This article is reprinted with permission from December 6, 2022 edition of the Rutland Herald newspaper.
Rutland County’s eight covered bridges became a little bit greener this past week thanks to the efforts of the Rutland chapter of the Vermont Covered Bridges Society.
Balsam sprays, swags and wreathes adorned in bright-red bows were placed on the bridges over the course of roughly 3½ hours on Saturday.
“I’m a native Vermonter, and I just love covered bridges, and I love Christmas. So, I thought, ‘Hey, what a great thing to do for the communities (and) put a little Christmas cheer into their lives as they pass through the bridges,’” said Beth Brown-Limmer, chair of the Rutland chapter of VCBS.
After coming up with the idea and receiving permission from the various select boards in towns where the bridges sit, Brown-Limmer got to work organizing the labor and resources for the event.
Kevin Sweeney, owner of Rutland’s O’Raine & Sun Painting, provided the labor and tools to hang the decorations, a local VCSB member provided the greenery, and Ann Chartrand of the Brandon Florist Shoppe provided ribbon and helped assemble the 14 sprays and swags.
All but one of the five wreaths were purchased from the Brandon Florist Shoppe, with one wreath being donated by Blue Seal in Brandon for the Hammond Covered Bridge in Pittsford. Full-size wreaths also were specifically placed on Shrewsbury’s Brown Covered Bridge — Vermont’s only covered bridge that is also a National Historic Landmark.
Sweeney, who had done some painting work for Brown-Limmer and her husband’s cottage recently, said he got involved with the project after some convincing by Brown-Limmer.
“I got my arms twisted by Beth. I couldn’t say ‘no,’” he said with a chuckle. “One thing led to another, she asked me to give her a hand and (I was) more than welcome to.”
Beginning with the Sanderson Covered Bridge in Brandon at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sweeney, Brown-Limmer and her husband Paul Limmer also placed decorations on Pittsford’s Hammond, Depot, Cooley and Gorham covered bridges; Rutland’s Twin Covered Bridge; East Clarendon’s Kingsley Covered Bridge; and the Brown Covered Bridge in Shrewsbury.
While this is the first year that the Rutland group has placed these decorations, Brown-Limmer said she hopes to make it an annual event.
The decoration hanging also is just one of many recent attempts the Rutland chapter of the VCBS has made to increase membership and public awareness of the organization.
In addition to hosting a booth at the Vermont State Fair, at a Middlebury farmers market in September and at a craft fair in Pittsford in November, the group also developed a 2023 Vermont covered bridge calendar for the first time.
“We’d like to have some interest sparked in other parts of the state,” Brown-Limmer said. “We take (these) opportunities to educate people, so that you can understand that these are fragile, antique structures.”
Founded in February 2000, the Vermont Covered Bridges Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Vermont’s covered bridges and educating the public about their history and fragility.
According to Brown-Limmer, many of the covered bridges left in Vermont face the risk of being struck by “too high, too wide or too heavy a vehicle” that could cause irreversible damage or force the bridge to become pedestrian-only.
“The purpose (of VCBS) is to preserve the remaining 100 bridges that we have in Vermont. There were, at one time, over 550 covered bridges in Vermont. Now we have dwindled down to about one-fifth of what we once had. We are striving to raise money and raise public awareness about the necessity to preserve these quintessential structures in Vermont,” Brown-Limmer said.
Editors note: This article is reprinted with permission from the Rutland Herald, Inc.