Amanda and Arden SP
We went to town Sunday afternoon. We had two significant interactions, one at South Street and one in the chocolate shop. Both conversations brought up different issues for Bennington. The first was more focused on the school and what schools offer for Bennington children and the second was more focused on the Bennington community.
We talked with two women outside South Street Cafe. Initially the conversation was uncomfortable, and they both seemed uneasy. We began by asking if they lived in the area and one told us that they were born and raised in Bennington. She said that she had six kids (from about two years old to twelve years old) and that it was really hard because there was very little to do in town (not just for the kids but for the adults as well). While some of her kids were interested in sports (and therefore had school games as an outlet), she said there were no other after-school activities other than sports. For example, her oldest daughter who played violin and saxophone was only recently able to join the school band because of her age and even then, had few other ways to explore her interests in and outside of school. At Arden’s school a large club was the Community Service Club, a large group of students who arranged community events all over town, including multiple programs for elementary and middle school kids. The woman said that the high school had no program like this. The women seemed to immediately recognize that we were Bennington students and even said how the college “was involved in the town” mainly for our benefit.
We then had a conversation with a lady who worked at the chocolate shop. She was fairly receptive to our questions and, after we raised the issue of there being little in town for kids and teens to do, told us about a series of events they host on first fridays. These events (one was a chocolate bar making workshop) were either free or had a small entrance fee that was donated to local charities and organizations to help fight violence, crime and hunger. She also mentioned that the bookstore had author readings and that some other stores and cafes in town participated in these ‘first fridays’ events. We talked about the possibilities for other cultural events for children in the area. She told us that the Clark had free craft days for children. We talked about the possibility for local galleries or the Bennington Museum hosting these types of events. We also spoke about the relationship between the colleges and the town. She mentioned that a Bennington student used to run a food pantry program for her church and that Williams students have Brothers and Sisters.
We also inquired about First Fridays at some galleries in town and got an email with some info regarding the events from Samantha Tymchyn at Bennington, she wrote:
This link will give you some basic information about First Friday: http://www.betterbennington.com/Default.aspx?pageId=1214043&eventId=686101&EventViewMode=EventDetails
This is the first year First Fridays have been around. They are organized by the Better Bennington Corp - but to be successful it really requires effort from all the merchants in town. Each Fall Friday many of the merchants stay open late and do something special: for example Evans News gives out free popcorn, the Bookstore has book signings, the chocolate shop is going for the worlds largest peanut butter cup at the Oct 4th Fall Friday, ect... The BBC organizes street music and entertainment, but merchants and restaurants are responsible for their own entertainment inside their stores.
I know all of this because Bennington College has been working with the BBC to help sponsor a college night/Fall Friday - for the last Fall Friday on October 4th. Bennington College students will (hopefully) be providing the entertainment on the street and hosting a gallery on Main Street!
If you have any more questions - feel free to ask!