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MAC Center for the Arts Holiday Opening Reception Brings Art Lovers to Newport

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport

It was seasons greetings from the MAC Center for the Arts to the people of the area Friday night, as the gallery hosted their Holiday Opening Reception. The event, which took place from 5-7 p.m., showcased all new artwork from gallery members.

Visitors were treated to the sounds of the newly formed Newport Area Piano Sextet, who were set up in the back of the gallery. The group played a variety of music, including traditional Christmas carols.

MAC Center for the Arts Newport Vermont 1
With a reception held every quarter, Friday marked the sixth time the MAC Center has hosted one during the Christmas season. Visitors circled the gallery viewing all the new artwork that filled the walls, a large selection of which was done specifically for the holidays.

Members of the collaborative wore name tags identifying themselves as artists, which allowed visitors the opportunity to discuss the artwork with the artists themselves.

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“This is my first time at the Holiday Reception, and I’m so impressed with how many people showed up tonight,” Elinor Osborn, a photographer from Craftsbury said.

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Regular business hours at the MAC Center are Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The newest selection of artwork makes for great holiday shopping. You can also visit the MAC Center online at http://www.memphremagogartscollaborative.com

Check out DISPATCH TV for a short video from Friday night’s reception at the MAC Center.

Vermont Filmmaker Nora Jacobson on “Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie”

in Arts and Entertainment

nora jacobsonBorn in Norwich, Vermont, Nora Jacobson’s life has taken her many places. When she was eight years old she moved to Paris with her family, where they remained until she was fifteen. She will soon head off to South Korea to shoot a feature film. In her recent project, “Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie,” Ms. Jacobson set out to discover the identity of her native Vermont. Newport Dispatch recently caught up with Ms. Jacobson while she was in Newport for a screening of the film.

“I wanted to understand what state identity means,” Ms. Jacobson said. “Does a state have an identity? Does a state have a DNA like a person has a DNA?”

Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie, seems to prove that a state, at least Vermont, does. The film is a six-part collaborative documentary that explores Vermont’s history and culture. The story is told thematically, rather than chronologically, giving viewers the feeling of being on a ride that quickly moves from one point to another.

The characters that appear throughout the series seem to represent the complexities of the state character itself. In making the film, Ms. Jacobson wanted to understand where these characters originated.

“Vermont is an interesting place. There’s this interesting mix of stereotypes surrounding us as progressive, radical left wing types, or the rural republican type. I thought, where did this come from? Is there a historical precedent?”

The film being a collaboration between three dozen Vermont filmmakers, Ms. Jacobson had to decide what footage to use, and how to use it.

“I couldn’t use all the footage,” she said. “It was difficult to keep a filmmaker from feeling betrayed that I had edited the footage in a way that they didn’t always agree with.”

With the project now complete, it was a learning experience for everyone involved.

“I hope I’ve learned the art of diplomacy,” she said. “I’ve had many sleepless nights after being a little too blunt with some of the filmmakers about their work. I had to learn how to deal with people who are as passionate about their work as I am. We all have sensitive egos.”

Ms. Jacobson also learned many new things about Vermont as well.

“I didn’t know much about the African American settlers who came to Vermont in the 1770’s. We did a whole section on this community of free African Americans at the time, and I found it interesting that there was a higher percentage of African Americans in the state at the time, than there is now.”

Although still traveling the state for screenings of The Vermont Movie, Ms. Jacobson has many projects in the works.

“I’m working on a feature film to be made in South Korea, that deals with international adoption. It’s a fictionalized story based on a memoir. I’m also working on a film about Vermont’s poet laureate Ruth Stone. I also skate, and have been documenting this one pond for the last ten years, so I’m doing a film about pond hockey.”

Support the Child Care Workers Bid to Unionize by Pam Ladds

in Opinion

Written by Pam Ladds

Thirty years ago I watched a friend, a working mother, pay the kid who cut her hedge more than she paid the woman who took care of her 2 children. This woman, a registered child care provider working in her own home, spent at least 8 hours a day in the role of Surrogate Parent, totally responsible for the lives of the 4 children in her care, their emotional and physical well-being, their nutrition and their early education. For that she got paid just over minimum wage. Of course she had no access to health care for herself and her own children were subsidized by the State – in reality all of us. How we value work, women and children was blatantly obvious. We don’t!

It would be wonderful to say how much things have changed. To be able to show that the Child Care Workers are now paid living wages, have access to benefits such as health insurance and paid vacation time. However, this is not reality – very little has changed. Women’s work is still systemically devalued, and what is seen as “traditional” work, all aspects of Care Giving, receives very little respect. Child Care providers, particularly in low income areas are living in poverty themselves. The essential service that they provide – in effect they sustain the work force, and subsidize the lives of the rest of us, frequently does not provide a living wage.

An attempt to remedy this is a piece of legislation currently vending its way through the Vermont State Building. The Early Educators Bill (S.52) co-sponsored by several Senators and Representatives including NEK’s Robert Starr is designed to allow Child Care providers to organize, to have some input into their own working conditions and ultimately into the quality of care given to children – the future of the rest of us. Quality child care is a no-brainer!

It is the beginning of the road out of the poverty trap. The importance of early stimulation, quality nutrition and warm caring people is well documented. Kids who spend their days without stimulation, parked in front of the tv, and fed on junk do not do as well as children raised in homes with knowledgeable, competent, trained Care Givers.

Care Givers want to be able to organize, to bargain collectively and in doing so gain respect for their career path. Being able to earn an adequate living without resorting to Food Stamps and Emergency Room Health Care for themselves would also be helpful!

This Bill allows for choice. Child Care Workers who do not wish to unionize do not have to. The majority of Child Care Providers however, work in isolation and this formal route will allow them to meet, learn from each other and provide better care for the children in their charge. It is important to contact local legislators to show support for this Bill and to ensure the future of this profession.
It is interesting that the Child Care Providers have chosen to go the tortuously slow, “polite” pathway of asking permission to organize and improve conditions for themselves and their charges.

It is equally interesting that the State of VT demands “permission” to organize. Child Care Providers could shut down the work-force in a week if they had chosen a different path. But they elected to continue to be responsible for their charges, provide quality care, continue to struggle themselves in order to “do this right”!

They deserve our support! Please contact your legislators to support Bill S.52. For further information check out their website:

Kids Count on Me | A Project of Vermont Early Educators United

Nelson Farms – Highest Recipient of Dairy Subsidies in Orleans County

in Derby/Derby Line/News

DERBY — According to the Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Database, Nelson Farms, who was recently ordered to stop polluting two local waterways, is the highest recipient of Dairy Program subsidies in Orleans County. According to the database, they have also received the third highest amount of Dairy Program subsidies in the State of Vermont.

The Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Database tracks $256 billion in farm subsidies from commodity, crop insurance, and disaster programs, as well as $39 billion in conservation payments, between the years of 1995-2013.

