NORTH BENNINGTON >> In 2015, the Village of North Bennington saw several local institutions come under new ownership, a revision to their charter, and lots of focus on the arts.
On May 1, Abigail Martin, daughter of Village School of North Bennington principal Tom Martin and sister of Mount Anthony Union High School football coach John Martin, purchased Powers Market, the oldest country store in Vermont, from its previous owners, the Scully family. Martin said that the name of the historic Main Street business would stay the same, but the interior and the menu might see some changes. "I think country stores in Vermont are their own special thing and I want to keep the integrity of that," Martin said, "I want to make sure the locals have some place they can come to on an everyday basis."
Whitman's Feed Store, on Route 67, also saw a change in ownership, after then-owner Art Whitman decided to sell the business that had grown out of his father's milk route in 1968. The store was purchased by Poulin Grain, a family owned and operated business out of Newport, Vermont. The store will continue to employ its 35 full-time workers, and Whitman indicated that Poulin intends to grow the business. Whitman, his wife Kathy, and his son Jerry, will continue to work for the business for the next year, to ease the transition. The Whitmans continue to live in the area, and remain the owners of A and K Agriservices, a company that spreads lyme in farm fields.
The North Bennington Trustees, led by Janice Lerrigo, also submitted changes to the village's charter to voters for approval at Town Meeting in March. The changes updated the description of the treasurer position, removed several passages that violated current state law, such as a three-month residency requirement to vote and a poll tax, and removed a requirement that required the village to operate its police force, which has not been followed. Lerrigo said several interesting historical passages, such as a ban on circuses and vaudeville shows within the village, a ban on horse-drawn carriages, and a ban on public bathing, were left in, for the purpose of providing historical perspective. The revision hit a snag when the state informed the trustees that the charter vote had not been properly warned, but the trustees have since re-affirmed the vote in accordance with the law, and are expecting the revisions to be confirmed soon into next year's legislative session.
As always, North Bennington was a center for the arts in the region in 2015. The Vermont Arts Exchange moved to a new, smaller location behind the Post Office in April. "Because we've been here for so long, people think the VAE is a building, so my big challenge is saying we are not a building, we're more than that, it's our work," said VAE co-founder Matthew Perry. Last month, the VAE announced a partnership with Masonic Temple on Main Street in Bennington to hold live performances, which the new space does not have room for. Starting in July, and ending in October, the space was the home of the annual North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture show.
North Bennington's Sage City Symphony was also active throughout the year, and dedicated their November concert to Joseph Schor, who passed away on September 23 at the age of 95. Schor was the first violinist of the Bennington String Quartet and concertmaster of the Sage City Symphony. In 1991, Schor, along with his wife, Cathy, founded the strings program at what was then the North Bennington Graded School. The program still continues to this day, although the Schors retired from running the program in 2010.
The village also celebrated writing, with the Left Bank hosting Shirley Jackson Day on June 27, remembering the life and works of the famous author and Bennington College professor, whose short story, "The Lottery" remains a popular piece of modern fiction.