At 7 p.m. next Tuesday evening, bells will ring in churches and public spaces statewide to commemorate the anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene – and Vermont’s ongoing recovery.
In many hard hit towns the observances start this weekend, with potluck suppers, concerts, art exhibits – and, in the town of Newfane, a parade.
In the weeks after Irene, Tom Fusco’s power equipment shop in South Newfane was the end of the road for drivers headed towards Marlboro or back to Route 30.
During that time Fusco and his ATV became a taxi service, shuttling residents and supplies up and down the rest of the ruined road.
"At night we’d have twenty, twenty-five cars parked out on the front lawn," he recalls.
A telephone pole by Fusco’s shop became a neighborhood message board.
"We didn’t have phone for 31 days, Fusco says. "We went without Internet even longer."
Now, Fusco’s working on a float for the First Annual Rock River Revival Parade, coming up this Sunday. He’s thinking of something that involves a miniature house, a water pump and a sign that reads, "No bridges, no roads, no electricity, no problem" – a reminder of the way everyone pitched in during the disaster.
The mile-long parade route starts in South Newfane and ends at the Williamsville Grange Hall, where neighbors gathered during the disaster for breakfast, news, Internet and potluck suppers.
The event is one of dozens planned, throughout the state. Saturday’s lineup includes a town picnic in Mendon, a pig roast and lobster bake in Waitsfield and a walking tour of Jamaica, followed by a potluck and story circles.
Downtown Waterbury will host a block party to thank volunteers. A community-based art show will also be on display.
Jeanne Kirby, the director of Revitalizing Waterbury, says people were invited to take a piece of clean slate on which to express their feelings and experiences in the flood. She says about two-hundred-fifty pieces came back with Irene memories expressed in photographs, collage, paint and other media.
"Art came in from people of all ages," Kirby says, "from children to older people who worked on their pieces at our local senior center. And each piece is really unique to that person’s point of view. So each piece deserves a careful look."
Kirby says the show will also be open on other dates, including Sunday.
Pittsfield will host an open house at its newly renovated library and town office on Sunday. The local premiere of a film by Pittsfield resident Marion Abrams is scheduled for the evening. It tells about the town’s experience in the flood.
Towns throughout the state will mark the actual anniversary of Irene on Tuesday. Residents of Rockingham will gather at the site of the Bartonsville Covered Bridge, whose dramatic collapse was viewed by millions on YouTube.
Governor Peter Shumlin has scheduled visits to at least 20 towns, starting on Saturday and winding up on Tuesday at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph. He’ll join Vermont’s congressional delegation there for a concert by the Vermont Youth Orchestra and Chorus.
Anne Coleman says residents of Wilmington will return to the river that caused so damage.
"People can go there and take a flower and throw it into the river," she says. "And sort of make peace with the river and hope for better things to come."
Buckets of flowers will be available at the town’s river bank park for anyone who wants to take part.