While winter slept stubbornly through the early days of December, my friend and I spent our Saturday scraping the icy slopes of Sugarbush.
We arrived late in the morning and found the elements at the base of the mountain caught in a fierce war.
The muddy earth and wilting meadows were battling snowfield troops down the slopes from their wintery kingdom.
Despite the fake snow blowing from cannons, the woods and far edges of the lower trails clung to the earthen fall palettes, refusing to allow skiers more than a few icy routes down to the lift.
Before we set out, we hobbled down the iron steps to pick up our ski passes, clinging to the handrail as our early season legs tripped along.
After a brief wait among the few hungry enough for those scarce early winter tracks, we climbed back up the gauntlet of stairs and rode our first lift to the peak.
The contrast in climate between elevations can be magnificent, especially during the first weeks of winter. In minutes, the stubborn grassland and rushing streams gave way to a sheet of white coating the trees and wooded glades.
All the energy and warmth of the base is locked in an icy cast of winter placidity. We pushed off the lift only halfway to the summit, already in a different world.
Our skis’ worn edges struggled to find purchase in the ice on the first few turns. As we moved through the groups of skiers, we found that the best snow lined the trail’s edges in thin strips.
After a few decent runs we turned our attention to the summit hidden above us beyond the rolling clouds.
The Heaven’s Gate lift brought us closer to winter; each foot of elevation added a new layer of drift to the trees and trails below.
As we rounded the peak, we were transported to a spot above the clouds. Each fir tree lining the crystalline hills was coated in its own shell, drooping under the heavy ice.
Before adventuring down the more promising summit trails, I shed my skis and clambered to the top of the lift to rest and look around.
In the warmer months when snowless slopes call for hiking, I have to work for every inch of altitude. Hiking demands an appreciation for the mountain views; every rock, root and stream I pass is a milestone in my climb. I feel a certain intimacy with the rock beneath my feet.
Each time the trees part and give way to the rolling hills and adjoining peaks, I have no choice but to stop and look. In winter, as I sat there on the summit, I made the resolution to sit and reflect every mountain day, regardless of the season.
Later in the afternoon, our unconditioned legs wobbled. We watched others filter into the lodge to spend their paychecks on fries, but we unclipped our skis and took to the woods instead.
We walked off-trail to a spot among the trees. With a stacked pile of birch tinder and dead twigs, we fired up a wood-burning stove and cooked a mountain feast.
Every meal tastes better on the mountain, and this one was no different.
As we ate, we discussed our adventures so far, planned a few more runs and basked in the glowing contentment that always follows a day in the clouds.
The snow was sparse, the day was short, but the reward of just getting out was unmistakable.
I vividly remember the first time I dreamed of visiting the Koffee Kup factory. It was winter of 2015, I was a sophomore and lived in Sichel Hall, a part of the distant Back Five on Trinity Campus.
Sometime around midnight, I was on the lawn in front of Sichel with my roommate and his girlfriend, and we were enjoying the crisp winter air (as well as certain substances that lead to a yearning for baked goods).
At some point in our dazed conversation, I froze and swore that I clearly smelled the wondrous odor of donuts. I expected them to burst into laughter and joke about how I’d had enough, but they both agreed.
At that point, my roommate’s girlfriend Caitlin—a year older than me and a Vermont native—informed me that the heavenly aroma was likely coming from the Koffee Kup donut factory less than a mile away.
I spent the rest of the night speculating about what the factory might be like, wondering if it had a commercial bakery at which I could buy their donuts in the freshest state possible, or if it was still open at 1 a.m. Caitlin didn’t have any answers for my inquiries, so I went to bed that night longing for answers (and donuts).
Since that wondrous night two years ago I’ve enjoyed countless Koffee Kup donuts, but never had the motivation to go check out the factory first hand, until recently. Whether it was caused subliminally by an especially good batch of donuts, or just something in the air, a few weeks ago my fascination with this baking institution was reawakened. So, after a short email back-and-forth with the head of HR, Hannah Fanton, we scheduled a time to make my dreams come true by touring the mysterious factory.
The whole day leading up to the tour of the factory, my excitement was viceral. I had already bragged about this opportunity to my roommates for several days and eaten a lighter-than-usual lunch in anticipation of any free samples. Somehow, the tour lived up to my sky-high expectations.
First and foremost, while gearing up into factory-approved safety gear, I was flattered by Fanton—now acting as a tour guide—insisting I needed a facial hair net to protect the donuts from my “beard” (in truth, no longer or more impressive than that of a newly-shaved chihuahua). After gearing up, we entered the factory floor, as the familiarly tantalizing aroma of fattening dough pierced my face net.
Besides having fun and smelling sweet odors, I learned a lot on the tour. I learned what a 30 foot tall constantly-spinning donut-drying rack looks like. I saw that dough moves throughout the factory not by hand or by cart, but by small conveyor belts about 10 feet in the air, right above my head. I saw that the donuts are fried by taking a short trip into an oil-filled lazy river-type contraption, with a water-wheel-style donut-flipping device halfway through the ride.