Nelson Farms was recently taken to court by the State of Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Agency of Natural Resources for discharging waste into the Clyde River and the Crystal Brook.

Last week, the Attorney General’s office announced a win in the water quality case against Nelson Farms. A preliminary injunction order was handed down by Orleans County Superior Court Judge Howard VanBenthuysen against Nelson Farms on November 6. The injunction states that farm operators are not allowed to discharge manure and other agricultural waste into the waterways.

The state alleges Nelson Farms allowed manure and other dairy operation drainage to overflow and discharge directly into the Clyde River from its farm in Derby Center, as well as directly into the Crystal Brook from its Derby Line location. According to a press release from the Attorney General’s office, the Nelson’s Clyde River farm has 450 dairy cows, and 200 heifers, and the Crystal Brook location has 575 dairy cows.

Between 1995-2013, Nelson Farms received $540,986 in dairy program subsidies, the highest in Orleans County.

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The amount ranks third highest overall in the state of Vermont.

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“Vermont farmers are stewards of the land and provide many environmental and economic benefits to our state. However, it is not acceptable for farmers to allow barnyard waste to pollute our waterways,” Attorney General William Sorrell said in a press release. “Although an acre of farm land produces less phosphorus than an acre of urbanized land, excess phosphorous in our waterways from any source deprives freshwater fish and plants of essential oxygen.”

Between 1995-2013, Nelson Farms received a total of $1,213,303 in USDA subsidies.

Willey Claims Charges of Chasing Border Patrol Agent and Waving Handgun “Totally Fabricated”

in Newport/News
newport vermont news

NEWPORT — “This is all totally fabricated,” Jason Willey, 30, of Derby Line told Judge Howard VanBenthuysen in court on Tuesday.

Willey is accused of chasing a Border Patrol agent in a residential area, as well as displaying a handgun while speaking with a Customs officer. He claims to have no idea why he was in court, and is being held at Northern State Correctional Facility in lieu of bail, after invoking his right to take 24 hours before entering a plea.

The judge said the court would enter pro forma not guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and careless or negligent operation. Bail was set at $25,000. The judge also ordered Willey to refrain from harassing any state or federal law enforcement officers, or possessing any weapons.

The incidents took place on two separate occasions, starting on Nov. 2, when Willey is said to have spotted Customs and Border Protection Officer Stephan Isabelle off duty at the Circle K station in Derby Line. According to an affidavit filed by Sergeant Michael LaCourse, Willey was starring at Isabelle while pumping gas, and allegedly pointed his finger in the shape of a gun, and made a shooting gesture.

Isabelle followed Willey and called for back-up. Customs and Border Protection Officer Justin Speaks spotted the car parked in Willey’s driveway on Lyon Road, where Willey is said to have grabbed a handgun that was tucked in the waistband of his pants. Willey put his hands about his head for Speaks to seize the gun after Speaks drew his weapon.

The chasing incident took place Nov. 14, when Border Patrol Agent John Marquissee saw Willey drive by. Marquissee states that he noticed Willey because of the incident which took place on Nov. 2.

According to an affidavit filed by state police trooper David Upson Jr., at 11:30 p.m., Marquissee stated that Willey began following him at speeds up to 80 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone. Marquisse claims that he was being followed so closely, that he could not see Willey’s headlights, and that at one point, Willey cut his headlights completely.

Afterward, Willey sped off, and Marquisse was unable to locate Willey’s vehicle. Later, state troopers found Willey’s car parked in a lot on Route 105 in Newport Center, where Willey’s girlfriend, Pamela Binette, was in the drivers seat.

Binette is said to have confirmed the story of the chase, and that Willey told her to switch seats with him, which she did out of fear.

Gov. Shumlin Bags a Buck Over the Weekend, and Twitter Goes Wild

in News/Opinion

Saturday marked the start of rifle deer hunting season in Vermont, and Governor Peter Shumlin’s weekend hunting played out across Twitter like a soap opera.

Last year, WCAX tweeted that WCAX reporter Susie Steimle followed Shumlin into the woods to find out more about Vermont’s 81st governor.

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“In the end, we saw no deer or bear or any wildlife at all. Instead, we got an unusual glimpse of Vermont’s governor attempting to find some peace and quiet,” Steimle wrote.

But this year Shumlin redeemed himself when he posted this tweet:

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VT Fish and Wildlife were quick to follow up the announcement:

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Burlington Free Press followed suit:

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Even Anne Galloway, of VTDigger.org got in on the action.

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The event did not go without a bit of humor also:

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Or:

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But the best of all came last:

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Dailey Memorial Library’s Christmas Arts and Crafts Fair a Success

in Arts and Entertainment/Derby/News
derby Vermont arts and Crafts fair

DERBY — “Looking to the future while preserving the past.” These are the words guiding the capital campaign for the expansion project of the Dailey Memorial Library. With some of the proceeds from this years Christmas Arts and Crafts Fair going toward the expansion project, Saturday’s event both looked toward the future of the library, while preserving the past, marking the 22nd time that the annual event has taken place.

1 derby Vermont arts and Crafts fairInside the gymnasiums of North Country Junior High, visitors were treated to an eclectic mix of products that showcased the rich tradition of arts and crafts throughout the region. There were 33 vendors involved this year, selling a range of products.

Riley Brooks, of B3 Balsam, brought out a line of products made from ground up balsam firs. The pleasing smell of the soft, fir stuffed pillows, were a popular seller Saturday morning. According to Mr. Brooks, the fir scent of the pillows will last for many years.

“We were at a craft expo when we found Maine Balsam Fir Company, the supplier who we buy our dried firs from,” Mr. Brooks said. “We bought a pound that night, and since we had a fir pillow that was 16 years old and still smelled nice, we decided to try and make our own. B3 Balsam started that night using a 1940 Singer Straight Stitch machine.”

Mr. Wambach, from Nic & Wambach Creative Arts based out of Red Hook New York, said he visits his sister once a month in Vermont, and enjoys drawing the state’s picturesque scenes. His display showcased some of these works.

derby Vermont arts and Crafts fair 1“I enjoy the beauty of Vermont, and it’s a place with a phenomenal amount of history,” he said.

One of his favorite Vermont scenes to draw are covered bridges.

I plan to do as many of the covered bridges as I can. There are 138 in the Northeast Kingdom, and I’d like to draw all of them,” he said.

His work can be found at the East Side gift shop, or visit them online.

Richard and Vera Long, of Long Branch Wooden Bowls, brought out their entire inventory of wood turned bowels.

To make the bowls, the couple haul the logs in from their property in Holland. It takes about ten to twelve months for each piece to be finished. Mr. Long starts with a rough cut, then shelves and dates each piece. Once dry, they are put back on the lathe for a final shaping. The bowls are finished in walnut oil and beeswax.

IMG_9293“I hand sign each piece with a wood burning tool,” Vera Long said. “Because they are heirloom gifts, many customers want them for a wedding present. I put the name of the couple with the date they were married on the back.”

