LENOX — The town is planning a supersized, yearlong celebration of its 250th anniversary in 2017 as a volunteer group gears up for an intense planning and fundraising effort.
The commemoration is "of, by and for our community," said organizer Olga Weiss, who chairs the Lenox Historical Commission, an advisory group. Along with marketing and publicity director Patricia Neri, Weiss is coordinating the Lenox 250th Committee of 40 town leaders and other local citizens.
"We are professional people giving professional time to the town, all very much committed to the 250th," Weiss said in an interview at Town Hall this week.
A planning meeting of the 250th Committee is set for 4 p.m. today in the Lenox Library.
"It's our opportunity not only to work together but to appreciate and celebrate together," she said. "My agenda is to make people aware of our history."
Lenox was founded as a separate town in 1767; it was originally part of Yokuntown, which was formed four years earlier and included Richmond, then known as Mount Ephraim.
The celebration is budgeted at "way over $100,000," Weiss said. The town has authorized $35,000 in municipal support, and $2,850 in donations have arrived so far, including $2,500 from Greylock Federal Credit Union. Contributions are being administered through the nonprofit Lenox Library.
Besides enhancing community spirit, Weiss pointed out that "while the town is celebrating, these events are going to bring in people from the outside. I'm hoping to stimulate business, to let the town know that we should not be at odds with one another, we should be cooperating, working together to build this town. While we're doing that, we should pay attention to our history."
An advocate of preservation, she observed that "just because something is old doesn't mean it's defunct. It can have another life, and people have to realize it's worthwhile doing because people come here to see what was, not something new and glitzy that's being built. I want people to develop that appreciation for this history."
A kickoff fundraiser with hors d'oeuvres, live music as well as live and silent auctions is scheduled for 7 to 10:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Lenox Club, 111 Yokun Ave. Admission is $75 per person.
"Lenox Through the Years," a documentary by local videographer Judy Seaman chronicling the town's past through the "oral history" recollections of more than 60 residents, also includes historical footage and photography.
It will debut in the Duffin Theater at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School on at 7 p.m. Feb. 11. Highlights will be shown during the year at Town Hall, the Lenox Chamber of Commerce, the Lenox Historical Society, the Lenox Library, on several websites, and at many of the commemorations.
Local stores will sell the DVD. The deadline for sponsorship opportunities allowing businesses to display their name and logo on the film and DVD case is Nov. 14, with a 10 percent discount on all ads submitted by Oct. 14 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Underwriting and sponsorship opportunities also are available for many of the major events scheduled during the celebration year.
Among the scheduled 2017 commemorations:
• A townwide ecumenical event focusing on Lenox history to be held on a Sunday in January, organized by Church on the Hill interim Pastor Richard Noel Chrisman.
• Two installments of the Lenox Library Distinguished Lecture series: On Sunday, Feb. 19, a panel discussion on the first half of Lenox's history (1767-1880) includes Charles Flint, Lucy Kennedy, Carole Owens and Bernard Drew. On March 19, Cornelia Gilder and Richard Jackson will discuss the Gilded Age, David Roche will focus on the period from 1940-1970 and Weiss will discuss The Music Inn.
• A Founders Day commemoration planned for March 5, marking the First Proprietors Meeting of the earliest town leaders at Israel Dewey's home and tavern, now the Birchwood Inn, on March 5, 1767. The event includes an original skit written by drama teacher Ralph Petillo and performed by his students from Lenox Memorial Middle and High School.
• A rededication of the town's war monument by Town Manager Christopher Ketchen on May 29, Memorial Day.
• A Civil War Re-enactment (July 14-15), including an overnight encampment at Lilac Park staged by Company F, 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, wearing authentic uniforms, with military drills and a wide range of activities and exhibitions.
• A Gilded Age Garden and Flower Show, co-sponsored by the Lenox Historical Society and the Academy Garden Club of Lenox, at Town Hall on Aug. 18-20, with guest speaker Cornelia Gilder, judging and awards presentations, all free to the public and exhibitors.
• The 250th Anniversary Parade from the center of town to Shakespeare & Company on Kemble Street, with a celebration including food and music, on Oct. 7, 2017.
Meanwhile, Lenox Library Director Amy Lafave, a native and local history specialist, is preparing "Images of America: Lenox," a memory book of vintage photographs from library archives and other sources.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
For information about the Lenox anniversary celebrations, visit www.lenox250th.org.