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Concerns Over Lack of Volunteers Discussed in Relations to Proposed Anniversary Committee

Burlington town leaders are looking ahead to two big celebrations that will require a lot of work to plan and get running but there is some doubt as to how much volunteer participation will be available.

As reported on BNEWS, The Select Board recently discussed the creation of an Anniversaries Committee to prepare for Burlington marking 225 years since incorporation in 1799 in 2024 and the United States’s 250th anniversary coming up in 2026. Both are important milestones and there is a general sense that they should be appropriately marked with celebrations.

The committee is the suggestion of the town’s Historical Commission and member Peter Coppola spoke about the need to organize early at last week’s meeting. He said they need to start early to seek grants and prepare for celebratory activities for both milestones.

At this week’s meeting the board once again spoke about the best formation of the committee and how it should be structured and how it should operate. They also had on hand some volunteers from the town’s Bicentennial Committee that organized the town’s 200 anniversary in 1999 for guidance.

One of the bicentennial leaders Wayne Hidgen said it would be important to reach out the Burlington School Department to try and enlist the help of students in the run-up to the events. He also said he had a sense that the enthusiasm for volunteering now seems less than what it was in 1999. He said they had a core group of roughly 30 dedicated volunteers back then and that there were so many donations from residents and businesses that an initial $20,000 provided by the town was returned due to lack of need.

Select Board Member Nick Priest, who has been working with Coppola, Hidgen, Select Board Member Mike Runyan among others, said he agrees.

“After trading info, I think my concern is that we’re not going to have the same volunteer pool we’ve had in the past,” he said. “People are being pulled in many directions. I’d like us to take a step back and think about what we think is realistic.”

Select Board Member Mike Runyan, a longtime member of the town’s 4th of Jiuly Committee, said he feels the same after having difficulty getting people to help with the annual parade. .

“I agree with Nick,” he said. “I think the enthusiasm level is not going to be what it was for the 200th. My experience with 4th of July says that as well. If we set the bar too high we’re going to miss our expectations. We have time – we have 4 years and if we see that level of enthusiasm increase and more people agree to be part of it then perhaps we can add to the program.”

However, the board did say they wanted to move on with planning for the two events. They agreed to take it up again at the February 14 meeting to discuss in further detail which town organizations and departments should be involved and to think more seriously about the overall formation of the committee.