Jim Hutchins, of Hutch and Ricka Custom Leather Carving, displayed an assortment of handcrafted leather and hardwood items made in Newport Center. A sign which read, “little hands welcome to touch,” was posted above the display, encouraging the curiosity of the many children who came out Saturday. Their work is part of the Wooden Horse Arts Guild, and can be viewed online.

Kimberly Covert, from Covert Essentials of Enosburg Falls, was busy selling personal care products. She started her own line of products after working for an all natural skin care company in New York. Covert Essentials started making soap, but has evolved into much more.

Her biggest seller has been her deodorant products.

IMG_9265 (2)“I wanted a natural deodorant that actually works,” she said. “Using a combination of organic coconut oil and beeswax forms a nice barrier, and combined with some powder, keep you dry for a really long time.”

Her products can be found in Stowe, but should soon be available in the Newport area.

Saturday’s craft fair lasted until 2 p.m. Although the event draws many people every year, this year was especially steady. The money raised will go to the operating fund of the Daily Memorial Library, as well as the capital campaign for the expansion project.

To see a video of what the new library will look like, please watch the video below.

Newly Formed Piano Sextet Will Play Friday Nov. 22 at MAC

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport

photPiano Sextet Newport Area Community Orchestra

NEWPORT – The newly formed Newport Area Community Orchestra Piano Sextet will be performing at the Memphremagog Arts Collaborative on Friday, November 22nd from 5-7 p.m. for their annual Holiday Reception.

The group will be playing a variety of music including traditional Christmas carols.

The members are from left to right: Ken Michelli, Mark Violette, Linda Aiken, Lynn Perry, Howie Arzt, and Chris Maginniss.

Nelson Farms Ordered to Stop Polluting the Clyde River

in Derby/Derby Line/News

DERBY LINE — The Vermont Attorney General’s office announced a win this week in a water quality case against two farms owned by the Nelson family. The preliminary injunction order was handed down by Orleans County Superior Court Judge Howard VanBenthuysen, against Nelson Farms on November 6. The injunction states that farm operators are not allowed to discharge manure and other agricultural waste into the Clyde River, or the Crystal Brook.

The state alleges Nelson Farms allowed manure and other dairy operation drainage to overflow and discharge directly into the Clyde River from its farm in Derby Center, as well as directly into the Crystal Brook from its Derby Line location.

According to the press release from the attorney general’s office, the Nelson’s Clyde River farm has 450 dairy cows, and 200 heifers, and the Crystal Brook location has 575 dairy cows.

Nelson Farms has until Dec. 15 to present plans to the state as to how both locations will permanently eliminate any potential waste runoff entering the brook or the river. They also must allow inspectors on site to inspect the farms anytime between 6 a.m. – 9 a.m.

“Vermont farmers are stewards of the land and provide many environmental and economic benefits to our state. However, it is not acceptable for farmers to allow barnyard waste to pollute our waterways,” Attorney General William Sorrell said in the press release.

“Although an acre of farm land produces less phosphorus than an acre of urbanized land, excess phosphorous in our waterways from any source deprives freshwater fish and plants of essential oxygen.”

“The State’s agricultural water quality laws and programs are designed to assist farmers to help keep our waterways clean,” Sorrell said. ”When voluntary compliance efforts fail, however, the Agency of Agriculture, the Department of Environmental Conservation and my Office will work cooperatively to take enforcement action.”

Click to download the injunction (PDF)

Click to read the Attorney General’s press release.

Images From Newport Fire Thursday Afternoon

in Newport/News

All photos by Manfried Starhemberg

NEWPORT — The fire which blazed Thursday afternoon on Central Street in Newport left three families without a home. The apartment building, owned by Memphremagog Rentals, was completely destroyed. Nearby homes were evacuated by the Newport City Fire Department and Police Department due to the thick, noxious smoke which filled the surrounding area.

Newport Vermont Fire

The fire broke out around 1 p.m. The Derby Line Fire Department was called in to help battle the fire which burned well into Thursday evening.

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As of Thursday night, not much is known as to the cause of the fire, however, a cause and origin investigation will be done. There were no injuries. All residents who were inside the building at the time made it out safely.

Newport Fire Vermont

The Vermont Movie: Exploring the Identity of Vermont

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport

NEWPORT — Part three of Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie, a six-part collaborative documentary exploring Vermont’s history and culture, was screened Wednesday night at the Gateway Center in Newport. The episode, titled Refuge, Reinvention, and Revolution, explored the back-to-the-land and activist communities that sprung up in the state during the sixties and seventies. A discussion took place afterward, led by Dorothy Tod and Kate Cone, two of the filmmakers who worked on the film.

The Vermont Movie is much more than a historical documentary. For one thing, it is thematic, rather than chronological. History is used to measure and organize the story, but, history is only one of many tools the film uses to explore the identity and character of Vermont.

The film looks at identity as a process of change, always in a state of flux and trying to work itself out. It also demonstrates how the collective consciousness of the present is only the latest in a series of changes taking place over time.

Episode three focused on how the social turmoil that the country experienced during the sixties, paved the way for a counter-culture migration into the state. Many communal living experiments were established, with the state’s natural serenity providing the perfect opportunity for the refuge, reinvention, and revolution, the episode takes its title from.

The characters appearing in part three are as much individuals, as they are representatives of the collective identity of the state. As the episode follows these “hippie” communes, emotionally, the viewer is drawn into the universal search for home, and what it takes to secure that place once it is found. The idealism that might bring one to a place like Vermont is quickly countered with the reality of what it takes to adapt to its unique environment.

“The film is as much about emotional history, and cultural history, than anything else,” Phil White said following Wednesday’s screening. “

The film also makes one ponder what it is about Vermont that makes it so special.

“It’s also just fun to reflect on why we love Vermont. For so many people Vermont is a home of choice. What is it about Vermont that is so appealing? If you were born here, or moved here, it feels like home,” Mr. White went on to say.

“It’s important to have another view of the identity of Vermont,” filmmaker Kate Cone, said. “We know what we think Vermont is, but the film offers a wide range of new ideas, connections, and links about events in history that people might not know about.”

For filmmaker Dorothy Tod, episode three allowed her to reflect on the theory behind the filmmaking process that brought about The Vermont Movie.

“Freedom and Unity, which is part of the name of the film, became a way to describe how we as filmmakers worked,” she said. “I didn’t grow up on a commune, but I grew up on the edge of one, and had neighbors and friends who had been part of one. It always made me a little nervous to have that degree of freedom.”

Episode four will be screened next Wednesday at the Emory Hebard State Office Building in Newport. The episode title is “Doers & Shapers.”

The film is an important study of the history and identity of Vermont, and should not be missed. For more information, visit the film on the web at TheVermontMovie.Com or watch the trailer below:

Senior Living in Straw Bale Home: Holland, Vermont

in Arts and Entertainment/Holland

Photos by Tanya Mueller

HOLLAND — With straw bale walls, enclosed in a lime, clay, straw plaster that was mixed on site, it’s not exactly what comes to mind when you think of a senior living facility.