After years of failed relationships, I finally learned what true heartbreak looked like when I saw a number of powdered donuts on the floor that had fallen off the conveyor belt. Perhaps sensing my looming sadness at seeing so many beautiful donut lives cut short, my tour guide gave me a free bag of crullers right off the factory line: likely the freshest donuts I have ever eaten.
After my transformative tour, I got to have a quick debrief with my tour guide to answer the myriad of lingering questions I still had. I found out that my personal favorite donut, the maple glaze, was originally a limited-edition seasonal product, but was so successful it turned permanent. I learned that the cruller, an often overlooked staple of the Koffee Kup line, was the first donut they made. I learned that the Koffee Kup brand started over 75 years ago by one man who would bake donuts at night then deliver them by bicycle the next morning.
When I told Fanton about my smell-induced motivation to tour the factory, she nodded her head understandingly. “We have employees here who grew up smelling the donuts and breads,” she replied. And if that sentiment wasn’t heart-warming enough, sharing those free crullers with my roommates that night certainly was.
In the end, I felt somewhat of a full-circle moment as my two-year-long curiosity with Koffee Kup came to a close. I recalled that my fascination with donuts spanned back far beyond even my own memory, according to a story my parents loved to tell me growing up. I was only a few years old, sitting in my high chair at the table with my two lovely parents who were enjoying some donuts.
While discussing how they planned to keep their children sugar-free for at least a few years, they briefly left the room to grab something. Upon returning, they found me on the table, covered in powdered sugar next to a now-empty donut box. Their initial parental instinct of panic soon gave way to laughter, as they realized their son’s love of donuts could not be tamed by the restraining seat belts in your average high chair.
I like to think of all these experiences as analogous, separated only by time. Whether it be the top of the dining room table during my binge-eating moment as a baby, or an industrial-scale donut factory following my night-altering experience of smells, one thing has stayed the same: my love of donuts has brought me to places I once thought were unreachable. And for that, I thank my lovely parents, their decision to buy a box of donuts that day and Hannah Fanton at Koffee Kup for making my dreams become a reality.
On a quest for locals to bear the last days of Burlington’s Indian summer, the solution was clear: bubbling brews, festive hats and games easy enough for those under the influence to win prizes.
Oktoberfest Vermont held its third annual festival this past weekend from Sept. 21 to 23. Forty local, regional and world-renowned brewers and seven food vendors gathered at Waterfront Park to bring Burlingtonians a taste of German festivities.
Friday night of the festival began with a pink and orange-hued sunset over Lake Champlain, washed by the sound of the traditionally-costumed German band The Inseldudlers. The band kept the night lively playing all sorts of music from traditional German tunes to “Sweet Caroline”until the taps closed at 10 p.m.
Each attendee received a small glass for vendors to fill as well as 15 green tickets, each equivalent to one beer from a vendor of their choice. A plethora of options surrounded the borders of the festival, from Magic Hat Brewing Co. to Sierra Nevada – even hard cider options such as Citizen Cider for those facing a gluten intolerance or who just prefer a little sweetness in their beverage.
Upon arrival, 15 tickets didn’t appear to be enough; though after reaching our fifth high-percentage beverages, we deemed that the amount of tickets was plenty to sustain a socially-acceptable buzz.
There was not one type of attendee, either. The crowd ranged from older, local beer buffs to German-outfitted festival lovers, to college students looking to enjoy some cold brews in lieu of room temperature backpack beers.
“It’s my first time here,” senior Garrett Chisolm said. “I’ve tried some great local brews and food, and I’m really loving looking out onto Lake Champlain.”
Oktoberfest’s food choices were able to cater to a range of palettes, from local fan-favorites like Kountry Kart Deli to traditional cuisine from the Vermont Spatzle company.
The night wasn’t only for drinking and eating; the festival vendors also brought their games to the table. A local sticker company, Sticky Brand, had a plinko board set up in which players could drop a wooden chip to a numbered slot determining how many stickers they could take home. Samuel Adams brought an inflatable slide, fitted with hops flowers awaiting the participant at the bottom.
A group of friends and I attempted the Escape Room challenge set up in the middle of the grounds. The theme was to escape from the drunk tank, so we were all handcuffed to a wall in the prison cell-themed room. We were given the last slot, thus, by far the drunkest of those who had attempted the game. Contrary to the title of the game, we did not escape the room.
“About 75 percent of the teams have been able to escape the room,” said Mike Garber, an employee of Escape Room.
Apparently, we were the unlucky 25 percent.
By the end of the evening, the crowd began to dissipate, and seemingly disappeared once the clock struck 10 p.m. and the taps closed. Overall, participants appeared to be extraordinarily happy with their choices in brews and abundance of food and games.
It’s no secret that Burlington is a creative community — this much can be understood by simply looking at jackets and backpacks Burlingtonians embellish with the Grateful Dead logo.
In an attempt to better understand Burlington’s artistic spirit, I reached out to a number of local artists and creators to get their insights on what makes Burlington’s art scene so special.
Creativity is displayed on every corner of this little city, which is home to a thriving, diverse and constantly evolving artistic community.
