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Town and Village

Westminster West Community Fair turns 25 this year

WESTMINSTER WEST—The Westminster West Community Fair returns for its 25th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 6, just off Westminster West Road next to the Congregational Church.

The theme of this year’s fair is “Peacemakers Local and Global.” Admission is free. Activities abound for children and adults.

Festivities begin at 8:30 a.m. between the church and Town Hall, when registration begins for the 5K race, which begins at 9. Coffee, drinks, doughnuts, and cookies are available in the church.

The town library’s book sale runs concurrently, and the Pinnacle Association, a local conservation group, is offering information and selling T-shirts.

The race kicks off on Westminster West Road near the church, follows a seven-mile, shady loop on the dirt roads, continues on West Road, which undulates before connecting with Cross Road, then returns to Westminster West Road, follows a grass trail, and heads up and over a hill to the finish line.

First-, second-, and third-place winners in each of four age divisions (themselves divided into men’s and women’s competitions), can win such prizes as Kathy Kingston’s goat cheese, apples from Green Mountain Orchards, and gift certificates to Hidden Springs Maple.

As the runners race, attendees have their choice of arts, crafts, and treasures, all available at 9.

A silent auction downstairs at the church offers gift certificates and items from many local businesses, says Alison Latham, one of the fair’s organizers.

Also available are a two-night stay in a New York City apartment, a Harrisville floor weaving loom, a violin, and a set of bunk beds from the Maine State Prison workshop in Thomaston.

Upstairs in the church sanctuary, talented local artists working in a variety of media will show off their creations at the fair’s art exhibit. Tables on the fairgrounds feature the work of local crafters.

In the Old Town Hall, the Golden Elephant Sale promises a wide range of treasures donated by community members. In their solicitation for items, fair organizers reminded donors that clothing, televisions, and computers were not accepted.

Organizers noted, “Follow the Golden Elephant rule: Don’t give to others stuff that you wouldn’t want given to you.”

Those wishing to march in the 10:30 a.m. parade are invited to the Westminster West School at 10 to line up, decorate their bicycles, and rehearse their drum routines. The parade begins at the school and continues to the library.

As reported in the most recent edition of the West Parish Whistler, political satirists Ladies Against Women marched in 2013’s fair parade with posters on family values. Signs read, “Make America a man again, invade a broad,” and “Ban the environment; it’s far too big and messy.”

According to fair organizer Betsy Williams, this year’s parade grand marshals are Patti Whalen and Fletcher Proctor, both of Westminster West.

“They represent some of our local peacemakers as well as global peacemakers with Patti’s work over in Bosnia and Fletcher moderating disputes locally,” Williams said.

Proctor is Westminster’s town moderator and a former school board member, and is a lawyer in Putney.

Whalen, a retired Vermont family court magistrate, served for six years as a justice on the International War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Her final term ended in December 2013, and since then she’s taught a class, Genocide and International Law, at Keene State College. She also presents regionally on her work in Sarajevo.

For the past decade, Whalen has also helped bring visiting female Afghani judges to the area to foster international understanding and cultural exchanges.

The Kids’ Fun Race, for children up to 12, begins at 11 a.m. Prizes include ice cream, movie passes to Falls Cinema, video rentals, miniature golf at Hidden Acres Campground, and ribbons.

A luncheon of chicken barbecue and other dishes, including a vegetarian option, starts at 11:30.

Noon brings the deadline for the veggie contest. Categories include such late-summer fair favorites as artistic flower arrangements, the heaviest tomato, and the longest zucchini.

For the vegetable sculpture portion of the contest, the event guide instructs participants to dress up a vegetable or “do anything creative and legal.”

No fair is complete without big, bold, brassy musical entertainment, and the Grafton Cornet Band delivers traditional band music from noon to 1:15 p.m.

The Grafton Cornet Band was organized in March 1867 at the home of Vestus Wilbur in Grafton. According to the band’s website, the band is still going strong and is giving the town of Grafton “the distinction of having an organized cornet band in continuous service longer than any other similar organization in Vermont.”

After the kids have lined up with their vegetable creations, entertainment continues until 2 p.m. with face painting, bubble magic, fortune telling, a bean-bag toss, and an event billed as “The Chop-O-Matic: Play Whack the Corn Cob!”

These events take place on the north side of the church, on a grassy patch in the shade.

Marvel at the talents of local friends and neighbors at 2 p.m. with the community talent show. Veggie contest awards are announced afterward, and this is when final bids are due for the silent auction and the golden elephant clearance sale begins.

Festivities wind down at 3.

Organizers say proceeds support church operations and other community endeavors.

Latham and fair organizer Jenny Holan highlighted the anti-hunger initiatives benefitting from revenue earned at the fair. Beneficiaries include Our Place Drop In Center in Bellows Falls, Southeastern Vermont Community Action, the church’s emergency food fund, and its Manna Collection, which collects money year-round to purchase grocery store gift cards at Christmastime for food-insecure community members.

As is common in small New England towns, the village church serves as meeting and practice space for local religious and secular groups.

Latham explained that some groups pay to use the church and some don’t, depending on their ability to pay. According to Holan, the River Singers meet there weekly, and Village Harmony sets its retreats at the church.

The fair also helps fund the publication of the West Parish Whistler, which is written by Latham and mailed to subscribers for free.

The Whistler’s most recent “Fair 2014 Edition” features the fair schedule, solicitations for donations, and want ads. News about locals include recent books published, interesting travels taken, and whose adult kids are home from college for the summer — and their study plans.

One resident, age 6, was excited to report that he has his first wiggly tooth.

According to fair organizer Leslie Turpin, “this little village is always ready for a good time and is willing to really do the work to pull everybody together: It’s the one event where everybody is there, and it’s for all ages, and the community really goes through a lot of work to make it happen.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #270 (Wednesday, September 3, 2014). This story appeared on page B2.

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