As interest in alternative building methods increases, and the stereotypes that surround Earth-based construction break down, the straw bale structure sitting in Holland, Vermont, is pioneering its way into the future. It is the only straw bale senior living home in the United States.

IMG_9128A little over two months after welcoming in its first residents, the building is gearing up for its first heating season. With heavy winds common at the location, and freezing temperatures on the horizon across the area, the 1900 square foot structure is well equipped to face whatever challenges winter has in store.

The building is a fortress of thermal insulation. The wall structure of the post and beam frame consists of 18 inch wide straw bales. The bales, which sit on a two-foot-high pony wall that forms a base to keep them off the foundation, have an R-value insulation rating of 28. The pony wall is stuffed with super insulated cellulose, with an R-value of 55. The roof also incorporates super insulated cellulose material, and the frost-protected concrete slab that the structure sits on is insulated from underneath, as well as along the sides.

Radiant heat lines run throughout the concrete slab and heat the building. An extremely efficient propane-fired condensing broiler provides a continuous loop of hot water through the lines, allowing a consistent temperature to be easily maintained.

IMG_9120The building consists of two 600 square foot single bedroom senior housing units, with a communal space between them. There is an entry porch, as well as two south-facing porches for each unit. Since it is an independent living facility, the communal space houses an energy efficient washer and drier, which residents share.

Energy efficiency is a theme throughout the house. Currently, the home is set to become the first straw bale building to be awarded certification from Efficiency Vermont as a Vermont Energy Star Home.

The project, managed by Rural Edge, along with general contractor Lee Cooper of Back 2 Basics Builders, began last spring. The frame and roof were up by fall, then wrapped for the winter to keep it dry. The straw bale walls went up in the spring of this year, with everything finished by September.

Evelyn Page, who is now deceased, was one of the oldest living residents in the area. When her husband passed away, she wanted to leave a legacy, so she donated 7 acres, and funded the project. Her only request was that it provide housing for local residents of Holland. Unfortunately, she did not survive to see the finished home, but she did get to see the walls going up.

So, what are the drawbacks to building with straw bales? Uncontrolled moisture is the biggest challenge straw bale structures face. The architects who worked on the project had to reduce exposure to wind-driven rain and snow. The problem was addressed with extensive roof overhangs designed to move water away from the plaster and stucco walls.

This winter will be the ultimate test of the building. So far residents are comfortable and enjoying the opportunity to be a part of such a unique project.

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State Senator Robert Starr Offends Arab-American Group

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — At a Vermont Transportation Board public hearing on October 30, Vermont State Senator Robert Starr made a remark which angered the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). In a letter sent to Senator Starr the group requested that he address the matter publicly.

During the public hearing, Senator Starr was addressing members of the Vermont Transportation Board, who were taking responses from participants as to how the state could make up for a loss of gas tax revenue as the use of electric vehicles increases.

The state of Vermont’s energy plan sets a goal of 25 percent of all vehicles to run on alternative fuels by the year 2030.

“Part of the revenue that the state gets for transportation is tied to the gas tax,” Vermont Transportation Board Executive Secretary John Zicconi stated during an interview last week. “When we hit 143,000 electric vehicles, we will loose about 21 million dollars annually in revenue. The question Senator Starr was responding to was if this is coming, how do we make up that revenue?”

Senator Starr voiced his opinion that electric rate increases in the state would make it more expensive in the future to operate electric cars, than to drive gas powered vehicles.

“As far as electric cars go, the way I see it, if our electric rates keep going up at the rate they’ve been going up, I don’t think we’ll ever hit that magic number of 5,000 electric cars, because it’s going to cost more to plug those suckers in than it does to go give the Arabs four dollars a gallon for the gas,” Senator Starr said.

A participant in the crowd that night, who wishes to remain anonymous, was troubled by what he heard. The next day the incident was reported to the ADC. The group, based out of Washington, D.C., is the largest Arab American grassroots organization in the country.

In a letter sent to Senator Starr, the ADC wrote:

“ADC strongly believes that your statement is highly offensive to the Arab-American community and perpetuates demeaning stereotypes of Arab-Americans. Your statement can be interpreted as a generalization toward all persons of Arab ethnicity.”

Starr’s comment was confirmed through an audio recording that exists of the incident.

“What Senator Starr said was very stereotypical, and there is no room for that in politics,” ADC Director of Legal and Policy Affairs, Abed Ayoub, said during a telephone interview.

“Elected officials, and those seeking office need to be more responsible with their words, and need to have a better understanding of different ethnic groups and individuals that make up a part of this country.”

Although the individual who reported the incident demanded full anonymity, he provided this statement regarding his initial shock after hearing Starr’s comment.

“There are many ways his remark could have been taken, all of which were offensive.”

“His metaphor and his words were very careless, and very stereotypical,” Mr. Ayoub stated.

It took a week for Senator Starr to have the opportunity to respond to the letter because he never actually received it. Although the letter from the ADC was sent within a few days, they faxed it to the number given for Vermont State Senators online. Since they do not have offices in Montpelier, any fax that would have arrived for Senator Starr would be waiting in Montpelier until January.

When made aware of the letter, Starr was quick to offer an apology, and to retract what he said.

“I shouldn’t have said it that way,” Starr stated when asked about the incident.

“See our electric rates here in Vermont are the fourth highest in the nation. I should have said with our electric rates so high, we aren’t going to be able to use electric cars. I certainly didn’t want to offend anybody, and should have said it would be cheaper to give our money to the big oil companies and oil men. I did not want to offend anybody, and if I did I am certainly sorry that I did. My statement was more of a reaction to electric rates here in Vermont being so high.”

When made aware of Starr’s response, the individual who reported the incident appreciated Starr’s willingness to address the issue. He had been advised by the ADC that sometimes issues like this go without response.

“He acknowledged what he said, took responsibility for it, and offered an apology. You can’t ask for more than that, and usually don’t get as much,” the individual who reported the incident said. “When someone says something that offends someone else, and you find sincerity in their apology, you move on, and everyone grows from the situation,” he went on to say.

“I’ve worked with the public since I was a kid, and I don’t ever want to offend anyone,” Starr said. “I wasn’t applying gas prices to any individual, or individuals, but we do buy a lot of foreign oil, and our electric rates have gone up considerably over the last four years.”

Newport Area Community Orchestra Fall Concert Draws a Crowd

in Newport/News

Newport Area Community Orchestra Vermont 4NEWPORT — The Newport Area Community Orchestra played their annual Fall concert Saturday afternoon inside the assembly room at the Goodrich Memorial Library. Around 75 people came out to hear the orchestra play selections and excerpts from Mozart, Mussorgsky, Brahms, and Witt.