“What has remained the same over the last 30 years is that there’s always been this naive excitement, artists have been excited to create,” said Christy Mitchell, the south end’s S.P.A.C.E Gallery owner and founder.
During our interview, I found myself schmoozing with Mitchell in a conversation that felt more like a friendly chat over lunch than an interview.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the twelve studio spaces in the gallery where there lay a barely-organized cornucopia of brushes, paints, and papers.
They were scattered around a desk that was surrounded on all sides by massive, in-progress works of art.
Mitchell’s inclusion of artist studios in her gallery was in response to an epidemic of Burlington gallery closings due to of financial troubles.
Her solution to this problem was to use the rent she collected from the studio spaces to cover the overhead costs of keeping the gallery open.
“The art scene in Burlington seems positive and inclusive; I think the only problem is people not knowing about things going on,” Mitchell said.
With this model, her space is one that can stick around regardless of art sales, Mitchell said.
Local artist and sculptor, Beth Robinson, a self-proclaimed fan of the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, praised Mitchell’s unique business model. Robinson has been exhibiting and working at the gallery since its beginnings in 2009, she said.
“Christy’s answer to the financial problems of a gallery was brilliant, it means she doesn’t need to display only commercially-viable art which opens up a lot more possibilities for people to express themselves,” Robinson said.
Her relationship with the S.P.A.C.E. became more unique during her second year at the gallery, when she began to curate an annual Halloween show.
Robinson’s first Halloween show consisted only of friends who were “dark artists,” a title she gave to others whose art explored horrific themes.
During her second year, Robinson opened the show up to submissions from the public, and received over 200 entries. The show grew in size and popularity each year, and is now consistently one of the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery’s most successful and lucrative events.
“It’s insane how excited people get about it,” Robinson said.
Another huge name in Burlington is the Burlington City Arts Center, a central institution in the community for artists and exhibitionists alike.
To get an insider’s perspective on the world of BCA, I sat down with local painter and UVM art professor Cami Davis.
“The community has exploded since I returned from graduate school in the early ‘80s,” Davis said. “Once upon a time, all the artists knew each other, it was such a small community.”
Davis’s view of the Burlington scene contrasted with the view of newer Burlingtonians.
They described the community as small and tight-knit. While described she said she thought of it as more of a large, creative, and diverse community.
I then asked Davis about her experience with exhibiting at BCA, a topic she seemed ecstatic to discuss.
“I found it to be one of the most interesting venues that I’ve ever participated in, mainly because it had such a sense of community,” she said of her recent installation at BCA: “Airs, Waters, Soils (Places).”
The installation displayed a series of jars filled with water, soil, stone and plant samples taken from Lake Champlain and its tributaries in an attempt to explore “issues pertaining to clean water in the Lake Champlain Basin,” according to Davis’ website.
The jars were accompanied by large, expansive paintings that used a color palette of earth and water tones in order to connect and interact with the water samples.
“To me, BCA is so effective in connecting artists to the community,” Davis said. After hearing such a favorable view of BCA, I met with the director and head curator of the gallery — Heather Ferrell — to see how she views BCA’s place in the Burlington community.
While exhibiting my power of terrible timing, I managed to meet with Ferrell three hours before her first ever opening reception for her exhibition.
Despite having tons of little things to fix before the big opening, she still made time to chat about her gallery and its place in Burlington’s tight-knit artistic community.
“The art scene is a thriving and vibrant hotbed of activity that’s very impressive for a city this size,” Ferrell said, “it’s one of the things that attracted me to this position and relocating my family here to Burlington.”
BCA makes numerous efforts to aid local artists and the community as a whole, she said.
“BCA helps artists with presenting exhibitions, supporting artists financially, helping sell their work, organizing off-site exhibitions and connecting artists and community,” Ferrell said.
Considering she is making so many efforts to help out other people in the community, it’s no surprise Ferrell said she felt the community feel made the art better.
“I don’t see this as a competitive environment, I see it as one that’s environmentally rich,” she said.
Upon arriving at the show that night, I saw just how tight-knit the Burlington arts community was.
On the first floor was a photography exhibition on the American South by Shane Lavalette entitled “One Sun, One Shadow.”
In the corner, I saw Lavalette discussing his work with a group of locals.
Wylie Sofia Garcia’s “With My Voice, I Am Calling You Home,” a painting exhibit that focused on themes of domesticity, meditation, and personal place-making occupied the gallery’s second floor.
A group of strangers were comparing the use of diverse arrays of color palettes throughout the paintings.
In the mixed-media show on the gallery’s top floor entitled “The Past Present” by Molly Bosley and Athena Petra Tasiopoulos, artists sought to explore humanity and its relationship with history.
Passionate discussions about the pieces and their possible meanings continued, and I ran into Mitchell, a pleasantly surprising crossing-of-paths that further illustrated just how tight-knit and interconnected the Burlington art community is.
After speaking with so many vital and active members of the Burlington arts community, attending a major artistic function and exploring a number gallery spaces I had never seen before, I can say with some confidence that the Burlington art community is truly as warm, inviting, tight-knit, and ambitious as everyone said.
