Fair and impartial reporting is the rule here at Seven Days. But, just this once, we've decided it's OK to play favorites. As we prepared to release the results of our annual Seven Daysies readers' choice competition , we were inspired to reflect on a few of our own picks for the "bests" of life in Vermont.
What's so great about the Green Mountain State? The restaurants, bars, shops, services, artists, entertainers and natural wonders awarded in the Daysies cover many bases. But the more you look, the more gems there are to mine. We're accustomed to digging for stories; this time, we're unearthing some staffers' faves.
Read on for our picks of what's weird, wonderful and worthy of your attention.
On a dreary Saturday afternoon in January, a crowd of 3,000 demonstrators, many of whom were too young to vote or even to be left home alone, took to the streets of Montpelier and reminded us what democracy in action looks like.
They carried signs that read, "Youth know what's up," "We were served a lemon but will make lemonade" and "Girls just wanna have fun-damental human rights." The first-ever March for Our Future highlighted Vermont's politically engaged young people and the issues that mobilize them, from racial equality to gender-neutral bathrooms to global warming.
Speakers included 8-year-old youth organizer Sophie Freebern of Richmond and Ethan Sonneborn, the 14-year-old Bristol boy who's running for governor. (Read more about him.) The event also featured performances by spoken-word artists Muslim Girls Making Change and African hip-hop musicians A2VT.
In a speech, Greta Solsaa, 16, of Rutland cited youth role models from around the world and told the crowd, "These young people are no different than us. They've just taken action on what matters to them. Progress does not happen overnight." She added, "But if we continue to use our voice, our power, there will be change ... Never forget that we are the future, and we have something to say about it."
— Ken Picard
Here in Vermont, old-timers give directions using landmarks that aren't there anymore. "Go down the county road," they'll say, "past where the dump used to be; turn right at the old Martin farm, and it's the second left after that." For a lost traveler, this can be almost as helpful as an out-of-service GPS stuck in "rerouting" mode.
But these dated directives remind us that family histories reside in those decaying dairy farms and overgrown gristmills. Shelburne photographer Jim Westphalen makes it his business to document these stories.
Using a large-format film camera, Westphalen shoots images of graying barns that almost fade into the dusk, of grain silos twisted and warped by time and weather, of storefronts whose cheery midcentury signage stands in sharp contrast to rusting gas pumps and encroaching weeds.
To village development boards, such places might look like eyesores — a visual representation of a town's ailing fortunes. But through Westphalen's lens, there is hope. In his beautiful squalor, we see the grit and determination of our forebears, but also a past when honest hard work, practical know-how and neighborliness could guarantee modest success — or better.
It's a history worth celebrating. Because, someday soon, that leaning old shed on the outskirts of town will collapse into a pile of splintered rubble.
— Hannah Palmer Egan
It's said we should live in the present, but living in the past can be very chic. At least when you're Skye Makaris, a Burlington-area blogger and seamstress who makes, buys and wears clothing inspired by fashions predominantly from the 1940s and '50s. She documents her fashion forays on Instagram and her blog, My Kingdom for a Hat, which she started in college.
Makaris, 24, teaches sewing classes around town, but it's her costumes that make her stand out. "I really hate the [phrase] 'trying too hard,'" she told this reporter last year. "The implication is that effort is bad."
She certainly serves up strong looks day after day. Take her 18th-century petticoats, sewn for reenactments at the Ethan Allen Homestead; her straw hats adorned with fruit and ribbons; or her fur collars — always paired with a strong red lip.
Those getups attract attention, but when Makaris doesn't want to be approached about her gear, she simply throws on a midcentury suit set. "I'll look like everyone's grandma, and nobody will bother me," she said.
— Sadie Williams
Michele Jenness grinds her teeth so much in her sleep that they've become "really small," she said, chuckling. "[But] I am resilient, like so many of my clients."
She's had plenty of stressors lately. Jenness, 63, is the legal services coordinator at Burlington-based Association of Africans Living in Vermont, and most of her clients are refugees and immigrants submitting petitions for their families to join them in the U.S. Despite the political and social turbulence caused by the Trump administration's travel ban and family separation policy at the southern border, she's determined to keep helping Vermonters reunite with their families.
Jenness admitted that it's been challenging. Some Somali clients can't bring their family members to the U.S. because of the travel ban, and individuals have to undergo additional security screening before they're eligible to get visas, she said.