With the annual Fall concert behind them, and all the hard work leading up to Saturday’s performance over, the Newport Area Community Orchestra has a chance to reflect on the journey the group has taken. The orchestra, now in its third season, started out as a quartet led by conductor Ken Michelli. They now number 30 musicians, 23 of which played on Saturday.

As the orchestra continues to grow in numbers, so does its audience. Saturday’s performance filled the room to capacity.

“I was real pleased with the audience size,” Ken Michelli said following the concert. “This is the largest crowd we’ve had here at the library.”

The orchestra played superbly. Marc Semprebon, who introduced each piece, provided both insight and entertainment as he gave a brief history of each work before its performance. His often humorous, and thought provoking introductions made for a more intimate experience.

IMG_9301Heather Webster, who played a flute solo during the first piece of the night, Andante for Flute by Mozart, offered advise on how to face the nervousness of being in the spotlight.

“Nerves are just a negative way we look at excitement,” she says. “It was a good experience for me because I never played a solo like that in front of people, so I actually had to seek out a flute teacher and work hard on it.”

Speaking with the musicians afterward, they overwhelmingly felt that the final piece of the night, Symphony in C by Witt, was their best.

“We put a lot of effort into that last piece. It was our longest, so we had a lot of pages to flip through. We had to concentrate to stay together and in time,” violinist Nathaniel Wendt said.

“I loved that last movement that we played. It was powerful, and a nice way to end,” Ms. Webster said.

Michelli, who also viewed the final movement to be the strongest, was proud of the way the group has the ability to rise to the occasion when putting on a concert.

“It came together quite well I think. It usually does. We just work that way,” he said.

The group is featured in this weeks State of the Arts section of Seven Days. To see a video of Saturday’s concert, click here.

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Penn’s Fish House of Vermont Grand Opening – Making You Rethink Fried Food

in Derby/News

DERBY― After eating at Penn’s Fish House of Vermont, you will realize that there are two types of fried food. There is the over-battered, usually deep frozen variety that we have grown used to suffering through, and then there is the proper, thin-battered variety that is something much different. Penn's Fish House Derby Vermont 1Penn’s will make you forget whatever you thought you knew about the subject. Until you experience fried food done properly, you will never know what you’ve been missing.

Exactly one month since opening their doors, Penn’s Fish House celebrated its grand opening in Derby with a benefit event that saw 50 cents of every meal going toward North Country Hospital.

It was a full house Friday night, with word spreading around town that there is something special about this place. Although Penn’s offers grilled food and salads as well, it’s the fried food that they serve which has people talking.

Penn’s commitment to fresh ingredients is part of the reason that your first meal there is sure to surprise you.

IMG_9283“Nothing is pre-battered. When the order comes in, we cut the fillets, batter it, and cook it fresh,” Vikram Sood, who owns Penn’s, said Friday night.

The other secret to Penn’s unique taste, is in the batter they cover the fresh fillets in.

“This type of fried food is totally different than what people in this area are used to. Our batter is crispier and much thinner. This soaks in the least amount of oil.”

The fired catfish with hushpuppy I tasted Friday night perfectly demonstrated this concept. The thinner batter made for a fried meal that was light and extremely tasty. It was a pleasant surprise from the first bite through to the last.

In bringing Penn’s to Derby, Sood has taken a style of cooking unique to one specific region of the United States, and slightly altered it to match the tastes of the Northeast.

IMG_9277“It seemed like an interesting idea to introduce food from the southern United States into this part of the country. We slightly altered some recipes to match the taste of the region, with haddock and tilapia being favorites up here,” Sood said.

The haddock is the number one selling item at Penn’s, with catfish a close second.

If you order the hushpuppy to go with your meal, Sood is quick to point out a little tip. He suggests mixing the red hot sauce that sits at the table with some mayonnaise. It is good advice.

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Walmart in Derby, Vermont – It’s Not Just About Buying Underwear

in Derby/Newport/Opinion
Walmart and Vermont, business as usual.
Walmart and Vermont, business as usual.

The following quote is from earlier in the year:

“The Village of Newport and the people of Derby voted overwhelmingly to support having a place to buy underwear so we don’t have to go to Littleton,” said Sen. Robert Starr.

Senator Starr (D-Essex/Orleans), was addressing the fact that in 2010, 85 percent of voters supported the idea of a Walmart being built in Derby.

Well, when it was announced Wednesday that a deal had been made between developer Jeff Davis, Preservation Trust, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council, that there would be no opposition against the new Walmart store so long as Davis pays $200,000, we should all have felt a little insulted.

If you read between the lines, the message is that bribes and blackmail will be tolerated by us locals, so long as in the end we have a place to go buy underwear. After Wednesday’s payoff, Davis has won the fight, and can now ride into town, the hero, throwing underwear at us locals. He can throw a few hundred thousand dollars at the so-called conservation groups, which, is a very low amount compared to the money he will be taking away from local businesses like Pick & Shovel. Supposedly, everyone wins.

There is more to this deal than most people realize, because it sets a new standard of using the permitting process as a way to extort money. Both sides have used the people of Derby and Newport as a guise for making a large amount of money, in the end, both getting what they want.

VNRC and Preservation Trust win an easy payday, literally getting $200,000 for doing nothing, developer Jeff Davis will make plenty of money as we all flock to Walmart, getting our share of the prize…underware.

We are worth more than that, and Vermont should pride itself on being a state that has not been bought out by big businesses like Walmart. We still have a tradition and a culture around here that is free from the likes of superstores and corporate giants swallowing up every little business in its path.

If VNRC and Preservation Trust have agreed to stand down in opposition of the project, that does not mean that everybody else has to.

The Payoff That’s Not a Payoff: For $200,000 Opponents Promise Not to Fight Walmart in Derby

in Derby/Newport/News
Walmart and Vermont, business as usual.

DERBY–Preservation Trust and the Vermont Natural Resources Council have agreed not to oppose a Walmart Superstore in Derby. The two Vermont conservation groups made a complex deal with developer Jeff Davis, the Shumlin administration, and the Legislature, requiring Davis to pay $200,000 for future improvements to downtowns throughout Orleans County.

The deal, signed September 25th, and unveiled in Burlington Wednesday afternoon, was welcomed by Newport City Mayor Paul Monette and Derby Select Board Chairman Brian Smith, who have been trying to bring Walmart into the area for years. Davis could possibly apply for local permits for the Walmart Superstore within 30 days.

For not opposing the future Derby store, Preservation Trust will receive payment once the store is built, with the $200,000 used entirely for grants to help downtowns in Orleans County. In addition, the state will add $500,000 to its downtown improvements tax credit program.

Davis also agreed to pay $600,000 over six years to Newport City. The city will use the money to ease the economic impact the store will bring.

“To me, the most important thing was to get Newport and Derby a Walmart,” Davis said.

One final addition to the deal is that Davis agreed that for the next five years, he will not seek to build any other Walmart stores outside other Vermont downtowns.

