By Ann Belcher
BROCTON - Thursday evening, July 11, time literally stood still as hundreds of community residents of the Brocton and Portland area gathered downtown to take part in a unique and historic stitch the fabric of the Town of Portland's 200-year history.
The Portland Bicentennial Celebration got off to a momentous and historic start as Brocton Mayor Dave Hazelton flipped on the lights to the historic and famed Brocton Arch. Originally constructed as a commemoration of the Town of Portland's first 100 years, and to serve as a "welcome" to traffic through the village limits, the arch blazed once again against a perfectly clear dusky night sky.
Photo by Ann Belcher
The streetscape of downtown Brocton returned to normal Thursday evening, July 11, as upwards of 400 people gathered to watch the relighting of the Brocton Arch as the Portland Bicentennial celebration gets underway. A generous grant from CHRIC as well as the stewardship of the community paved the way for the arch to be restored and lit.
"I'm truly touched by the presence of all of you who are here tonight," stated the mayor just prior to the lighting of the color-changing L.E.D. lights.
Although delayed only a few seconds at the switch box, hundreds cheered as the streetscape of the Village of Brocton returned to once again welcome through traffic, visitors and residents alike with the illumination of a true "Brocton green" light along the newly refurbished arms of the arch.
The mayor gave nod to several who made the event a historic and celebratory reality: former mayor and current trustee J. Dale Abram who researched and discovered the grant opportunity and started the project on its way.
CHRIC, who generously assisted the village in obtaining a sizeable NYS Historic Preservation Grant; the countless donors, both near and far, who stepped up to the plate to secure the matching funds required for the grant award; Andres Huerta, the lead engineering architect for the project; Buffalo Iron Corporation president Patrick Hanley and his crew; Village Clerk's office staffers Karen Ardillo and Julie Planty; and finally electric lineman Joe Majkowski, who the mayor credited with meticulously following the project through to completion so that the lights could shine down on the weekend's celebration.
Huerta, who was on hand to watch the lighting noted "One hundred years from now, the arch will be here standing even stronger. I was very fortunate, as Patrick (Hanley) was, to be selected as part of this project. Brocton truly loves this arch, and it's been a pleasure to see the enthusiasm behind the project. The enthusiasm for something like this truly unites people and their involvement truly speaks to the good nature of these people."
Hanley, who was on hand with his wife Erica echoed Huerta's sentiments, and hoped to be back in town for the Bicentennial Celebration after penning their names on the time capsule prior to the lighting.
"We really appreciate the village selecting us for this job. It's been very exciting to be back for the grand reveal, and it's so good to see everyone here."
The mayor, joined by his family and the rest of the village board, expressed his sentiments by stating, "I think relighting the arch this evening was the ideal way for the community to commemorate both the centennial and the bicentennial of the town. It's been an absolutely perfect way to start the weekend's events."
Originally, the village had planned to officially close and seal the time capsule, but with the overwhelming turnout of residents, the mayor intends to keep the capsule on hand during the Bicentennial celebration to give all a chance to sign the time capsule that want to be etched in the town and village history. The mayor, on further thought, noted "I actually think that would be an excellent way to close the festivities down on Sunday."
The capsule will be encased in a brick monument bearing the names of the donors of $250 or more to the arch project, and it will stand in the Village Commons for all to view.
Ben Vilonen, one of the lead consulting architects from Kideney Architects gave a nod to the celebratory mood of the events.
"This is a one of a kind project, and I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to participate in this and see it come to fruition. This project also celebrates the electrification of the town and village, and also celebrates the modernization of the community. That's a true statement for this village. This is a truly classic, Americana Main Street here. And it's just been a thrill to be part of this."
Village Clerk Karen Ardillo, who provided the detailed leg work through the process, and Dan King, who was instrumental in getting the arch listed on the National Registry of Historic Places both acknowledged the many people, including fundraising organizer Martha Smith, who played a part in restoring this piece of history to the town and village.
"It's so good to see such community spirit alive again and centered around Brocton's arch," stated King.
As the sky still bore light from dusk, Portland resident Herb McIntyre, who watched the lighting with his wife Kathy and his grandson, noted "It will be really great to see it lit in true darkness of night."
Hixson Abram, who was glad to be among family and friends to see the arch lights return summed up the theme of the night best in his signature on the time capsule, adding "Treasure this town, always" above his name.