She also helps clients with their permanent residency and citizenship applications. "It feels really good to help people on this last critical juncture," said Jenness, "to assure their status here or get them citizenship so that they can apply for their parents they might have had to leave behind."
Jenness, who lives in Huntington, has been providing immigration legal services since 1990. Asylum cases weigh particularly heavily on her. "I take it all really personally," she said. But "when a family member comes in and they are introduced to me, [or] when somebody wins asylum, there's such a surge of joy that I can share that reward."
Last year, 732 individuals from 58 countries sought immigration legal services from AALV. It isn't uncommon for Jenness to come into the office on Sundays to catch up on paperwork.
"I see the [Trump] administration as wanting to close the doors completely," she said. "It's important that everybody keeps fighting — whether it's at an individual level or policy changes."
— Kymelya Sari
From the outside, Currier's Quality Market looks like your average small-town general store: white clapboard siding, forest-green trim, gas pumps out front and a scale for weighing game during deer season. Inside, the Currier family — Jim, Julie, Shari and Jeff — stocks everything from canned goods to light bulbs, live bait to cigarettes, candy bars to bread.
What's less typical is that they conduct business beneath the blank gazes of countless wild animals, tagged and taxidermied long ago. Many are donations, bequeathed to the store's collection when some hunter or trapper passed on. And the critters are as varied as they are numerous.
Near the front door, a bobcat keeps watch as employees build deli sandwiches for hungry regulars. Above a case of Dorito's tortilla chips, a black bear rises as if in warning, while a gray wolf stands sentinel over the beer cooler. Above the ammo case, a rare catamount stalks unseen prey as a caribou bust looks on. Toward the back, postal workers take in moose butt and beaver views while stuffing letters into U.S. mailboxes.
So, at Currier's you can stop for a sandwich and make small talk with a stuffed fox while you wait. What could be more Vermonty than that?
Remember the night of November 8, 2016, when the proverbial record scratched and sweetly humming liberal gears came to a grinding halt? Since we entered our brave new bigly world, protests — frequently female-led — have multiplied, from the earth-shaking 2017 Women's March to Pussy Riot's recent interruption of the World Cup to Therese Patricia Okoumou's scaling of the Statue of Liberty.
Closer to home, activist collective Feminists Against Bullshit (formerly known as Feminists Against Trump) has been making a ruckus since before what's-his-name was elected. The group's name is on point but doesn't reveal a primary ingredient of its angry merrymaking: witchcraft.
Chanting and carousing in Church Street processionals, FAB has cast many a cheeky public spell since its 2016 preelection "Witch-In" and Trumpkin smashing. Most recently, the group paraded a mannequin-corpse encrusted in bullet casings and a note that read, "Thoughts & Prayers," down Burlington's market-place, proclaiming a hex on the National Rifle Association.
While FAB is a collective effort with a fluid membership, its ringleaders are artist and University of Vermont professor Tina Escaja and Middlebury College's Laurie Essig — directors of their respective institutions' gender studies programs. Ivory Tower be damned, FAB is a little in-your-face and a lot of fun; it knows that sometimes you've really got to make a scene.
— Rachel Elizabeth Jones
If Vermont had one requirement for state citizenship, I'd propose that it be walking the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton. The 1.2-mile path loops through woods, along a stream, past blueberry bushes and a meadow, offering lovely views to the east of Bread Loaf and Battell mountains. Yet the trail's distinctive feature is not its natural beauty but its framing of literary greatness.
Posted along the path is a selection of poems by Robert Frost (1874-1963), Vermont's first poet laureate, who lived and worked in a cabin near the trail. To walk the Frost path and read its dozen poems is to engage in a marvelous mix of recreation and contemplation. The 45-minute walk attracts many types: kids, visitors, dogs, hikers, professors — once, even the Dalai Lama.
The path's Frost collection includes both well-known verse such as "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "The Road Not Taken" and lesser-known poems such as "The Quest of the Purple-Fringed" and "Reluctance." All acquire greater meaning when they're read in the kind of place that Frost — a keen observer of nature — was writing about.
"The Last Mowing" is posted on the edge of a grassy clearing. "The Road Not Taken" appears at a fork in the trail. "The Pasture" is the first poem on the path. In it, Frost wrote, "I shan't be gone long.—You come too."
