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Treasuring the town heritage

WESTPORT - Residents in Westport recently paid tribute to those helping promote the town's identity, and took some time to tuck away a slice of history.

A ceremony at the Westport Heritage House Oct. 10 celebrated the success of Westport's participation in the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial. Volunteers who were instrumental in the building's inaugural season as a visitors' center were honored alongside the dedication of the town's time capsule.

More than 50 volunteers were trained this summer as ambassadors to staff the new visitors' center at the Westport Heritage House. Formerly a vacant church, the building was refurbished through a grant from Lakes to Locks Passage.

The large pool of volunteers devoted shifts throughout the summer in order to keep the building open seven days a week, allowing visitors to get information about the town and enjoy historical and artistic exhibits.

In addition to honoring their commitment, the ceremony also marked the sealing of the town's time capsule, a project done in honor of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial celebration.

Together with the town board and the Westport Chamber of Commerce, the town's Quadricentennial committee implemented a $22,500 Quadricentennial grant to bring additional activities to the town's annual Heritage Festival.

Nancy Decker, a Chamber of Commerce board member, was in charge of organizing the festival, and said the Quadricentennial celebration made it particularly successful.

"This year's Heritage Fest everyone agreed was the largest turnout by far," she said. "This one was just far and above the best one we've ever had, and the main difference was we made it a Quadricentennial event."

Those who attended the event had the opportunity to submit items to the time capsule, which is planned to be re-opened in the year 2059.

"This is our way of reminding the community about the Quadricentennial," said Decker.

More than 40 items were placed in the time capsule, including a local phone book, fire department rosters, a Westport Central School yearbook, issues of the Valley News and a copy of the 2009 town budget. Letters and memorabilia from dozens of individuals and businesses were included to create a comprehensive cross-section of the town.

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