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Coming together with joy

Williamsville, South Newfane celebrates surviving Irene with a parade, barbecue

WILLIAMSVILLE—The spirit of resilience in the face of disaster was celebrated on Sunday in the villages of South Newfane and Williamsville with a parade, a barbecue, and sheer joy at having survived the worst of Tropical Storm Irene.

South Newfane artist Christine Triebert, along with other community members, organized the Rock River Revival parade to honor how the community came together last year during and after Irene’s devastation.

Hundreds of area residents turned out for the parade, which followed the Dover Road from the Green Iron Bridge in South Newfane to the Williamsville Hall, the site of a post-parade barbecue prepared by Jon Julian, a Dover Road resident who operates the Top of the Hill Grill in Brattleboro.

Triebert was beaming and applauding as the first units of the parade — the firefighters of the South Newfane/Williamsville Fire Department — passed by.

“This is a day for local people to show up and celebrate life together,” she said. “There’s a huge awareness of what our firemen did on the day of the storm, and how they followed their instincts and rescued so many people. They are the heroes we’re celebrating today.”

The rampaging Rock River caused considerable damage in both villages, but no lives were lost. The scars are visible along the route of the now-placid river. Fallen trees and assorted debris mix with the heaps of gravel and rocks that have filled in the river’s channel in some spots, while fresh channels are gouged in new places.

Dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed. In the case of Triebert and her partner, Carol Ross, their house survived, but their studio was damaged. Much of their property was washed away.

“Things are greening up in some places, but you can still see how much damage occurred,” Triebert said.

“But we had so much help and community support in the days and weeks and months afterward,” she said. “It’s something I’ll remember and talk about for the rest of my life.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #167 (Wednesday, August 29, 2012).

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