— Sally Pollak
A visitor to Vermont's museums and monuments might conclude that its history is a parade of white people. But notable figures of African descent dot the Green Mountain State's past, and the self-guided Vermont African American Heritage Trail offers a way to give them the attention they deserve.
With the trail, Vermont's Depart-ment of Tourism and Marketing aims to introduce tourists and locals alike to the state's diverse history through 22 stops at museums, homesteads, farms and historical markers.
Stops include the memorial marker for the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester, as well as the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, a farmstead renowned for its role in the Underground Railroad. At the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury, time travelers will encounter Daisy Turner — or at least her stories. The child of freed slaves, Turner was celebrated for her storytelling and poetry, which captured generations of African American family history.
Recently added to the trail is the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte, which offers seasonal events and tours of its historic barn house, one of six buildings on 148 acres that Jack and Lydia Clemmons have owned since 1962. With the help of a hefty grant, the family is working on transforming the farm into a major African American and African-diasporic cultural center.
For explorers who work up an appetite, the trail brochure also lists a few stores and restaurants that offer African-heritage foodstuffs.
Picking the one road or highway in Vermont that's the most fun to drive in a convertible or on a motorcycle is akin to choosing the single greatest guitarist of all time. Sure, Jimi Hendrix tops many such lists, but compelling arguments also can be made for Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck or B.B. King.
Ditto for choosing the best stretch of pavement for motoring your hog or ragtop through the Green Mountain countryside. (Technically speaking, Vermont's helmet law doesn't allow bikers to feel the wind in their hair, but "Best Road for Catching Bugs in Your Teeth" didn't sound as appealing.)
If your landscape leanings tend toward a mix of mountains and lakes, the ride through Grand Isle County on Route 2, from Sand Bar State Park to Alburgh, is a tasty trip.
Still, few highways offer a longer, curvier or more diverse slice of Vermontiness — mountains, rivers, fall foliage, picturesque country stores — than Route 100. Granted, the area near Stowe is jammed with tourists on the best of days, and road construction this summer has rendered it about as relaxing as a root canal. But driving the scenic byway south through the Mad River Valley, then on to Killington, Plymouth, Ludlow and Londonderry, is about the most fun you can have in a vehicle without taking your pants off.
The lit-up white welcome sign beckons at midnight. Market32 is open on Shelburne Road in Burlington. In fact, the store never closes.
The mega-market formerly known as Price Chopper is now a 24-7 mecca for the munchies, which became legal on July 1. Yet Market32 could prove to be something of a wasteland for a stoner, because it's easy to enter yet hard to exit. She might find herself lost in a series of refrigerated islands dedicated to ... yogurt. He could stare too long at the plastic-encased meals, trying to choose between meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy and a side of corn, or stuffed rigatoni and Italian sausage in creamy marinara sauce — each a steal at $4.99.
The Klondike case alone could put the skids on a gotta-eat-now moment. There are at least eight kinds of Klondike ice cream bars, from double chocolate to caramel pretzel, Oreo to original. (When in doubt, go for the OG.)
Aisle 8 presents every chip known to humankind; even winnowing the choices down to two can still trip you up: the Lay's dill-pickle potato chips or the jalapeño ranch Ruffles? For endless options of candy, hit up Aisle 10.
There's no evidence that Market32's round-the-clock service was designed with Vermont's cannabis legalization in mind — nor that it markets to the munchies any more than other grocery stores. But for any middle-of-the-night cravings, the store has got you covered from the moment you walk in the door. Peanut-butter-filled pretzel nuggets, anyone?
It's Friday, about 6 p.m. Your week: busy and harried, as usual. But as you pull into the wooded parking lot of Treasure Island, the public beach on Lake Fairlee owned and operated by the town of Thetford's recreation department, you begin to shed your workday stress. You tuck a yoga mat under your arm and walk toward the now-quiet beach. With a handful of other yogis, you wade into the cool, still water and swim to a floating dock just offshore.
Jill Cray, a certified yoga instructor who has been teaching in the Upper Valley for the past four years, follows in a kayak piled with everyone's mats, water bottles and (on cooler days) extra layers.
As class begins, you sit, centered and tall, in quiet meditation, slowly inhaling and exhaling with perfect control and intention, as Cray guides you through pranayama breathing practice.
A loon trills its warbling call, and you begin to move — from seated to standing, folding over and stretching down, with deep exhales, and then rising again for a series of sun salutation in the Vinyasa flow method.
