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Leaders of Woodstock Foundation Board sue fellow trustees

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Reading’s traditional New England contra dance returns Feb. 4

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Tragic loss brings Homelessness Awareness Day into sharp focus

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Bettyjane Jess Curry

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EDC recommends $97,500 in community grants

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Broadband blues? Fiber optic and wireless solutions are on the horizon

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‘The place to be’ The Village Inn’s Vic Tavern strives to be ‘that spot’ again

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Lady Wasps continue to dominate on the ice

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Gail Bernard

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Bruce E. Marier

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News

Leaders of Woodstock Foundation Board sue fellow trustees

Complaint claims mistreatment of employees and mismanagement at Woodstock Inn and Billings Farm 

By Mike Donoghue, Standard Correspondent

Copyright 2023 The Vermont Standard

The chair and vice chair of the Woodstock Foundation Board were secretly removed from their leadership posts after they attempted to investigate employee complaints about workplace problems, sexual harassment and discrimination, and malfeasance by officers and management at the Woodstock Inn & Resort and Billings Farm & Museum, according to a newly filed lawsuit in Vermont Superior Court.

Ellen C. Pomeroy

Chair Ellen C. Pomeroy and Vice Chair Salvatore Iannuzzi, who still remain as board members, filed the civil lawsuit both as individuals and derivatively on behalf of the Woodstock Foundation Inc. and Woodstock Holdings LLC.

Board members James S. Sligar, Michael D. Nolan, John T. Hallowell, Douglas R. Horne and David M. Simmons, along with both the Foundation and the Holding entity are named as defendants in the 31-page civil lawsuit filed late last Friday afternoon.

Salvatore Iannuzzi

The lawsuit maintains the five individual board members named as defendants went beyond their legal power or authority to take steps on behalf of the Foundation, including during two improperly warned meetings. The plaintiffs want the state court to reverse the unauthorized actions.

The plaintiffs also seek to have the defendants resign immediately as trustees from both boards and if they hold any office. 

The Foundation and Holdings play a major role in the region through the operation of the Woodstock Inn & Resort, the Woodstock Country Club and the Saskadena Six Ski Area (formerly Suicide Six), along with the Billings Farm & Museum.

The lawsuit insists the defendants took their actions in an effort to terminate a legitimate investigation by Iannuzzi and Pomeroy “into allegations of mismanagement and misconduct by defendants Hallowell, Horne and Simmons and various managers at both the Resort and Billings Farm.”

The defendants also attempted to retaliate against former employee, Anna Berez, the initial primary whistleblower, by trying to prevent her from communicating with employees at the Resort and Farm, the lawsuit said.

Management instructed employees in November to call police if Berez or Iannuzzi were spotted on Billings Farm property, the lawsuit said.

Simmons, acting on behalf of all the defendants, attempted to silence Berez by canceling her health insurance, the lawsuit maintains. The defendants also caused the Billings Farm not to pay the three-month severance pay promised to Berez thus exposing the Farm and Foundation to civil liability under Vermont’s Fair Employment Practices Act, the lawsuit asserts.

Pomeroy and Iannuzzi are seeking to overturn the actions of the other five board members and also to hire an independent law firm to finish the investigation they started, but was terminated by those other foundation board members.

The lawsuit spells out claims at the Resort for issues such as unsafe work conditions, racially insensitive language, and the mistreatment of employees, especially women and minorities.

Over at the Billings Farm, a manager reportedly intimidated other staff members, including telling Berez he knew how to bury a body where nobody could find it, the lawsuit said. In another instance, a dead rat was left in an unidentified employee’s personal vehicle, the lawsuit stated. It noted management took no action.

The lawsuit states the defendants used a scheme to prevent Pomeroy and Iannuzzi from:

  • Investigating misconduct and mismanagement at the Woodstock Inn & Resort and Billings Farm & Museum
  • Stopping misconduct and mismanagement at the Resort and Billings Farm and
  • Obtaining reimbursement from those persons who obtained pecuniary benefits and were unjustly enriched through misconduct and mismanagement at the Resort and Billings Farm.

Sligar, the board’s interim chair, issued a brief statement on Tuesday evening on behalf of the Foundation through Norwich lawyer Geoffrey Vitt.

“We are aware of the complaint unfortunately filed by two of our Board members. The trustees and directors of the boards for the Woodstock Foundation and WRC Holdings are aware of the important roles the Woodstock Resort, Billings Farm and Museum, and their related holdings contribute to our community,” the Foundation statement said.