Not once did any person I talked to mention ever feeling ostracized, intimidated, or unwelcome among their fellow artists.
Time and time again, I heard stories of being welcomed without question, consistently receiving support from fellow artists, and never sensing the slightest bit of competitive nature.
Our artistic community is not only something Burlingtonians should feel proud of, it’s a community we should give back to, a community we should support, and a community we should all strive to join.
Because of the WRUV graveyard shifts, the Davis Center is the UVM facility that never sleeps.
The graveyards, late night shifts reserved for new and training DJ’s, are a mixture of scary and fun, said first-year Ashley Claude.
Though being in the Davis Center late at night can be a bit daunting, especially for a student who knows how lively and active the place typically is, there is a sense of liberty that comes along with the experience, said junior Wren Tuten, who has just recently completed her last graveyard shift.
“You’re alone with the music at an intimate time,” Tuten said.
Claude has been long done with her graveyard requirements, but still has a soft spot for the private, early-morning hours at Davis. “I loved having my own space to blare my own music and be able to dance and sing in the booth without various onlookers,” Claude said.
But there’s no denying the freaky factor. “When you’re incredibly tired, you start thinking you hear or see things,” she said.
First-year Jack Lustig, whose show “How Much Art” airs every Wednesday from midnight to 2 a.m., doesn’t mind the time.
“I get to be more liberal with what I play because I know not a lot of people tune in,” Lustig said. “It also cuts out the stress of having to answer the phone.”
The late night factor, however, doesn’t stop friends and family of the DJs from listening.
“It means more when people tune in at this time, like calls from my mom listening next to my dad snoring in bed,” Tuten said.
Her brother, works late nights as a restaurant manager in Key West, and often calls in or gives feedback. “It makes the whole experience much more personal and special,” she said.
Similarly, Claude said her biggest and most dedicated fan is her grandfather, who “usually wakes up in the middle of the night anyway.” On top of that, Claude’s friends and family in different timezones often listen, sometimes using WRUV’s “Chat the DJ” messaging feature to mess around with her.
Lustig’s friends from his hometown of Washington, D.C. often call in, and it’s not uncommon for him to put them on air to tell a joke. During songs, he’ll even FaceTime with people to fill the silence.
Even if the phone lines are quiet, filling the time isn’t a problem.
“I always dance to the songs I play, with my boyfriend or by myself,” Tuten said.
Looking for facts to share during the on-air segments also keeps her awake. “You know I like the gross facts,” she said to her listeners. The facts Tuten shares range from strange biological nuances to the odds of getting struck by lightning while driving.
“I just love having a conversation with all of Burlington,” Tuten said. Having a show late at night or early in the morning means she can have her conversation without a script or unnecessary stress. This is likely why she said her personality shines through so clearly.
“What can I say? I love to talk!” she said.
Though Lustig chooses to limit his on-air time as much as possible, he manages to make the most out of it. On top of sharing local weather and the most recently played songs, Lustig broadcasts a wide variety of news stories, like updates on the baby panda at the National Zoo and information about the latest maple syrup crisis in Vermont.
Because the Davis Center closes at midnight, few souls wander past the studio. But between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m., the cleaning staff passes by while cleaning the floor.
“We wave,” Tuten said.
She also said the is quiet in an eerie but also peaceful manner.
“It makes me think clearly,” Tuten said.
For some, the late night factor definitely has an influence on what is played.
“My immediate interest was always to play something soft and chill because I was so tired, but I would end up playing more rock heavy stuff to avoid falling asleep,” Claude said.
Lustig’s set gradually turns more hardcore as the night goes on.
“If I aired in the afternoon, I probably would play less metal,” he said.
Tuten said she loves to play dance and sentimental music, but not with the intention of keeping her awake. She said her set will most likely be the same once she plays afternoon slots.
“The music I play depends more on the mood I’m in, not so much time,” Tuten said. But she can’t deny that there will be more stress involved, considering more people will be listening.
DJing late at night affects the whole day leading up to it. Lustig relies on caffeine, whether in the form of coffee or Earl Grey tea.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what percentage of my blood is still blood at this point,” he said.
Tuten and Claude both prefer taking naps before their shifts. “I definitely tried to plan my day around the graveyard a little bit, and usually went to bed sort of early so I could wake up a few hours later,” Claude said.
It can be difficult to imagine who tunes in at such late hours, but Tuten said she imagines it is most likely a combination of truck drivers, insomniacs who turn on the radio as a last resort to fall asleep, and her mom.
There are aspects of the graveyard shift Claude misses.
“Although it was very difficult to get out of bed at two in the morning and bike in the rain to the Davis Center, I kind of miss the adventure of it,” she said. “It was the kind of miserable you could laugh about.”
Although Tuten has only just recently ended her graveyard shifts, she anticipates missing the intimacy. Plus, listeners are more accepting of mistakes at 2 a.m. than 2 p.m., which makes the experience feel “safer and more fun,” Claude said.
But as she is studying to be a nurse during the night shift, Tuten said she knows there is no escaping the time slot, but this is a reality she is okay with.
