ARLINGTON >> Southern Vermont is known for being home to many artists, musicians, and writers. This weekend, the public is welcome to pay homage Norman Rockwell's local legacy for the fifth celebration since the inaugural one held in 1989.
There are roughly 60 remaining models still alive from Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post magazine illustrations and about 20 of them are expected to attend the August 6 event. In 2014, it was hosted at Bennington Museum and this year, folks are invited to a reunion and cookout at the West Arlington Covered Bridge Green, where the first historic sign will be dedicated by former Gov. Jim Douglas, according to event organizer and model Don Trachte.
In 2010, Trachte said it was decided there would be a gathering every two years.
Between 1930 and 1940, Rockwell married, had a family, and moved to Arlington to reflect on small-town American life. In New Rochelle, N.Y., where Rockwell moved from, there were professional models at the artist's disposal, Trachte said. In his new town, he used many community members for inspiration for his work.
Trachte appeared in his pajamas at about age 5, holding hands with a young girl and looking up at Santa Claus, on a "Child's Life" cover. Trachte's father was also a model.
"I have vague memories of it and I remember being completely embarrassed about it. I wasn't told what we were going to do," he said. "I was embarrassed getting in my PJs and that I had to hold hands with another girl."
Other models, including Mary Doyle as "Rosie the Riveter," Mary Whalen as "Girl at Mirror" and Ruth Skellie as "Marble Shooter," landed on the Saturday Evening Post cover.
Brian Little, who was a model for an insurance advertisement, has attended three reunions so far. He too doesn't remember very much about the Rockwell visit, but has grown to appreciate the memory and artwork.
"It's interesting and it's fun to hear the experiences the other models have had. Most of the models that I've met are people that I've known and their families and a lot of them are from the Arlington area," Little said. "I grew up during the era of the Saturday Evening Post. It was a popular magazine. Every household had one. My parents, when they saw some of the covers, they recognized some of the folks and it added interest in the Post."
The name of the advertisement was called "Teacher's Pet" and displayed a boy with books and an apple walking back to school. The insurance covered injuries children got during school, such as while playing on the playground.
"I wasn't appreciating the opportunity at the time. You never knew that you were specifically chosen as the image for the ad or the covers," he said. "One of his styles was to take portions of images of other models and visualize what he wanted to develop. I look at the ad and I don't see myself. Others do."
At the Sugar Shack on Route 7A there is a Rockwell exhibit dedicated to his work from 1939 to 1953 with his use of more than 200 locals as models.
"Just because of the history of what's going on, I think that I'm interested in it because I've grown to appreciate his artwork. It's not his artwork, it's his story telling and that's what he's a genius at doing," Trachte said. "He was a wonderful artist. These aren't just landscapes. For him to accomplish that is amazing."
Trachte added that when he went away to college in Colorado, Rockwell was brought up in an art class. The professor was throwing paint onto an easel and Trachte's classmate brought up Rockwell's name, which made Trachte almost fall off his chair. He didn't realize that other people had known Rockwell, even 2000 miles away from Arlington.
Rockwell resided in Arlington for 14 years until he moved to Stockbridge, Mass., when his wife became ill. The last 25 years of his life were spent there, according to the artist's museum website. He was named the official state artist of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2008 by students in Berkshire County.
If you go
What: 5th annual Norman Rockwell model reunion and cookout
When: August 6, 2016 from 2 to 5 p.m.
Where: West Arlington Covered Bridge Green
Why: To dedicate a historical sign for Norman Rockwell by former Gov. Jim Douglas
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.