“The well-being of our employees and community is paramount. Over the course of the past three months, we have been conducting an independent investigation related to complaints made by several employees. The Foundation Board will review the findings of that investigation, when completed, and take appropriate actions,” the statement concluded.  

Multiple attempts to reach the five trustee defendants this week by phone and email for comments were unsuccessful. Their lawyer, Christopher Roy of Downs Rachlin Martin in Burlington, also did not respond to email and phone messages before the Vermont Standard’s deadline.

All defendants will each have 30 days to file at the Woodstock courthouse their written responses to the specific claims.

Hartford lawyer Michael F. Hanley, who is the lead local counsel for Pomeroy and Iannuzzi, was unavailable for comment up to press time. Andrew Levander and Elkan Abramowitz, who are with two prominent New York City law firms also have been retained by the plaintiffs, but could not be reached.

For the full version of this story with more detail, please see the January 26 edition of the Vermont Standard or click the following link

Tragic loss brings Homelessness Awareness Day into sharp focus

Just 17 days into 2023, the body of a 34-year-old woman was discovered at the Casella Recycling Facility in Hartford. Police believe she had been homeless, and was seeking shelter and warmth by sleeping in a dumpster. It was one of forty or fifty dumpsters that had been unloaded there that day.

“She was transported [to the facility] in one of their vehicles,” Hartford Acting Police Lt. Scott Moody said. The driver was reportedly unaware of the body. Jessica Morehouse is the name of the young woman found at the recycling center, and the Hartford Police are still looking into the circumstances leading to her death.

The tragic event occurred two days before Vermont’s Annual Homeless Awareness Day, Jan. 19, where many shelter providers and housing advocates who serve Vermont’s unhoused population gathered in towns across the state to raise community awareness of the homelessness issues facing the people of Vermont.

In the Upper Valley region, the White River Junction Veterans Medical Facility hosted a “Pop-up Soup Kitchen” last Thursday, handing out chili and cornbread, and conversing with patients, staff, and visitors, to highlight the connection between food insecurity and homelessness.

Previously the VA held an event called, “Paint and Fruit Punch” led by Art Therapist, Brooke Robinson-Drew. Robinson-Drew instructed Veterans to paint what “homelessness/homes, barriers, challenges and strengths look like to them.” The paintings were hung at the VT State House for viewing on Jan. 19. Those involved said the level of enthusiasm from participating Veterans, who had no previous interest in painting, or even socializing, was inspiring, and that the Vets were grateful for a safe space to express themselves and share their stories with others who have had similar life experiences.

Read the full story in the January 26 edition of the Vermont Standard.

EDC recommends $97,500 in community grants

Woodstock

The Woodstock Economic Development (EDC) okayed allocations totaling $97,500 from its Community Grant Program for 2023 at the commission’s annual meeting on Saturday, Jan. 22. The grants in support of six different community organizations or events will be forwarded to the Woodstock Town Selectboard for final consideration and approval at a regularly scheduled meeting of the board next month.

The 2023 Community Grant Program continues the effort the EDC has had in place in previous years. Up to $100,000 was available this year to support “small projects that advance Woodstock’s economic and community development.” Eleven grant applications, requesting a total of $169,000, were submitted to the EDC by the Jan. 16 deadline.

EDC members have decreed that this will be the last year in which the total of all community grants will reach the $100,000 level. Total “small-grant” expenditures will drop to $70,000 in 2024 and $30,000 in 2025 because the EDC is prioritizing a new Major Grant Program to address five key areas of concern: workforce housing, childcare accessibility and affordability, marketing Woodstock, Village revitalization, and supporting and growing existing and new events in the community. In the first of the new major grant initiatives, the EDC recently okayed and the Town Selectboard approved $330,000 in grants to four local childcare organizations to increase accessibility to childcare and after-school programs for local families. 

Of the eleven community grant requests the EDC received for 2023, six were okayed unanimously at the commission’s annual business meeting last weekend. 

Windsor Central Supervisory Union (WCSU) School District: $39,000

Ottauquechee River Trail (ORT): $20,050 

Bookstock 2023: $20,000

Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce: $9,000 for Village Beautification and $2,750 to support Wassail Weekend.

Woodstock Area Mountain Bike Association (WAMBA): $4,700

BarnArts Center for the Arts: $2,000.