The first thing I notice as I cross the parking lot are the men in suits. It’s thirty degrees—a clear day in Rindge, New Hampshire—but the men in suits don’t seem to notice. They have ear pieces that crawl out of their stiff collars like skin tone worms and one of them is wearing a black windbreaker that has “Secret Service” in blocky white letters across the back. They stand with their arms crossed in pairs of two, eyes quietly probing the pedestrians who stroll by in front of them.
A bus with “Franklin Pierce University” stenciled in black on its white sides stops noisily in front of the building. The vendors occupying foldable tables in front of the gymnasium call to the passengers as they exit, waving t-shirts and pins in an array of colors and sizes, and the men in suits chew gum and scan the crowd. I check my watch. Bernie comes on in thirty minutes.
It’s 72 hours until the New Hampshire Primary; the eleventh hour for last-minute campaign events. Bernie Sanders announced this rally only two days earlier, but the gymnasium at Franklin Pierce is still bustling with activity when my friends and I arrive at eleven o’clock.
We follow signs that lead us past a line of large white news trucks and blacked out SUVs and enter through the front door of the gym, which funnels into a corridor whose path is blocked by two large metal detectors. Behind them stands an imposing man in a bulletproof vest strapped with an array of dangerous-looking objects.
His thumbs are hooked in the shoulder straps of his vest and his eyes scan each person probingly as they enter. At the far end of the hallway two men hold large german shepherds on tight leashes. An old bearded man in a tie dye shirt helps his disabled son through the entrance in front of me. His shirt says “Feel the Bern.”
As we enter the gym a woman materializes from the shadows holding a clipboard and steps in front of us, grinning broadly. She asks if we want to sign up to be part of a phone call campaign to increase voter turnout in New Hampshire. She tells me I’ll get a sticker that means no other people with clipboards will approach me. I accept quickly.
The gym is mostly full, with a stage set up on one end of the court and a blocked-off press section on the other. Near half court is a platform filled with expensive-looking TV cameras and worried people with headsets talking on cell phones. A man in a suit stands quietly by each exit. “Rockin’ in the Free World” plays loudly through the PA system.
As I stand near the center of the room scanning the crowd, a woman taps me on the shoulder and when I turn around she asks if I might give a quick interview for Belgian National Radio. As it turns out, this is the first of five interviews, most of them before Bernie takes the stage: CNN Politics, a girl doing a school project, and two reporters all ask for quotes.
One man, however, draws more attention from the journalists than any other: a tall, denim clad man with a cowboy hat and a jacket which proclaims in bold font across the back: “Ask Me Why Cops Support Marijuana.” Reporters swarm to take him up on the offer.
Bernie takes the stage shortly before noon. As he shuffles into view the crowd roars and those in the bleacher section on stage jump to their feet and wave signs that say “A Future To Believe In.” He’s dressed in a blazer covering a blue sweater and a light blue dress shirt, and as he takes the podium he leans forward and rests his weight on his hands. The reporters recede to better vantage points. Once the commotion has quieted, Bernie talks for roughly 45 minutes.
He addresses the need for campaign finance reform, discusses the Koch brothers and the power of Wall Street and Big Pharma, and reiterates the need for strong voter turnout. As he speaks, two thick men in suits with cropped hair walk quietly in front of me, watching the faces of the onlookers, and as they whisper to each other one of them fumbles with his earpiece and the fat gold ring on his finger. Bernie shakes his fist as he discusses income inequality and a broken political system.
And then, about halfway through, between bursts of applause, Bernie hits his stride. In the middle of an impassioned speech, he pulls off his jacket and tosses it ceremoniously to a young man standing behind him in the bleachers. The crowd is in love. The gym erupts in cheers as the wide-eyed young man raises the jacket triumphantly and Bernie, turning back to the podium with a shy smile, declares “I feel like a rock-and-roll star!”
If the near-frenzied enthusiasm of the room had not been palpable, it was now unmistakable. Bernie speaks for another twenty minutes, interrupted often by whoops and cheers—and one woman who interjects with a short tirade about Wal Mart, which he listens to earnestly before resuming. As he finishes his speech and steps down from the stage, the crowd flocks to him in a dense throng of commotion. My friends and I decide it isn’t worth the trouble, and exit the way we came. Men in suits scan us blankly as we step outside into the cold, bright day.
As we walk back to the car, vendors call to us with more t-shirts, sweatshirts, socks, hats and buttons. I wonder what the men in suits might look like in tie dye as a shuttle pulls away from the entrance in a cloud of steam and exhaust. People are laughing and calling to each other, and two men with a camera set up by the exit ask passing attendees: “are you feeling the Bern?”
After a short walk we reach the car, and as we’re pulling out of the parking lot a man in uniform steps in front of us and motions for us to wait. He looks up the hill to our left and we follow his eyes as a convoy of black vehicles begins to roll around the corner and down the road in front of us. We watch as they pass, windows tinted black, lights flashing.
Then, a cheer rises up from the top of the hill. As we watch, a tan SUV rolls down the hill, and passes in front of us. In it, I see Bernie, his forehead against the glass, his hand waving, and a broad and uneven smile stretched across his face. As he passes out of view, I can’t help but admit it: I’m feeling the Bern.