Both conservation group executive directors brought up the fact that there was a lack of organized opposition to the Derby store, and that the deal reached was a fair compromise, given the fact that a long battle could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In the past, both Derby and Newport City voters have supported the idea of an agreement with Davis being made in order to move the project along. In 2010, 85 percent of voters favored a Walmart in Derby being built.

When asked if the deal amounted to a payoff to stop fighting the Derby Walmart, Paul Bruhn, executive director of Preservation Trust, stated, “We don’t think of it in that way.”

The Town and the Village: Derby Line Voters Cross Town to Vote on the Same Issue

in Derby/Derby Line/News

Derby Line Village HallDerby―Voters from Derby and the village of Derby Line overwhelmingly voted yes to bond for the funds needed to move forward with a water system upgrade.

Voters in Derby were simply voting yes or no to borrow the $410,000 needed to help split the cost with the village of Derby Line for the new waterline to the Derby Elementary School. The town agreed to contribute to the cost of the new waterline extension because it was a safety issue, and currently there is not enough water flow to aggressively fight a fire if one ever broke out at the school.

The village of Derby Line voted yes to bond for the $1.2 million needed for the entire cost of the project, but, since they are also residents of the town, they were allowed to go to the ballot box at the Municipal Building in Derby Center, and vote on the $410,000 loan.

Village Clerk Sharon Booth and village Clerk Fay Morin reminded voters from the village that they had the opportunity to cast their votes across town as well.

Now that the bond vote is over, plans will move forward to upgrade the water system.

On Main Street, 1,200 linear feet of new 10 inch diameter waterline from Louis Street, running south to Valentine Avenue, will replace the original 4 inch cast iron waterline.

The installation of approximately 4,900 linear feet of new 8 and 10 inch diameter waterline will begin at Forest Avenue, run along Forest Terrace, and continue west through the corn field to Derby Elementary School.

The final design will be completed in February. Construction is set to begin in April and finish in September.

The average Derby Line resident resident pays about $370 per year for water. The village portion of the annual loan payment will be around $53,000, increasing the water rate an extra $85 dollars per year.

The town of Derby anticipates raising the funds to pay their portion of the annual loan payment through town property taxes.

The breakdown of the vote was as follows:

Derby Line – 69 yes | 12 no

Derby – 195 yes | 42 no

Voter turnout was low, at about 20 percent in Derby Line, and less than 10 percent in Derby.

Apple Cider Flowed in Derby Friday Night at the Coutts-Moriarty Camp

in Derby/News

It’s a simple, two step process. You have to grind the apples somehow, and then squeeze the heck out of them. Step two requires a tremendous amount of force, and step one requires that something sharp be continuously moving as the apples are fed through.

It should come as no surprise that all you would have to do is search YouTube for “homemade apple grinder,” or “homemade cider press,” to see just how incredibly dangerous the whole process can be when someone tries to build their own contraption to accomplish these two steps.

Kasen helps load apples into the grinder Friday night.
Kasen helps load apples into the grinder Friday night.
Although there are ways to get ‘er done with an electric drill and a 5 ton bottle jack, luckily for everyone who came out Friday night to the new heated lodge at the Coutts-Moriarty Camp in Derby, there was a much more elegant, and much safer machine on hand. It was so safe in fact, even the kids took turns running it. However, a few needed to be reminded not to put their hands in the grinder.

With minimal effort, the cider was flowing.

Around 50 people came out for the free community event which was organized by Jason Brueck of the Coutts-Moriarty Camp. It was an eclectic mix of people, music, and apples, and it was just the type of event that Mr. Brueck had in mind while the new lodge was being built.

“One of our big goals is to be a community resource, and to have lots of different people from the community come out tonight was great,” Mr. Brueck said.

IMG_9186Guests were encouraged to bring their own apples to run through the machine, and make their own cider. Many, like Holly Spencer from Derby, came with buckets filled with apples they had collected from all over town.

“I got my apples from somebody I know who has a small orchard in Morgan, and some also came from North Troy,” Ms. Spencer said, proudly displaying her mason jars filled with the amber colored liquid.

If you didn’t have any apples to press, a $3 donation got you a quart of cider to take home.

Members of the Plymouth State University Choir, featuring North Country graduates Hannah Chambers and Kyle Quirion, put on the short concert that followed the cider pressing. Those who came out Friday night were treated to sounds that ranged from solo saxophone, to a capella music. The concert concluded with a jazz combo playing Thelonious Monk.

The musicians, who are Music Education students, sat through a day of classes that ended at 4 p.m., and a two hour drive from New Hampshire, in order to put on the concert.

“The kids all had fun, and there was even a couple of dogs, so we’re really pleased with the way the night turned out,” Jason Brueck said after the event.

IMG_9214The people at the Coutts-Moriarty Camp are settling into their new 80-by-40 foot Education Lodge and Hall. The facility can hold up to 80 guests.

“This is only the first winter we’ve been up and running with this new heated building, so now that we’re able to have year round events, we’re pretty excited.” Mr. Brueck said.

For more information on the Coutts-Moriarty Camp, visit them on the web, and to see the proper way to make cider, have a look at the video from Friday’s event below.

Vermont Transportation Board Gets in Touch with Public at Hearing in Newport

in Newport/News

NEWPORT — The Vermont Transportation Board held a public hearing in Newport Wednesday night at the Gateway Center. About 25 people from the area participated in the hearing, which was a fairly large number, considering that the Boston Red Sox were playing in the World Series at the same time.

The purpose of the hearing was to go over the budget situation that the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) is facing, and to discuss with the community what are our local priorities when it comes to proposed budgeting.

“We only have sixty-five percent of the money we need to do everything that we need to do,” a VTrans Board member said.

With a 35 percent gap in funding, some cuts will need to be made, but the goal was to find out where Vermonters would like to see those cuts made.

“We’re looking for your suggestions on how to fill that gap,” he went on to say.

Throughout the hearing, questions were asked of the participants. One such question was how the state should deal with tax revenue loss from an increase in electric vehicles. Since the gasoline tax makes up the largest share of the funding that VTRans receives, they are starting to look ahead toward a day when Vermonters purchase less gasoline.

One of the options on the table, and also the one most disliked by the participants, was a user based fee for electric cars, based on in-state mileage. When asked how that would be calculated, the Vtrans Board discussed a sticker fitted with GPS.

The suggestion was so unanimously opposed, that most participants laughed, making jokes about the NSA.

What to do with the Vermont railway system was another topic of discussion, with VTrans making it clear that even an increase in passengers would not prevent the state from loosing money in keeping them up.

Vermont State Senator Robert Starr addressed the board in the video below:

On a positive note, it looks like Newport will soon see a bus service running from:

Newport > St. Johnsbury > White River Junction

The Vermont Transportation Board also asked participants where would be good locations in the area to place Park and Ride stations. It seems that we will see more of them coming to the area soon.