“It’s always difficult to make these choices, just as it was in past years,” EDC Chair Jon Spector said Sunday. “We receive grant requests for more funding than we have available and we have to make difficult choices. Many of the projects that we turn down would clearly benefit Woodstock, but we have to make tough decisions about what we think will have the greatest impact for the largest part of the Woodstock community.”

Please see the Jan. 26 edition of the Vermont Standard for full details

Broadband blues? Fiber optic and wireless solutions are on the horizon

On Town Meeting Day in 2008, 24 towns in east-central Vermont, many of them Upper Valley communities, voted overwhelmingly to join ECFiber, the nascent internet service provider (ISP) that was determined to bring fiber-optic broadband technology to the rural communities.

Broadly speaking, broadband (or internet) comes in two forms — via a hard-wired line or through the air, wirelessly, via a cell tower. Steeped in a Vermont tradition of self-reliance that dated back to the days of electric and telephone cooperatives in the mid-20th Century, towns throughout the region reached out to wireless ISPs for help, only to find that wireless technology proved unsatisfactory in hilly, wooded terrain.

Fast forward 15 years and the ECFiber network now encompasses 31 largely rural towns, including Barnard, Hartford, Pomfret, Reading, West Windsor, and Woodstock. The ISP is now one of 10 Communications Union Districts (CUDs) in the state, organized under the umbrella of the Vermont Department of Public Service (VDPS). A CUD is an organization of two or more towns that join together as a common entity to build telecommunications infrastructure together. ECFiber has made solid strides in bringing broadband connectivity — and, simultaneously, improved cellular phone service — to rural Vermont communities, as have the other nine CUDs in the state.

But there is still a lot of work to be done. While broadband and telecommunications problems are easing, however slowly, they remain persistent in many parts of the Upper Valley and beyond. Solutions to bringing universal broadband access — and, consequently, consistently reliable cell phone service — to Vermont will require concerted collaboration between regulators, federal, state, and local governments, CUDs, large cellular service providers such as AT&T and Verizon, private investors, and both wired and wireless broadband users. Integration is key and substantial funding is essential if underserved rural communities are to receive the multitudinous benefits of broadband access: telehealth care, remote learning opportunities for students, high-speed internet connectivity for businesses, entrepreneurs, and work-at-home employees, greatly improved emergency services and connections to first responders, and reliable, everyday cell phone service for everyone, everywhere.

Read our full story in the January 26 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Features

Reading’s traditional New England contra dance returns Feb. 4

Reading

David Millstone

 Contra dance is returning to the area on Saturday, Feb. 4 as the Reading Recreation Commission (RRC) presents its first contra dance event in over ten years. Of the six-member RRC board, Lisa Kaija proudly claims to be the oldest and says, “I’ve been in town long enough to remember when we used to do contra dances. I know how much fun it was and how it brought out people of different ages. And so I asked [the board] if they’d like to do it, and they were all gung ho.”

It is this capacity for bringing people together that is at the heart of contra dancing, according to both Kaija and David Millstone — the caller for the event. “Contra dancing is an American form of dance that descended from English country dance,” Millstone explains. “If you’ve ever read any Jane Austen novels, or seen movie versions, you always know that there’s an important dance.” Millstone says that English settlers brought the tradition to America as early as the late 1600s, and that is part of why the tradition remains so prevalent in New England today. 

“The basic idea is you have people as couples, interacting with other people as couples,” says Millstone. “So this is different from going to your local disco and you just are out there on the floor by yourself. You and your partner go through a series of movements with another couple, and at the end of 30 or 40 seconds, you move on to another couple and repeat the same series of movements. You’re typically lined up in long lines. Historically, gents on one side, ladies on the other side, but these days, social norms have changed a bit and people can pretty much dance wherever they want.” 

Millstone is quick to note that those who attend don’t need to bring a partner with them. “Usually, you change partners every time. Although, if you want to come with someone and dance with them the whole evening, you’re welcome to. But there’s a lot of partners switching around. It’s not a lifetime commitment,” he says with a laugh. “You dance with different people and discover, actually — if you and your partner come to the dance, and neither of you knows what you’re doing — you actually learn a lot more by dancing with other people who are able to show you the ropes.”