Sometimes, you just need to take the day and get out of town. After a long week of running from Colchester to College Street, walking down a different Vermont Main comes as a much-needed change of pace. On a relatively balmy, brilliantly beautiful January afternoon my friend Eva and I headed southeast on I-89 into the mountains to Stowe.
For skiers and riders, Stowe has an obvious appeal; the resort has 460 acres holding 98 trails and 11 lifts. But for those who prefer to admire the trails snaking down Mount Mansfield from afar, Stowe’s Main Street establishments offer a cozy change of pace from hanging out at Bailey/Howe.
The road to Stowe is predictably gorgeous, from the first 180-degree vista of the Green Mountain peaks near Williston to the cruise up Route 100 snugly situated besides Mount Hunger.
On either side of the road nestled in pine forests sit local, artisan cheese and wine shops, craft breweries, and outdoor gear outfitters in typical Vermont fashion.
As the road snakes into town, it passes snow-coated golf courses etched with Nordic tracks, fly-fishing creeks, and charming saltbox chalets. Downtown Stowe greets visitors with historic inns, white-steeple churches, and general stores stocked with everything from canned tuna to children’s books.
Approaching Stowe, you’ll first come up on the Vermont Ski and Snowboard museum housed in a classic white clapboard town hall. Here, you can learn all about everything from snow bunny fashion to slope maintenance through the years of Vermont ski history.
Make a left turn and you’ll swing up to the sprawling Stowe Resort by way of mountain road as it meanders over covered bridges and past small shops and markets.
Just down the street, Black Cap Coffee sits warm and welcoming on the corner of Main & School streets. The painted red brick café is homey and bright, filled with paintings and pottery by local artists. Black Cap roasts excellent coffee in-house, and its baristas can whip up a killer maple latte.
If you’re hungry for some savories, head to Jamie’s on Main. The staff is lovely and so is the food—you can stay and hang out or grab a to-go snack for the mountains.
After we’d had our fill of good coffee and Stowe sightseeing, Eva and I headed a few miles up the road to Putnam State forest. The quiet woods, hidden amongst gorgeous mountain estates and small family farms, are filled with waterfalls, young pine forests, mountain streams and stunning views.
We got out of the car and tramped along the lowland marsh trail up Moss Glen Falls: snowed-over and frozen, but with clear blue water still rushing underneath. In the summer months, the falls get plenty of visitors but in the middle of winter you’re likely to be alone in the woods.
Grabbing hold of protruding roots and scooting slowly past ice patches, we reached the top of the waterfall and looked out west. The evergreens frame flawlessly a delicious view of Mansfield’s western slopes and the valley in its shadow.
From the falls, you can wander deep into the forest on a well-kept trail covered in pine needles in the summer, and packed snow in the winter. Or, you can head back down the hill, get in the car and explore the country roads, harmlessly trespassing through some beautiful backyards.
Whether you’re skiing or not, spending a day in Stowe is a treat. It’s just far enough away from the campus routine to feel like an adventure, and there’s plenty to do whether you’re pining for a quiet woodland hike, locally roasted coffee, or a snapshot of smaller-town Vermont life.
Cricket Blue makes exactly the kind of music you would expect when you hear their name.
The folk duo is comprised of Middlebury College alumni Laura Heaberlin and Taylor Smith, who play what they have deemed “botanical, spooky, umbilically-resonant folk.” With soft vocal harmonies and carefully constructed guitar rhythms, Heaberlin and Smith craft a fine balance of eerie mystery and intriguing warmth that engulfs listeners.
Cricket Blue’s allusive and poetic folk music is rooted in Heaberlin and Smith’s long-standing love of writing. Poetry was Heaberlin’s main focus at Middlebury, with a book of poems serving as her final thesis. Poetry, for her, started “as a tortured unrequited love,” said Heaberlin, which evolved into a fascination with the art.
Despite their seemingly similar natures, Heaberlin insists that poetry and songwriting are not as connected as they may seem. Poetry tends to be “more abstract with more room for free-writing,” she said, while lyrics tend to come from more of an “emotional base.” In fact, Heaberlin’s career as a songwriter didn’t begin until after her graduation from Middlebury in 2012.
While it’s not uncommon for Heaberlin to draw upon her free-writing notebook for inspiration after figuring out the instrumental elements, the opposite is true for Smith. Most of the time, the words come to him before the melody. Sometimes, however, the two come together as a package.
“There is something special about the marriage of words and music,” Smith said. While poetry tends to be “static,” with words on a page, the melody “makes the words more active,” he said. Both Heaberlin and Smith agree that poetry and songwriting occupy, as Smith said, “different parts of the brain.”
Regardless of how the duo writes the lyrics, it’s clear from their self-titled EP that they are well-versed in literature. Their songs make allusions to mythology, and explore themes such as “love, wishes, disappointment, friendship, potential future and the ends of things,” according to Cricket Blue’s Bandcamp bio.
