Fairfax school kicks off next 100 years
By LEON THOMPSON - Messenger Staff Writer


The Bellows Free Academy - Fairfax (BFA) community gave those words life Friday afternoon during a spirited, heartfelt culmination to festivities marking the school centennial.

There were special guest and surprises, but the school's rich history was the real star of the two-hour show, which proved if the League of American Theaters and Producers gave Tonys to off-off-off-off Broadway shows, BFA-Fairfax would lead the list of nominees.

"We certainly have come a long way in 100 years," said Peg Stewart, school board chair, "from horse-drawn wagons to electric cars."

One of those new age vehicles -- used in another celebration at the school two weeks ago -- provided transportation to the event for Hiram Bellows, who bore an uncanny resemblance to BFA Principal Scott Lang (if Lang were to walk the school halls in a fake beard).

Mr. Bellows, BFA founder, sat stage left and rocked gently underneath an oversized clock, smiling as students and staff delivered an artistic program peppered with music, drama and tradition.

"The one thing that has not changed is Bellows Free Academy continues to provide quality education for all our students," Stewart said. "We are a community of learners."

Two men partially responsible for shaping BFA students are Vermont Senator Don Collins, D-Swanton, former district superintendent, and Dick Brown, one of the longest-serving principals. During their keynote addresses, each described BFA as a unique, precious school where tradition -- and expectations -- are regarded highly.

"My memories are about people who made the extra effort to make BFA-Fairfax the place it is," Collins said.

Brown gave a nod to country music star Toby Keith.

"Mmm-mmm-mmm, I love this school," Brown said, para-phrasing Keith's current smash, "I Love This Bar." On a more serious note, he said, "If you're a principal here, you can't ignore who came before you."

The students didn't.

Led by seventh-grade emcee Stephanie Karr, they recreated the BFA-Fairfax of the past by marching into the assembly hall to music and pivoting before taking their seats.

Greg Bessette Messenger Photo scanned from The St. Albans Messenger and does not in any way reflect the quality of Greg's work

There also was a short dramatization of the first 1905 BFA graduation, complete with a childhood version of Ralph Stratton Wolcott, the first alum, who, ironically, was from Milton. Sterling Weed, 102, of St. Albans conducted the BFA band's performance of "Washington Post March: to end the commencement.

Incidentally, Weed, who received a long standing ovation and Bruce McRae, current band director, have been the only two band leaders in school history. (Albert Rich, 96, a 1925 BFA grad, also stood to be recognized.)

After representatives from Vermont's congressional delegation read letters from the lawmakers, there was a fashion show featuring period garb from the past 100 years and a display of dances ranging from the Fox Trot and Twist to the Electric Slide and Macarena.

BFA-Fairfax students wave glow sticks during the finale of Friday's 100th anniversary celebration. (Greg Bessette Messenger Photo scanned from The St. Albans Messenger and does not in any way reflect the quality of Greg's work)

Then, Hiram Bellows left the stage, as students waved glow-in-the-dark necklaces and sang "Happy Birthday." When the auditorium lights came on, the students filed out of the gym, ready to start the weekend -- and another 100 years.

Henry A. Raymond
November 30, 2003