However, both Kaija and Millstone see the event on Feb. 4 not just as an exercise in dance — but as an exercise in community, especially coming out of the social isolation of the pandemic. Millstone says that in the early days of contra dance “people would have what was called the ‘kitchen junket,’ which is — you send the word out to all your neighbors, there’s going to be a junket at [so-and-so’s] house. People would show up at a certain time, there’d be a fiddler. The fiddler is typically calling out the dances. So you’d clear out the furniture in the kitchen, which was the largest room in the house. Often the crowd would be such that the fiddler would end up sitting in the sink.” 

Millstone says that after the pandemic “you really sense people wanting to come out of hibernation — wanting to get out and see each other. And fall and winter is a classic time to be having dances. In the summer, people generally are busy with their gardens, and by the time we finish up gardening and take a shower, it’s already 8:30 or 9 p.m. and it’s too late to go to a dance. So midwinter is really a prime social opportunity.”

This social aspect is key to the contra dance, according to Millstone. “It’s social dancing,” he says. “It’s you and other people dancing together. It’s not just you by yourself out on a bar floor or something like that. It’s not just you and your partner. So it means you’re holding hands with your neighbors in long lines, joining hands going forward and back, groups of four or six or eight joining hands in a circle. There’s physical contact. There’s a lot of eye contact — where you’re looking at each other, you’re smiling. It’s an intensely social activity. And it’s a safe form of socializing. You’re holding hands with someone, but it’s not a lifetime commitment and it’s not a come-on. It’s just — this is what we do. So just physical touch in that way is an important stress reliever.”

The music for the evening will be provided by Emerson Gale of Strafford. Gale teaches music both privately and as a teacher at Sharon Academy. Millstone describes the musical style as “toe-tapping fiddle music. You’re not dancing to recorded music. Anything that’s billed as a contra dance or a traditional square dance will have live music, typically a fiddle and either a guitar or a keyboard. In the case of Reading, a keyboard and fiddle.”

For his part, Millstone is eager to be part of the contra dance resurgence. “I’ve been calling for more than 40 years. It’s a big part of my life. I’ve called more than 30 states around the country, nine countries in Europe. So I’ve done hundreds of dances like this. And I love calling for dances where people come, who aren’t regular dancers. They’re dances for normal people, if you will. Where people can just come and have fun and have a good evening of exercise, listening to music, visiting with friends and going away feeling happy.”

And as Kaija says, “If you mess up, you just laugh.” 

Please see the full story in the Jan. 26 edition of the Vermont Standard

‘The place to be’ The Village Inn’s Vic Tavern strives to be ‘that spot’ again

There’s been something special brewing inside the pink and yellow walls of the Village Inn on Pleasant Street in Woodstock. Heather and Jarret Adams, who bought the bed and breakfast in December 2020, have nurtured a new locus of community for locals and tourists alike. Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, the inn opens its Vic Tavern and offers one-of-a-kind drinks, homey food, and live music in a setting that feels like you stepped back into a Victorian-era home. “I think we’ve made it a very comfortable place,” Heather said in an interview last week. “It’s not your grandmother’s house where you have to come and whisper.”

When the couple purchased the inn, there was still a lot of uncertainty because of the pandemic. “It’s amazing that we bought this during COVID. It was a real gamble, and it has turned out so much better than we ever could have imagined,” recalled Jarret. During their first few months, the bed and breakfast was only open to guests. When they got their liquor license in May 2021, however, they started thinking about how they could make the tavern available to the public. 

“There was so much potential,” said Heather, “It just didn’t make sense to have this beautiful space and the coolest bar ever [only] available for the guests.” They also had no shortage of inspiration because they knew how popular the Village Inn, then called the New England Inn, had been with locals in the past. “This was the place to be,” said Heather. “The fire chief hung out here and the mayor would stop by. I have heard so many stories about the good times people had here…We want to be that spot again.”

Aside from the period decor, Heather says that the real highlight of the tavern is Carla Paiva, who has been the Vic’s bartender since June — a fact that seemed to take even Heather by surprise. “It really feels like Carla has been here forever,” said Heather. “She’s the best asset this place has. Everyone who comes to this bar comes back because of Carla. She makes everybody feel so comfortable. People come here alone, and it only takes a few minutes before people in Burlington can hear her laughter.” Paiva also makes all of The Vic’s seasonal cocktail menus, like the Vermont Lemon Drop.

