BROCTON - Not even a severe thunderstorm warning on Labor Day could deter the town of Portland's Bicentennial Committee from holding its final event as an official group, which may be a testament to its strength and cohesiveness.
In between rain showers, the group held a community-wide picnic at the Brocton-Portland Community Park on West Main Street in Brocton.
The picnic served not only as a way to bring residents of the town together, but also to congratulate and thank committee members on a successful celebration of Portland's 200th birthday.
"This was really to finish celebrating the birthday of the town," Committee Chair Dave Travis said. "We've had a lot of successful events over the past few months, including the bicentennial festival and parade in mid-July, a kickoff dinner in April with a reenactment of the first ever Portland board meeting, garden and cemetery tours, a talent show, a pie contest, which went well, and even a beard contest. The community really came together and pitched in to make this a success."
Portland Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz, who was also at the picnic, echoed Travis' sentiments.
"There were many hours of planning that went into this to make this a huge success," he said.
After almost two years, the committee of 40 people will officially disband after fiscal statements are settled. However, that didn't stop committee member and county legislator Thomas DeJoe (D-Brocton) from looking toward a possible future for the group.
"Five or six people have talked about extending the committee into a possible spinoff that would put on an annual fundraising event to give back to Portland and Brocton and enhance the quality of life in the area," he said. "It would possibly be a foundation-type group. I think it's very possible that could happen. I don't want to lose the spirit of this great group. We have the potential to do more."
DeJoe went on to praise his fellow committee members and the work everyone put into the bicentennial festival.
"This picnic was a great culmination of everything the committee worked toward and I was honored to be able to serve with all these people," he said. "I have a great respect for all of them. This is another example of the community banding together to show its pride. There was never any bickering and we were cohesive. That's what I saw when my family moved here back in '75: Neighbor takes care of neighbor here. We all look out for each other."
During the picnic, items belonging to the committee that were left over from the festivities were auctioned off. Travis also wanted to remind the community that commemorative memorabilia, including hats, plates, mugs and Christmas ornaments, are still for sale at the town clerk's office at reduced prices and orders are being taken for commemorative books, which will be distributed later this year.
"We will announce when these souvenir books are ready," Travis said. "The front of the book will feature the logo used by our committee that was designed by Portland native John Baldridge. The book will also include history, old photos and current photos of the celebration of the bicentennial."
At one point during the picnic, Travis stood up and briefly spoke to everyone.
"I just wanted to say 'thank you' to everyone here," he said. "It takes a lot more than one or two people to pull off everything we did. We've spent two years together and it's sad the committee will be coming to an end. That being said, please keep active within our community and don't forget where your roots are."
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