The sun lowers in the sky as the asanas become more strenuous, then taper off into relaxing, restorative poses until the class ends in the prone corpse pose, Shavasana.
In most yoga classes, this pose requires closing your eyes. But on Treasure Island, Cray encourages students to open theirs and take it all in, she said. "Because it's just so beautiful; it's so good to just absorb it all and be where you are."
As the Burlington Department of Public Works demonstrated this month when computer failure caused a massive wastewater spill, humans are really good at, ahem, dumping things in the wrong places. But even if the waters of Lake Champlain are murky, there's plenty of good, clean fun to be had along the shore.
That's thanks at least in part to Burlington artist Frank DeAngelis, who in recent months has turned the bike path into a guerrilla-style gallery/rock garden. This art-punk menagerie of colorful stone characters can be found just south of Vermont Railway's outpost. From five or six inches tall to upward of a foot, all of these stones are too big for skipping.
Fans and followers of DeAngelis, a relative newcomer to painting, probably know that his energetic, self-taught style is fueled by insomnia and a love of loud music. The impromptu installation of some 30 paint-and-marker-on-rock face drawings fits in well with his doctrine of sharing the love. If someone really loves one of the stones, DeAngelis has said, they're free to take it — in exchange for an Instagram post.
Want proof that Vermonters are trusting when it comes to comestibles? Visit the numerous honor stores that dot the state's rich agricultural lands in the summer. These self-serve shops put the literal fruit (and veg) of Vermonters' labors for sale by consumer — meaning you can take what you want, pay what it's worth, and everyone's happy.
Red Sky Trading in Glover has thrived on this philosophy. Doug and Cheri Safford opened the barn-cum-store in 2003. From May through October, visitors can purchase fresh-baked bread, artisanal cheese from Jasper Hill Farm, homemade jams and spreads, fruits and veggies, doughnuts, pickles, and even odd collectibles and furniture. When nobody's at the counter, a sign instructs them to deposit payment in a cash box, take change, and go on their way.
Doug said the store sometimes gets ripped off. But, he added, "We know there's more good people in the world than bad people." And, while the Saffords' out-of-state patrons often seem confused by the cash-box-and-change-jar setup, "most people from Vermont just accept it."
Earlier this month, at Weybridge's annual town picnic, farmer Tom Duclos told Seven Days the honor system generally works for him. Some people don't pay in full, he said, but others leave a few extra cents or dollars. It all comes out in the wash.
Transforming a tune you hear in your head into a polished composition can be a daunting task — especially for young musicians with limited experience. Fortunately for Vermont's burgeoning composers, nonprofit music mentorship program Music-COMP is here to help.
For more than 20 years, Music-COMP has aided Vermont students in grades 3 through 12 in turning their musical dreams into reality. One of only a handful of similar institutions worldwide, the extracurricular program matches eager learners from all over the state with seasoned musician mentors. Using cutting-edge music software, participants learn how to turn their ideas into professional scores.
Once a student's work is fully charted, program mentors bring it to life in special concerts. Not only do these culminating gatherings give students a chance to rub elbows with like-minded peers, they make students and advisers feel like peers, too.
Classical-music maverick Matt LaRocca, who served as a mentor for several years, is now Music-COMP's executive director. Known for his work with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the chamber music series TURNmusic and rock band Guster, LaRocca has an eclectic, forward-thinking style that's likely to push the program to new heights.
— Jordan Adams
When times get tough, look to Emily Anderson's Bluebird Fairy Cards. Anderson is a Burlington-area artist who specializes in not-so-tarot cards drawn with her nondominant hand. Each whimsical drawing features a funky fairy and a kind message.
Anderson's cards offer affirmation and encouragement in what can be a difficult and depleting world. As she told staff writer Rachel Elizabeth Jones last year, the purpose is to "turn and find the lightness of life."
Anderson offers a few different ways to get in on the good vibes: In addition to selling decks on her website, she offers fairy-and-demon-drawing workshops in her studio in Burlington's South End. And now the fairies have gone mobile, with Anderson's $3 Fairy of the Day app. You can peruse 100 virtual cards and create an archive of your most recent selections.
Today this reporter's pick was the "fairy of leaving room for the magic." The card bears the image of a little winged sprite with its hands stretched to the sky, accompanied by a speech bubble reading, "and it will come."