Newport Area Community Orchestra Tuning Up For Fall Concert

in Arts and Entertainment/Derby Line/Newport

DERBY LINE — Inside the social hall of the First Universalist Parish in Derby Line, the atonal sounds of violinists and cello players warming up, echos off the walls. String bass player Jessica Griffen staggers in under the weight of her instrument. Once the orchestra has set up, music director Ken Michelli stands facing the musicians, ready to lead them into their first score.

NACO 1“Remember to be real secure with the entrances,” Michelli advises.

Over the next hour and a half, the Newport Area Community Orchestra, or NACO, as they are known, will rehearse for their upcoming concert at the Goodrich Memorial Library in Newport.

With Mr. Michelli conducting, the orchestra ran through its repertoire. Although only a rehearsal, members of the orchestra played with intensity, and as the night progressed, Mr. Michelli had a lot to be excited about.

“This might be our best concert yet,” Mr. Michelli said to the group following rehearsal Tuesday night. “It happens every year at about this time, that things really start to click. Each year we continue to improve.”

Not only does the orchestra continue to improve, but they continue to grow as well. In their third season as an ensemble, the number of musicians involved has grown rapidly.

“We started with five members, but now we’re up to about thirty,” Michelli said.

NACO 2As members of the orchestra packed up their instruments, they were noticeably pleased with the way they are playing together. There was a sense of excitement in the room, with members realizing that NACO is maturing into a fine orchestra.

“I’ve been with this orchestra since its inception, and each year it just keeps getting better,” flute player Sue Brassett said.

Marc Semprebon, a horn player from Beebe Plain, expressed his appreciation of having a space like the hall of the First Universalist Parish to rehearse in.

“It’s nice to rehearse in this building because it’s big, and usually much louder than the places we will actually play,” he said. “It’s just a great building.”

Besides performing at various local venues throughout the year, the Newport Area Community Orchestra presents three annual concerts. They play once in the spring, and twice in the fall, with one fall concert done to raise money for the Haskell Opera House.

NACO4NACO’s fall concert at the Goodrich Memorial Library is Saturday, November 9, at 1 p.m. Admission will be free, however, to help support the orchestra’s efforts of bringing classical music to the Northeast Kingdom, a $5 donation at the door is asked.

The group serves the student communities of North Country Union High School, Lake Region Union High School, United Christian Academy, and Stanstead Academy. Students are encouraged to join.

Fire Blazes in Derby Line – Firefighter Injured, But Okay

in Derby Line/News
All that is left of the home which was destroyed by fire Tuesday night in Derby Line.

Derby Line Fire 1DERBY LINE — The fire which destroyed a vacant house on Highland Avenue in Derby Line Tuesday evening, left one firefighter injured.

Derby Line firefighter Tanner Jacobs was taken from the home on a stretcher and rushed to North Country Hospital.

“The building collapsed on one side, and trapped him inside. It pinned his legs down,” a fire investigator said on site Wednesday morning.

“He’s fine. He went to the hospital but was released. It was just a bumps and bruises type of thing,” he went on to say.

Derby Line Fire 2At about 8 p.m. Derby Line firefighters arrived on the scene. While flames blasted out of the roof, back up came from across the boarder, with members from the Stanstead, Quebec, department helping to contain the blaze.

The house belonged to Dale Bennett, who was having the house renovated for sale. However, as of Tuesday night when the fire started, it was still vacant. A few residents of Highland Avenue described the house as extremely old, perhaps one of the oldest in the village.

Neighbors gathered around to watch the fire, and a few talked about the possibility of arson, based on witnessing the way the fire so quickly engulfed the home.

IMG_9104Wednesday morning, when asked, one of the fire investigators confirmed that it was being investigated, but that arson is not always suspected based on how quickly a fire spreads.

“Right now we’re waiting on an excavator to get a good look at things, but when you run into a fire that has a lot of ventilation, it can seem as though it’s an accelerated fire, but that’s not always the case,” the fire investigator said.

As of noon Wednesday, Boarder Patrol was on site, along with the fire investigators, keeping watch on the destroyed home.

Dancing in the Aisles at Derby Line Village Hall

in Arts and Entertainment/Derby Line

DERBY LINE — Over 80 people filled the Derby Line Village Hall for a night of old-timey music and dancing. The 4th Friday Music Jam is an ongoing event which has been taking place in Derby Line for 11 years now.

Jimmy Edwards kept the room thumping with his electric bass throughout the night. He later sang Willie Nelson’s, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” As many as five acoustic guitars strummed along throughout the night as the band of musicians entertained those in attendance.Derby Line Village Hall Music

The jam is more about the camaraderie of everyone involved, than showcasing anyone in particular, or the musical ability they possess. With so many different musicians on hand, each calling out a new tune to play, sometimes it can take a whole song before the group finds the groove.

“Well, we figured it out by that last note,” one guitar picker said jokingly to the other players behind Mr. Edwards on lead vocal.

Besides bringing people in the community together for a night of fun and music, the event is also run for charity. Each year, the group raises money to provide music and auto tech scholarships to students from Lake Region Union High School and North Country Union High School.

On a sad note, Pauline Marsden, 63, of Island Pond, who was recently killed in a car accident in Morgan on Wednesday, was a regular at the event. A sympathy card was organized as a way for people who knew Ms. Marsden to offer their condolences to her family.

“We’re passing around a card for people to sign for her family because Pauline and her three sisters used to love coming out to the jam,” Kitty McIntyre said.

Kitty and her husband Jim have been organizing the event for the past six years.

An Amazing Night of Music at Parker Pie with Seth Yacovone

in Arts and Entertainment/Glover
Vermont musician Seth Yacovone played Thursday night at Parker Pie.

WEST GLOVER — A dusting of snow sits on the cars parked outside Parker Pie. It’s cold, and everyone is reminded of winter. Inside, it’s warm, and people sit around sipping beer or wine, feasting on what is arguably the best pizza around. A soulful voice fittingly sings Bob Dylan’s, “Girl from the North Country.” The chatter has quieted, and everyone in the room hangs on to every note of the acoustic guitar, and every word of the song.

“If you go when the snowflakes storm, when the rivers freeze and summer ends,” the musician sings.

Seth Yacavone held the crowd's attention at Parker Pie on Thursday night.
Seth Yacavone held the crowd’s attention at Parker Pie on Thursday night. Photos by Tanya Mueller.
On the television, the Boston Red Sox are loosing to the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series, but people in the room are more interested in the musician as he continues his set. A bearded man walks around collecting tips for the musician inside an empty plastic beer pitcher.

The musician is Seth Yacovone, and to say that he is talented is an understatement. Mr. Yacovone has talent, but he has more than that. Gifted is a better way to describe him, and it’s a gift he shared with everyone at Parker Pie on Thursday night.

“My music varies a lot, depending on if I’m playing electric or acoustic. What I play is essentially a mixture of American music, from over the last fifty, sixty, or seventy years,” Yacovone said.