With lyrics like “Forsooth, forsythia! Yellow and sad / You lost all your blossoms in May / But take it from me – a forsythia tree – / our love comes the strongest too late,” Cricket Blue manages to convey through fictional imagery a strong sense of relatable remorse, with a melody that matches.
For Smith and Heaberlin, writing is always a personal matter, and can’t be done together. Instead, they present songs to one another once the songs are 75 percent complete; never less and never more. A certain creative balance between Smith and Heaberlin makes the song writing and editing process easier. Smith, who said he feels “energized by meeting new people and discovering new places,” practices improvisation and experiences “rapid bursts of inspiration.” However, Heaberlin, who “likes to go home at the end of the night,” leans towards quietude and takes her time on each word when songwriting.
Perhaps the combination of extroversion and introversion is why they work so well together. Even after many long car rides they “still find new things to talk about,” Smith said, in part because they both enjoy exploring and observing the quirks of the towns they perform in. In fact, they’ve created an excel sheet with random observations to base judgement off of. For example, a small town in Pennsylvania was especially memorable because “parking was cheap and everyone in the coffee shop was having a deep conversation,” Heaberlin said.
Given that they do what they do so well, it’s surprising to learn they experiment with different sounds in their free time. Smith describes his earlier music as more raw, loud and “complaining,” truly epitomizing teenage angst.
Today Smith remains dedicated to the Cricket Blue project, but also plays saxophone in four alternative bands on the side, including Abbie Morin, The Peasant Dramatic and Grundlefunk. Heaberlin said she feels less of a need to play around with different genres. When Smith is touring with his other bands, Heaberlin often plays solo shows performing Cricket Blue’s music.
It’s evident from the logistical standpoint that Cricket Blue is on the rise. Their first and only EP was recorded at home on a laptop. Their second up-and-coming EP, which has no release date yet, was recorded with the record label Beehive at a studio in Saranac Lake, where Smith and Heaberlin perform separately. However, there hasn’t been one specific breakthrough moment for them; the progression has felt gradual, Smith said.
Part of this is because they can foresee the next big thing, such as an EP release or an exciting show, and they worked hard to achieve their milestones, Smith said. The pursuit of success is not always as glamorous as it may seem. Even though they have no doubt that they’re living their dreams, the reality is that they “still have to write emails,” said Smith.
“More time is spent on the business side and driving than actually performing the music,” Heaberlin said.
Both Heaberlin and Smith celebrate every little step. For example, Cricket Blue has started to get “a lot of cool junk mail, like watches to sell at shows,” said Heaberlin. The band now also has its own bank account, further proving the band is growing up.
What makes a Cricket Blue listener?
“A genuine love for lyrics and wordplay,” Heaberlin said.
“People who like stories, ideas, and feeling a little melancholy,” Smith said.
Heaberlin and Smith said they have a lot of respect and gratitude for their listeners, as they got the band to where they are today. This is one of the reasons why they veer away from the word “fan” in general, which implies a “weird power structure,” Smith said. In the end, nothing means more to them than people truly paying attention to their music.
Afterall, having “four people really listening to the music is more meaningful than having 70 people talking,” Heaberlin said.
“One person really liking it makes all the difference,” Smith said.
Smith said he often feels inspired by songs where “one line can just hit you.” The irony is that with lyrics like “I’ve loved you for years—glad to finally meet” and “I wanna give in, I wanna make waves,” Cricket Blue essentially creates exactly these kinds of songs.
When addressing the Burlington music scene, Smith said it is a “fantastic scene that differs from our sound.” Performing frequently in the local area at venues like The Skinny Pancake and Radio Bean, Cricket Blue is in high demand and seems to have captured the hearts of music lovers throughout Burlington.
Nathan Hartswick eagerly joined me at my table at Muddy Waters one Thursday afternoon, after weeks of trying to meet. We were finally able to sit down and discuss the opening of his new Burlington establishment, the Vermont Comedy Club. I looked forward to hearing about the new place and all the comedy shows it would bring to the area in the future, but I didn’t expect that I would walk away with a new knowledge of comedy and its role in the entertainment realm of Burlington
Hartswick’s involvement in the performing arts began with an interest in theater and musicals at a young age. Throughout his time in college, he took an interest in comedy and spent time in stand-up and improv classes, and wrote comedy when he wasn’t working. It was only when he was about thirty years old that he actually began performing for audiences outside of the classroom. Since then, Hartswick said, he and his wife, Natalie Miller, made it their mission to not only give themselves a place and chance to perform, but provide the community with the same opportunities.
For the past five years, Hartswick said, he and Miller have been producing shows through their booking agency, the Vermont Comedy Club. They’ve set up shows wherever they could find the space, including “music venues, churches, attics, basements, tents and bowling alleys,” according to the VCC’s website. Now they’re opening a new venue at the Armory on 101 Main Street.
“The people of Burlington are hungry for more variety in the local arts scene,” Hartswick said, “There’s a big pull for a home for comedy in the city.”
Now, after two years of drafting a business plan, shopping for investors and seeking available spaces, Hartswick said the space is finally ready for opening day. The club itself is 6,000 square feet, and includes a showroom, a separate bar room, a classroom and a small kitchen. The idea of the space, Hartswick said, is that people will have the option of being able move between the bar room and showroom depending on whether they want to visit with their friends, enjoy some comedy, or both.
