WILMINGTON -- For most people, not being able to find a parking spot would be a nuisance, but for second-homeowners Brad and Paula Black, it meant downtown Wilmington and its businesses had plenty of visitors.
"It's exciting," said Paula. "We love seeing the village come back piece-by-piece. It's amazing to see the revitalization here."
As a community that felt the brunt of Tropical Storm Irene's wrath last summer, the massive crowd of residents, second-homeowners and visitors brought back life to village.
Brad and Paula had been at their home the morning of Aug. 28, 2011 -- when historic rains flooded many of Vermont's rivers, brooks and streams, causing millions of dollars worth of damage -- but they drove back to Boston before the roads were washed out.
Watching video footage and reading tales of the destruction, Brad said he wasn't sure what would be left of the town they both love.
But when they returned just a week after the storm, Brad and Paula said they were in awe of the Vermont spirit, and on Saturday evening, among the more than 400 people downtown, they said they knew the town will rebound.
Looking down at the slow trickle of the Deerfield River, many people were trying to image how such a serene waterway could have caused so much damage, said Village Stroll Coordinator Shelley Park.
"Some people who visit may not even know the flood happened," she said. "And despite the fact that half of downtown
The rebirth of the town, with its center at the intersection of Route 9 and 100, has ebbed and flowed, Park said, but slow and steady wins the race.
"We're now trying to think outside of the ‘T' that makes of 9 and 100," she said. "This stroll will hopefully be the first of many events to do so."
Selectboard Chairman Tom Consolino said seeing all the people provided renewed hope that the town will once again become what it was.
"It means a lot to the town and business owners," he said. "We could use a couple more days like this."
To encourage people to visit as many of the reopened businesses as possible, Park and Lisa Sullivan, owner of Bartleby's Books, helped organize a scavenger hunt. Celebrating his 25th birthday, Waldo, a popular children's book character, was the obvious choice and pictures of him wearing his iconic white and red sweater and hat, blue jeans and glasses, were hidden throughout the restaurants, shops and municipal buildings for people to find.
Those that found at least 16 were entered to win various prizes.
"It's a great way to move people around the village and get them into shops they might not have been into before," said Adam Grinold of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. "A lot of these shops have really great things in them that people wouldn't expect or know about unless they walked in."
The next stroll is planned for July 28, Park said, and she's hopeful than even more people will come.
Standing in the gutted Parmelee & Howe Building, Rep. Ann Manwaring, D-Wilmington, and Wilmington Fund Secretary and Spokeswoman Julie Lineberger discussed the renovation process of the historic building with visitors as they walked through.
"Seeing all these people is just fabulous," said Manwaring, who also serves as the vice president of the Wilmington Fund. "This is such a wonderful community and a welcoming place for any who visit it."
Neither Lineberger nor Manwaring could comment on whether anyone has agreed to lease the building, but Lineberger said she's confident the vacancy will be filled before the end of the year.
As the non-profit group uses grants to continue helping business owners rebuild and fill the empty store fronts, the Wilmington Fund also will be hosting a concert to help rebuild Dot's.
The benefit concert, featuring Jon Pousette Dart and Aztec Two-Step, will be held at Memorial Hall, July 14, at 8 p.m.
Lineberger said there will be special ticketing for about 100 people to have dinner with the artists prior to the show.
For tickets and more information visit www.thewilmingtonfundvt.org.
Josh Stilts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.