When a few downtown Vergennes merchants and community boosters kicked around the idea of holding a fun event at the base of Otter Creek Falls, below the downtown bridge, it got a big thumbs up. The result of the brainstorming session turned into the upcoming first annual Otter Creek Basin Bash.
Vergennes is certainly no stranger to grand, annual outdoor events. Vergennes Days in August and Vergennes French Heritage Days in July are two yearly events that have taken off in recent years. And don't forget downtown Vergennes Strawberry Festival.
So, are we ready for another Vergennes annual event? Sure, why not. This new outing is set in the watery basin below the falls-near the site where Master Commandant/Commodore Thomas MacDonough's invincible fleet of sailing ships were built and later won the lakeside phase of the Battle of Plattsburgh during the War of 1812. MacDonough's big victory stopped the British offensive in its tracks.
This year's new festival is not totally about history. It's about doing fun things on or near the water-like learning about Vermontish folk craft, blacksmithing, Otter Creek's rascals and rogues, fishing, waterfowl, street dancing, ice cutting and ice houses, street theater, knives, boatbuilding, wildlife, jazz, and-did I leave anything out?-oh, yeah, getting out of your old rut to meet new friends or say howdy to friendly neighbors.
The big bash will be held at Falls Park at the Otter Creek Basin in Vergennes, Saturday, June 13, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Public parking will be available at the Goodrich Corporation on West Street. Parking and a shuttle bus to the basin will be free to attendees. But there's more-
•Free admission to event site.
•Food provided by Mister Ed.
•50/50 raffle tickets on sale at VACC booth to help subsidize the event; winner drawn and announced during evening street dance.
•9 - 10 a.m.: Bird walk led by Mike Winslow (prior to day's events).
•10 a.m. - noon: Book signing with Mike Winslow. "Lake Champlain: A Natural History Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail Guidebook".
•10a.m., 11a.m., noon: Brooks to Bays Paddling Tours (guided, narrated nature/history river tours). Adults $5, kids under 13 free (must be accompanied by an adult) firstname.lastname@example.org.
•10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Middlebury Mountaineer-offering kayak and canoe paddling-free.
•Fly fishing and fly tying demonstrations.
•Small Boat Exchange: Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM)-Long boats. Exhibits include antique boats- Dave Welch and Doug Brooks, Cranky Yankee Twyne-rope making and flint knapping approach to stone tool making.
•Blacksmithing with Tom Dematties.
•Dead Creek Wildlife Fish & Game activities.
•Outboard engines with Dave Welch.
•Ice cutting with Dave Austin and family.
•Carved fish and duck decoys with Ralph Torrey.
•Knives, leather goods, and more with Alan Whitney.
•Booths: Quadricentennial, VACC, local artist Grandma Phyllis painting children's hands, Basin Junior Fishing Derby, Northlands Job Corps-goodies for sale
•10:30 a.m. -11:30 p.m., "Waterpower and Steamboats at the Vergennes Falls: The Making of a City". Nina Bacon relates 18th century history of early mills and trading settlements on the Otter's banks, the War of 1812 Shipyard and Commodore MacDonough's Fleet built and launched at the basin, steamboats, and the 19th century boom at the basin.
•11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Pete and Karen Sutherland-local musicians singing & playing river songs and other folk music
•1 p.m., Pump House Tour (free) with Ivor Hughes (free shuttle to tour from Basin)
•2:30 p.m., Skit - "The Captain Wore Petticoats" by Jane Vincent and Cecile Gebo, descendents of the first lady steamboat captain, Philomene Daniels.
•7:30 - 9 p.m., LC JAZZ will play for street dancing at Falls Park at the Basin.
•9 p.m., Lighting of the falls by the Vergennes Fire Department with big water spray display.
Event sponsors include Green Mountain Power and Northlands Job Corps; the event is organized by the Vergennes Area Chamber of Commerce, a division of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce. For details, call 388-7951.