The glamorously-wallpapered rooms of the Village Inn can often be found reverberating with the sounds of live music.  Eventually, Heather and Jarret hope to have a band playing every night they’re open. It all started with Jim Yeager. “When Yeager first came here he was like, ‘I have to play in this space. I love this space,’ so we signed him about this up!” He now plays there most Monday nights, but he’s far from the only one. Shed, Allie and Seth, and Jeff Steadman all play at The Vic with some regularity. 

“The community here is fantastic,” Jarret said. “We’ve never lived in a small town like this. It’s like a movie set.” And, after two years, they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Heather said, “The reality [is that there] is always something to do. It’s seven days a week, but I absolutely love it.”

Read more about this in the January 26 edition of the Vermont Standard.

The Woodstock Smiler — an exercise in letting go

By Tom Ayres, Senior Staff Writer

The inspired chalkboard musings of the “Woodstock Smiler” are to the visual arts what Brigadoon is to Broadway musicals.

The beloved Lerner-and-Loewe musical features two American tourists who stumble upon a Scottish village that mysteriously appears for only one day every 100 years. One of the enchanted tourists, Tommy, falls in love with Fiona, a young woman from Brigadoon. Much like the mystifying Scottish hamlet of the musical, artist Adrian Tans’ artistic meditations on the chalkboard at the foot of Elm Street in Woodstock Village appear magically, marking the changes of the season and promoting coming events, only to fall to the whims of an eraser in a few weeks’ time.

The chalkboard at the corner of Elm and Central Streets, long known as the “Woodstock Crier,” is owned and operated by the Woodstock History Center, located half a block up Elm Street. The “Crier” was maintained for many years by beloved community member Frank Teagle and used to inform the local community about events and happenings in town. Staff and volunteers at the Woodstock History Center kept it populated with news for many years after Teagle’s passing in 1997.

Then along came the COVID pandemic.

As with everywhere else, the pandemic in its earliest stages turned Woodstock Village into a near-ghost-town, devoid of special events and downtown visitors, townspeople hunkered down at home, quarantining and avoiding human contact. That’s when the extraordinary visual artist Adrian Tans, pastel chalks in hand, came up with a plan to lift the collective spirits of the community. He approached Woodstock History Center Executive Director Matt Powers with a colorful, whimsical idea and the “Town Smiler” was born.

“COVID came along and everything shut down,” Tans, the former curator at the Artistree Community Gallery in Pomfret and current youth services director at the Norman Williams Public Library, said in a wide-ranging phone conversation last Friday. “I think I was ready, through all of that, to want to do something. You couldn’t even go for a walk without having to think twice about it, although that was one of the things that people could do. It was such a strange contrast to the Woodstock of before, where everybody was always bumping into one another on the street.

“And then for some reason, I thought about that chalkboard, the ‘Woodstock Crier’ and I thought, ‘There are too many tears these days, so let’s change its name to the ‘Smiler’ and populate it with thoughts and images of the season,’” Tans added. “People really responded to it, and by the tail-end of those very intense days of the pandemic, people were telling me how they changed their walk routes just so they could walk past the ‘Smiler.’ It gives us all something to connect with each other about, to talk about.”

Simultaneously smart and playful, sentimental and celebratory, Tans’ chalk art at its very best spotlights Village festivities and the changing of the seasons, mutating regularly to trumpet the tenor of the times. In November, the ‘Smiler’ featured a Thanksgiving table spread, all the proffered goodies of the day covered in aluminum foil, playfully represented in pastel chalk, crinkles and all. Perceptive viewers chuckled when they noted the elephant-and-donkey salt-and-pepper shakers on the table, a gentle homage to the political and religious debates that often crop up at the traditional family gathering. Tans’ most recent ‘Smiler,’ set to remain in place until early January, initially featured a scrolled banner promoting Woodstock’s annual Wassail Weekend, held Dec. 9-11. When Wassail was all consumed, the banner was replaced with a craftily joking ‘To-Do List,’ reminding viewers of hyperactive holiday revelers everywhere.

Tans grew up in Newbury, on the North Shore of Massachusetts, and had a strong connection to Vermont through a high-school girlfriend who lived in Burlington. After several years of vagabonding, primarily to the West Coast, Tans settled in Cambridge, Mass., for nearly a decade. That’s where his art blossomed and where he met his late wife, Lina, and started a family. “I started painting a lot more and getting into galleries. I was part of the Copley Society of Art on Newbury Street, one of the oldest art societies in the country. And then I was illustrating children’s books and ramping up my momentum in the arts. I didn’t go to art school, I never got any formal art training, things just worked out for me I guess.”

