked at the chamber’s information desk for 13 years, said she’s proud of the work she’s done.
“They’re my babies and I’m sad to see them go,” she said in an interview last week. “There’s an awful lot of work that goes into these events.”
Senecal, who served as an information specialist at the visitor’s center at the chamber’s Court Street office, started in 2001 providing visitors to the county with brochures, maps and information on the area. She also organized events in Bristol and Vergennes including French Heritage Day, which she started.
Senecal said she takes pride in how far the events have come.
“The goal was to continue to grow the ones that were already in place,” said Senecal. “At Vergennes Day, the whole city gets involved now. The fire department and the opera house are involved. There are events at the high school and a bus drives people around. It’s grown into a big community event. Before it was a few tractors in the park and a Lion’s Club barbecue. Now it is what it is.”
Vergennes City Manager Mel Hawley has experience working alongside Senecal while organizing events in Vergennes. He left city government in 1998 and returned in 2008, to find Senecal in full control of much of the planning for some of the city’s most popular events.
“She has tremendous administrative and organizational skills,” he said. “She had all these events down pat from start to finish. I enjoyed being involved with the events but because of her, many of us were able to enjoy the events because she handled all of the business matters.”
The annual Vergennes Day draws crowds of up to 2,000 with 75 vendors in a full day and a half of events from antique shows to the annual rubber duck race.
“I don’t know how she winds up in three places at once,” Hawley said. “But she does.”
When the chamber reduced her hours from full-time to part-time, Senecal said she needed to find a job that would give her the hours she needed.
Senecal currently works as a student human resources adviser at the Northlands Job Corps Center in Vergennes and said she finds the work to be a good transition. Her position has opportunities to help with volunteer work. She says she’d like to participate in the yearly celebrations as her schedule allows.
“I love it,” she said. “I like the challenge, running here and there and working with the students.”
Responsibilities for organizing the yearly events — including French Heritage Day, scheduled for July 12; Vergennes Day, Aug. 22-23; the Better L8 Than Never Car Show, Sept. 14; and the Bristol Harvest Festival, Sept. 27 — will go to Sue Hoxie, marketing and communications director for the chamber.
The chamber is looking for individuals to fill the position vacated by Senecal. That individual will be responsible for manning at the information desk part-time and providing outreach to the some 600 members in the chamber. While that individual will act as an assistant for organizing events that promote Addison County, the majority of the responsibilities will go to Hoxie, Mayer said.
He said the chamber is ready to continue the traditions that developed with these events.
“We didn’t have much time for the transition, but we spent as much time as we could to find out where things were, what the plans were and what still needs to be worked on,” he said.
“It’s no small task,” he added. “These really were Marguerite’s events.”
Mayer was effusive in his praise for the work Senecal did with the chamber.
“I am very sad to see her go but happy that she has found a new position that will draw upon her many skills,” he said. “The chamber is far better as a result of Marguerite’s time with us. Her very personable manner was always on display no matter what she was working on. Her tireless effort in assisting the travelling public, in creating and carrying out unique local events, and so much more, will certainly be missed.”

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