Ghent birthday party draws a crowd

GHENT–Last Tuesday, April 3, the town of Ghent celebrated its 200th birthday. It began with a celebration at the Post Office during the day, including old maps and photos of Ghent throughout the years, as well as a special bicentennial postmark. It ended with an evening celebration at the Ghent VFW Post 5933 that included speakers, food, cake, old photos and new video of the town.

The town of Ghent was recognized through proclamations from Congress via Representative John Faso’s (R-19th) office, the state Assembly from Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th), as well as through a legislative resolution from the office of state Senator Kathleen Marchione (R-43rd), all to commemorate the town’s birthday. Town Supervisor Michael Benvenuto presented a resolution of congratulations from the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.

The Ghent Band played at the event, and the town’s new town historian, Gregg Berninger, spoke about his efforts over the past few months, compiling photos and stories into a Bicentennial Publication to share the history of Ghent with the public. This publication is for sale at the Town Hall, and includes highlights and photos from the two-century history of Ghent.

“If you’re wondering what the first thing on Ghent’s mind was, it was pigs. The first law passed in Ghent was that all pigs must be yoked,” Mr. Berninger said, drawing laughter from the audience of well over 100. “People fenced their gardens in, and if the pig had a yoke, it couldn’t get through the fence. There have been no reports this year of pigs in people’s gardens, so people are still following the law.”

The Town of Ghent was named after the treaty ending the War of 1812 signed in the city of Ghent in what is now Belgium. As circumstances would have it, there happened to be a Belgian man visiting Ghent during the bicentennial celebrations. He said a few words and wished Ghent a very happy birthday.

Various members of the community were also invited to speak about their memories of Ghent, including Ken Wilbur, and Dick Leggett. Mr. Leggett spoke of the barber shop that used to be next to the old post office (The Columbia Paper’s current headquarters), run by a man named Scammy.

“Scammy had the job of taking the mail from the Post Office out, putting it on the train, or taking the mail on the train out,” said Mr. Leggett. “You sat in the chair—if you were in the middle of a haircut and the train came in, it didn’t make a difference—you sat in that chair and waited.”

Following these speeches, Mr. Berninger closed the evening’s festivities, and spoke of the many special families who have been a part of shaping the community from the very beginning.

“They represent 200 years of special people who brought Ghent to this day. Trains have come and gone, and Scammy has come and gone, and the county home has come and gone, but we don’t need that stuff because we have each other. And no matter what comes and goes, together we’ll make the next 200 years as good as the first.”

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