VERNON -- A parade and fireworks will be among the attractions at this Saturday's Vernon Town Picnic.
But there also will be raffles, a barbecue and other fundraisers designed to help vital town services -- and even the picnic itself -- continue in spite of widespread budget cuts.
Town officials say that's the new reality in Vernon due to the pending shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The town picnic, scheduled from 3 p.m. to dark, is part fundraiser and part reprieve after what's been a tough year in this town.
"It's just a good time for the community -- that's the basis of it," said Josh Unruh, who heads the Town Picnic Committee. "The picnic is something that Vernon had for years and years, and it went away."
That's a reference to the parade's return last year after a hiatus that was due in part to dwindling attendance. That wasn't the case in 2013, when the newly revived picnic -- held at the Vernon recreation complex off Pond Road -- attracted hundreds.
"The turnout was huge, actually," Unruh said. "We were very surprised about how many people came out for it."
He and other picnic organizers are hoping for a similar turnout on Saturday, when events begin with a 10 a.m. softball game pitting residents -- noted as the "defending champs" -- vs. town employees.
At 3 p.m., there will be a parade from the Vernon post office to the Huckle Hill baseball field. And then, from 4 p.m. until dark, there will be activities including bounce houses, games for kids and music with dancing.
The Vernon Historians will open the Pond Road chapel from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Vernon Recreation Department is handling this year's barbecue, and the Vernon Fire Department will be offering cotton candy, glow sticks and a dessert table.
A fireworks display is scheduled at dark. Unruh credited Atlas Fireworks for giving picnic organizers a significant discount this year.
"They did our fireworks at half price, and we consider them a sponsor," he said.
Another major picnic sponsor is Entergy. The Vermont Yankee owner donated $5,000, which matches the company's support for last year's picnic.
With Vermont Yankee winding down, it had not been clear whether Entergy would donate. But Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O'Donnell said she was not surprised that the company cut a check.
"Entergy has been a class act from the day that they announced they were going to close," O'Donnell said. "They worked very hard with the town of Vernon to make sure they were doing the right thing. In our negotiations for this year's taxes, they were phenomenal."
The fact that Yankee-related tax revenue soon will drop significantly has led to municipal budget cuts in Vernon as well as concerns about long-term funding for many services.
So the town picnic also is an opportunity for residents to support town departments and local groups including the Vernon Seniors, who are selling 50/50 tickets as a fundraiser for the Senior Activities Fund.
The recreation department will benefit from barbecue proceeds, Unruh said. And Vernon Preschool will benefit from the raffle of a free, same-day helicopter ride, he added.
Organizers also are hoping to raise and save money for next year's town picnic. With Yankee closing at year's end, Entergy's contribution would seem to be in jeopardy; also, while the town last year budgeted $5,000 for Saturday's picnic, there is no such cash in the fiscal year 2015 budget.
"We can't be asking for tax dollars for any of this stuff anymore," O'Donnell said. "We're in the fundraiser mode in Vernon -- this is how we're going to live in the future."
Unruh also thanked volunteers who have contributed to this year's picnic.
"It's become more important, I guess, to a younger generation," he said. "Most of my volunteers are in their 30s, and they want to see it continue, because they have kids who will enjoy it."
For more information or to inquire about participation in Saturday's picnic, softball game or parade, contact Unruh at 802-380-2875 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.