As far as popular comedy goes, Hartswick immediately thought of George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld, during his stand-up days. Hartswick also enjoys the work of John Dore, who he describes as “off the wall” and distinctively “alternative.”
Hartswick explained that after years of being in the comedy business, he’s able to tell exactly when the punch line of a stand-up routine is coming. Now he’s looking for something different: comics that surprise him.
Hartswick said that in his classes, he teaches his students that no subject is strictly off limits. He states that it’s the way that you present the comedy to the audience, and their reaction that tells you whether you’ve crossed the line. He uses Louis C.K. as an example of a comedian who constantly crosses boundaries, but manages to “win” the audience back immediately and keep his shows positive. The bottom line, Hartswick said, is to make your audience laugh, not feel “utterly uncomfortable.”
Hartswick said that the people of Burlington could use a laugh. Most residents can name one of the many music venues, theatres, or art galleries in the city, but good comedy is harder to find. With the VCC, Hartswick hopes to fill that niche. Hartswick looks forward to collaborating with existing clubs in the city to fill out Burlington’s arts scene. He envisions a future in which people can experience both live music and live comedy in the same night.
The Vermont Comedy Club is set to open officially Nov. 18. By then, you can expect to find great classes for kids and adults, where you can explore a new interest or potential passion. You can also expect to find both local and nationally recognized improv groups as well as stand-up performers, for a chance to both learn and be entertained. Hartswick and Miller expect that the festivals and competitions they’ll hold at 101 Main will draw big crowds and get people excited about comedy in a different way. With this many events in store, Hartswick said, you’re guaranteed to find “something different the next time you come, but something equally as fun.”
No matter what day of the week, walk through the Davis Center atrium or past the library steps and you’re likely to be asked for a moment of your time by a group of activists. In an atmosphere where everybody cares, it’s tricky finding the right fit for your world saving ambitions.
One UVMer, though, is building her own framework to solve the world’s problems. Selena Garcia-Torres, sophomore, is spearheading her own non-profit project from her dorm room.
The Long Island native was inspired by a Montauk superfood store’s fundraising project for surfer-founded non profit, Waves for Water.
“There was an amazing sense of community about it,” she said, “I thought, ‘This is what I want to do’.”
Waves for Water runs a program called Clean Water Courier, described on their website as “based on a Do-It-Yourself Humanitarian model.”
“Clean Water Couriers are everyday people, travellers like you distributing filters to those in need around the globe,” says the foundation’s website.
Simultaneously balancing classes and navigating the complexities of college life, Garcia-Torres is working to bring the Courier program to UVM.
“The objective is to apply everything I’ve learned in class to a real life scenario,” she said, “So often you learn things, and nothing is done about it.”
Garcia-Torres is a Global Studies and Community Development and Applied Economics double major, working also on a Spanish minor.
“You shouldn’t look at a major or a class as just that, but as connected to everything else,” she said.
Classes she’s taken in high school and here at UVM have impacted her greatly, as well as her travels.
“Last year and this year learning about how there are companies trying to privatize water,” she said. “That’s so messed up.”
“I’ve gone to so many countries, and you’re seeing giant corporations robbing these countries of their natural resources,” Garcia-Torres said.
Garcia-Torres couldn’t imagine life without clean water.
“You can go fill up your water bottle in the sink, but you don’t think that people don’t even have a well in their town, or that it’s totally filled with storm water,” she said.
“I say I prefer Smart Water over Fiji water while other people only have one clean water source which is being polluted by our actions,” she said, “It’s crappy water!”
In terms of organization, the filter project is in its early stages. Garcia Torres, along with her roommate, sophomore Brittney Manning, has been brainstorming for months how to pull the project together.
“We’ve thought of different ways to raise the money–maybe a 5k run down by the lake,” she said.
“Social media’s going to play a huge role,” she said, “If we can make really good content for people, that’s a big part.”
Along with self-promotion, Garcia-Torres stressed the value of professors and their opinions in the project-building process.
“It’d be interesting to hear what my professors have to say about which countries need [the filters] the most, where we could make the biggest impact,” she said.
“This is the best time to do a project like this because you have all these resources in front of you,” she said.
Finally, Garcia-Torres is determined to foster a deeper connection with those she will bring water to than merely a client-customer relationship.
“You don’t want to go in there thinking you can just save the day,” she said, “Why not make connections with these people and find out what else you can do for the community.”
In these early stages of the activist’s project, Garcia Torres wants to bring as many mind to the table as she can.
From sponsors, to professors, to fellow students, Garcia-Torres is gathering support from all over campus. Forming an official SGA club is the next step for the project.
“It’ll be interesting to meet more people who have this idea, who share this thought process,” she said, “I want to make a system out of it.”
Garcia-Torres is turning her education into real-world action and is inspiring those around her to do the same. Her brand of activism is immediate but cohesive, and will surely flourish on campus, if not around the globe.
The arts, lifestyle and culture blog of the Vermont Cynic