Shining in solidarity: Bennington Battle Monument lit in blue and gold for Ukraine – The Manchester Journal
BENNINGTON — The defining feature of this town’s landscape, memorializing its pivotal moment in the American Revolution, took on the blue and gold hues of the Ukrainian flag on Monday night.
At 8 p.m., shortly after sundown, the lights of the Bennington Battle Monument were uncovered to reveal the 306-foot-tall obelisk illuminated in Ukraine’s national colors as a sign of solidarity, leaving the crowd of area residents gathered to watch briefly silent.
The crowd had gathered at the base of the stone monolith well in advance of the 8 p.m. lighting, many carrying candles and other light sources for a solemn tribute to a nation fighting for its survival.
Mari Bennett of Shaftsbury made about 100 felted gold and blue sunflower pins for the event. Bennett’s parents — Hans Kelson and Elizabeth Gershaneck — had been caretakers at the monument, and she lived with them in the caretaker’s house as a child.
“I did it to bring the community together at this wonderful, uplifting event,” she said of making the pins.
Proponents of the tribute had pointed out the similarities between the Battle of Bennington and Ukraine’s fight for survival — in both cases, people wanting freedom and independence fighting a military superpower.
Area business owner Phil Pappas had proposed lighting the monument in support of the people of that European nation, who have been fighting off the Russian military since Feb. 24.
Support quickly gelled, and local officials worked with state and federal authorities to help the idea become reality. State Rep. Mary Morrissey and Select Board member James Carroll were prominent in that effort, as was support from service providers at William H. Morse State Airport, and the Old Bennington Village Board of Trustees.
The monument will be illuminated for six weeks through May 26 from sunset to 11:59 p.m. daily.
Monday afternoon, hours before the big moment, Jamie Duggan was in his car headed south to Bennington. In his role as the state’s Historic Preservation Review Coordinator, he’s responsible for maintenance and preservation for 84 buildings across the Green Mountain State, including the battle monument.
“We had about three different nights over the past two weeks doing a bit of trial and error to get the best results, and trying to dial in something that was appreciable,” he said of the lighting scheme.
The solution was devised by consultant Michael Kirick, of Engineering Associates of Williston. It uses blue and gold lenses built by Lawrence Ribbecke Glass Studio, fitted onto the existing metal halide lights with metal frames made by Conant Metal and Light.
The obelisk posed two challenges to planners. Its blue-gray Sandy Hill dolomite stone absorbs rather than reflects light, and its rough surface casts shadows. And its tapered shape had to be accounted for to keep the lights out of the eyes of pilots flying in and out of nearby William H. Morse State Airport.
“There was only so much maneuverability with the lights in their current position,” Duggan said.
Then there were the lights themselves. The existing system, which uses four 150-watt metal halide bulbs to illuminate the monument from recessed lighting wells in the ground, was “state of the art” when it was installed in 2003, Duggan said. That’s no longer true, with LED systems offering brighter, more energy-efficient illumination, as well as more options.
Duggan is interested in installing an LED system at some point in the future, given those advantages.</…….