After already experiencing national recognition and success, Yacovone, who lives in Morrisville, is starting a new phase in his career.

At age 34, he has already accomplished things other musicians would envy.

When only 19 years old, he was invited to play with Vermont jam band Phish, in front of a crowd of 18,000 at the Worcester Centrum, in Massachusetts. Afterward, his band, the Seth Yacovone Band (SYB), opened for such acts as Ray Charles, Johnny Winter, Trey Anastasio Band, and BB King.

When asked how his sit in with Phish came about, he modestly recalled the experience.

“It came about very spur of the moment. They called me two days before it happened, so it wasn’t like I knew ahead of time or anything. It was crazy.”

After the success of the SYB, not to mention a grueling touring schedule, Yacovone decided to end the band in order to regroup, and push himself creatively into new territory. It was a decision that was good for him as a musician, and good for the people of Vermont.

1SYB4He used his time of hiatus from the SYB to tour his home state, playing solo acoustic shows. Although he has now put together a few new electric trios, he still plays solo acoustic shows like the one yesterday at Parker Pie.

“When I’m playing solo, I tend to do about every other song as one that someone else wrote.”

With Yacovone’s originals as good as they are, nobody would have minded hearing an entire set of his own music. Except, for his version of “Girl from the North Country,” which, Thursday night at Parker Pie, was perfect.

For more information and tour dates for Seth Yacovone and the SYB, visit his website at: SethYacovone.Com

As most people in Orleans County know, Parker Pie has a great menu, and wonderfully fresh pizza. Thursday is music night, and there is no cover charge.

An Afternoon of Learning at the Osher Lecture Series Newport

in Newport/News

The fifth lecture of the Fall 2013 Osher Lecture Series took place Wednesday afternoon inside the Conference Room at the Hebard State Office Building in Newport. The lecture, given by Bob Manning, was titled, “The Neolithic World of Stone: From Gobekli Tepe to Stonehenge.” About 50 people were in attendance.
osher logo

It was a bit like attending a college lecture from one of your favorite professors, which is usually someone who has the ability to entertain, as well as enlighten.

Mr. Manning, an art historian, artist, and retired Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts, is a graduate of Pratt Institute and the University of Hartford. His lecture Wednesday focused on two Neolithic sites, Stonehenge and Gobekli Tepe. Gobekli Tepe, located in Turkey, predates Stonehenge by 6,000 years.

“I’m probably one of the only people left in Vermont still using slide projectors,” Manning joked early on during the presentation.

The sound of the fan cooling the light bulb inside the projector, and the snapping of the slides as they changed over, added to the ambiance of the presentation.

Over the years Mr. Manning has traveled throughout the world visiting ancient stone circles, and many of the slides in his presentation were photographs from his travels. He also projected some of his own drawings, many of which were done on site.

The first part of the lecture focused on the more well known stone circle sites in England and Ireland. A large number people attending the lecture raised their hands when asked if they had visited any of the sites.

When the lecture shifted to exploring the known facts about Gobekli Tepe, Manning, using a quote, brought into context what an incredible feat in human achievement the site represents.

“It’s as if someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife.”

Mr. Manning’s presentation was not only full of images and information on Neolithic stone circles, but a good amount of humor as well.

“Living as long as I have, I have years of witnessing many things, including drawings inside the walls of men’s rooms,” Manning said amusingly while displaying some of the more explicit etchings on the stones of Gobekli Tepe.

In summing up the importance of such sites, Manning returned to another quote about stone circles. They are, “a space set apart to harbor the inner life.”

The Osher Lecture Series brings together a community of adult learners who enjoy engaging discussions on a range of topics. The lectures seek to engage the minds and stimulate the senses.

The next event in the series will take place Wednesday, October 30, at 1 p.m. The lecture, “The Best of Broadway and Beyond-Right in Your Own Backyard,” will be given by Lynn Leimer.

Demonstrators gather outside U.S. Port Of Entry in Derby Line to stand with Mi’kmaq Nation

in Derby Line/News

Derby Line—It’s not often that you pass through a port of entry into the United States, and you’re greeted with the sounds of Native American drumming, chanting, and the smell of burning sage. If you entered the U.S. at Derby Line on Route 5 Saturday afternoon between 12-4 p.m., that was exactly how you were welcomed in.

Ten people came out Saturday afternoon to Derby Line to voice their opposition of the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.Derby Line Vermont.jpg

The demonstrators were particularly opposed to the practice when done on lands belonging to Native Americans. They stood in solidarity with a wave of protests that have broken out in New Brunswick, where members of the Mi’kmaq Nation have been taking a stand against a company conducting seismic testing, which many believe is a prelude to fracking operations.

The protests in New Brunswick have recently escalated, with Elsipogtog First Nation Chief Arren Sock, who had issued the company an eviction notice on October 1, and the band’s council, being arrested on Friday.

The demonstration in Derby Line was also part of a larger, worldwide movement scheduled for Saturday, known as “Frackdown Day.”

On U.S. Route 5, demonstrators, mostly Native Americans from the United States, gathered across the street from the port of entry, playing drums, chanting, and holding up signs in the direction of motorists entering the country.20131020-150846.jpg

“Our hearts and prayers are with the Mi’kmaq Nation in New Brunswick, being forced to have fracking done on their land. The Canadian government is not respecting the native treaties,” Melody Nunn of St. Johnsbury said while taking a break from drumming.

Ms. Nunn went on to express her motivation for organizing the event coming after seeing images of clashes between Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and protesters in New Brunswick.

“The image of the siege that will stay in my heart is a Mi’kmaq woman on her knees, holding an eagle feather as her only defense from several hundred RCMP with loaded rifles. It’s their land, and we’re here to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across that boarder.”

The decision to stage Saturday’s demonstration so close to the port of entry was made late Friday night. Although they did not foresee any problems, they were aware of the possibility of running into opposition from authorities.

“The message today outweighs the outcome of any trouble we might face,” Kevin Carney stated when asked about the legality of demonstrating in the location. Mr. Carney traveled from New Hampshire with his wife to attend.

Like most of the cars that passed by after entering the U.S., Boarder Patrol agents waved to the group to greet them as they drove past during routine patrols of the area. It was a peaceful scene.

Members of the group were quick to point out that for them, the gathering was not a protest.

“We are not here as a protest. We are here with good in our hearts, not anger, to show our support for the people of the Mi’kmaq Nation,” Ms. Nunn said.

When asked what people could do to help if they wanted to support the cause, the group agreed that informing oneself and others is the best thing anyone can do.

“Spread the word, and go out and tell people to find out what’s happening to Native people,” Mr. Carney said.

“It’s about government and business, power and greed working together to take what they want, when they want. It’s not right, and most people when they know what’s going on would agree with that,” Neil Chaske said.

Mr. Chaske, originally from Manitoba, is part of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. He has lived in Orleans, Vermont for the past two years.

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