by Lucas Herring
Summers aren’t long in Vermont, and many of us have just finished celebrating a great historical moment—the birth of our nation on Independence Day. In Barre, summer also means that we are gearing up to celebrate the city’s history and culture with the annual Barre Heritage Festival.
Over the years, the festival has been host to performances of Scottish, Irish, Italian, French-Canadian, Spanish, and Middle-Eastern music and dances. There has been food from Scotland, Poland, Spain, Italy, Greece, Scandinavia, and Lebanon. The event, which brings thousands of people to the area, is a keystone of Barre’s culture and community.
The festival traditionally occurs on the fourth weekend of the month and this year’s festival will begin the night of Wednesday, July 26. Stone artist Dan Snow will be featured at the Authors at the Aldrich event, followed by the Summer Concert Series featuring Donna Thunders and the Farmers Market in Currier Park. Thursday is the traditional event for La Soirée Sucrée at the Old Labor Hall, which is a National Historic Landmark built in 1900 by Italian immigrants. The event is sponsored by Delicate Decadence and will be held in honor of the late Chet Briggs, a long-time President of the Barre Historical Society. You can also attend Thunder Road’s Times Argus Mid-Season Championships.
From Wednesday through Saturday, you will be able to visit many historic sites from our world-famous granite industry. You can take a self-guided factory tour of Rock of Ages or a guided tour of the quarries. The Aldrich Library will be host to the 61st Annual Paletteers Art Show. To salvage the historic Jones Brothers manufacturing plant, it was turned into the Vermont Granite Museum (also on the National Register of Historic Places), where Scott McLaughlin and a team of volunteers will be giving tours of the exhibits.
Vendors will be located around City Hall Park and lining Main Street Friday and Saturday. The community sponsors music venues at City Hall Park and the Barre Opera House. Friday night features the Starline Rhythm Boys, Pitz Quattrone & The Freelancers, and Mad Man & Me. Saturday has music all day with Green Mountain Swing, the Barre Tones, the Zeichner Trio, the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra, Patti Casey & the Wicked Fine Players, Dominique Dodge, the Green Mountain Playboys, Wheezer and Squeezer, Inseldudler, Native Tongue, and Heartless.
Again this year, Saturday will include the 45th Annual Rotary Breakfast on the Aldrich Library lawn, followed by the truck pull on Elm Street. The Heritage Car Show will be located next to the Elks Lodge and the Wildlife Encounters in Depot Square. The kids can play on the inflatables in the Kids Zone or at Mathewson Playground, and the Vermont History Center is admission free.
The parade will kick off at 1 pm, followed by the annual bathtub race and other events on Main Street. Businesses provide window displays, while restaurants add their own flavor with menu items from several different nations. There are stories and games for children of all ages, face painting, a poetry slam, book sale, community yoga, and a historic walk through the downtown. And don’t forget the fireworks shortly after 9 pm. On Sunday, I will be helping cook breakfast at the Barre American Legion Post #10, or you can also traverse the Barre Town Forest for the Heritage Festival 5k.
For me, there is an added benefit of those who are returning to Barre for a homecoming celebration and catching up with friends and family. We celebrate our diversity and our culture, but also our history with one another.
As a life-long Vermonter, I am proud of our heritage, both in our city and state, and welcome those who want to share our traditions with us. As a former president of the Barre Partnership, which is the organization that pulls this event together, I know the hard work and dedication performed by its director, Josh Jerome; by board members; and by volunteers. I want to thank them and our downtown businesses for donating their time and resources to make this event possible. They are a true reflection of what Barre is all about.
Lucas Herring is mayor of the City of Barre