Meeting Lina is most certainly one thing that worked out very well for Tans. It was a serendipitous occasion, much like the mythical blossoming of Brigadoon once every century or the appearance of a new ‘Smiler’ on the Elm Street corner every few weeks. “I met her while walking along the sidewalk in Harvard Square,” Tans recollected warmly. “And just before I met her, I thought to myself, ‘I’m about to meet the woman I am going to marry.’ Seriously!”

In 2008, the couple and their three children moved to Woodstock. “It just seemed like a good time to get out of the city, and we were able to carve out a wonderful little home for ourselves on Maple Street. We rented a house on River Street while we renovated the Maple Street house. We moved into there in August and then in December, my wife was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. That was a real life-changer, obviously. I was in the middle of working on a couple of children’s books, illustrating them, and managed to finish those and tried to stay active in the arts, but when you’re around illness like that, and you’re a caretaker and have a couple of kids, it’s your entire focus.”

Lina Tans defied all the odds, went through “a lot of surgeries and chemo, good years and bad years” and lived “a good nine years” until she passed away in 2017, Adrian Tans recalled. “The kids were kind of getting to an age where they weren’t so little, they were teenagers now and their focus was changing, and as a father, you found yourself thinking about teenager things,” he quipped. “And then COVID came along. I had run the Artistree gallery for almost 10 years and I was getting to the point where it was time for a change. When COVID started, there was just this broad sense of being unable to have any agency over things. That’s what got me started on the idea for the ‘Smiler.’ I was driving through town with my friend Caitlin Eastman and for some reason, I thought about the history center’s chalkboard and off we went,” Tans commented, serendipity and circumstance coinciding once again. “The ‘Smiler’ has become a point of connection for the town and for me, at a time when we’ve all particularly needed that connection.”

Creating connections is central to Adrian Tans’ being. Last year, at the height of the pandemic and just as public facilities were starting to come out of lockdown, Tans left his curator’s post at Artistree to join the staff of the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock as the youth services director. “It was great to be able to be part of that rebirth and have the library get off to a fresh start,” Tans offered. Noting his own light-hearted, childlike slant on life, Tans said it dovetails well with his love of working with kids. “I appreciate the absurd and taking a little bit of a different view on things, and that definitely crosses over into whimsy,” he added. “Kids do that, too. They look at the world with fresh eyes. They’re always asking me the weirdest questions and I try to give them just as interesting an answer,” Tans said, laughing heartily. “We try to provide activities at the library that stimulate that kind of curiosity and a fresh perspective on things.”

The ephemeral nature of much of Tans’ art — save, of course, for his paintings and book illustrations — is palpable, Consider, for example, the fleeting chalkboard artistry of the “Woodstock Smiler” and the award-winning, soon-to-morph-and-melt sculptures that he creates with a team of fellow Vermonters and friends each January at the annual International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colo. Musing about the impermanence of much of his recent art, Tans waxed both humorous and philosophical.

“People ask me, ‘Isn’t it hard to erase the chalk?’ And I reply that it’s not — I’m used to it,” the maestro of passing pastels said. “And it’s nice, because then you don’t have to worry about storing it. Ask any artist what they really don’t like about making art and they say, ‘Dealing with it after it’s done!’ You’ve got to put it someplace,” Tans joked.

The artist has even started turning the erasure of his ‘Smiler’ works into a form of performance art. Rather than simply erase one work in preparation for crafting the next — “It’s more work to erase one of those than it may seem,” he pointed out — Tans has taken to inviting people to participate hands-on in the erasure process. Recently, he took that a notch further, asking two local bartenders to pelt one of his short-lived works with water balloons to help thoroughly wash away the chalk artwork. He videotaped the chalkboard bombing as well.

“I really appreciate that aspect of it,” Tans concluded, reflecting on the observation that his work, like the mythic village of Brigadoon, pops up for a short period of time, catches the public fancy, and then it’s gone. “I think it is really a healthy muscle to strengthen that ability to let go of things. Inevitably, that’s where we’re all headed.”

Sports

Lady Wasps continue to dominate on the ice

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, Woodstock’s Lady Wasps hosted the Missisquoi Valley Thunderbirds and left with a decisive 6-3 victory. They followed that with a difficult matchup against the Hartford Hurricanes on Saturday, which the Wasps also won 4-3. Head Coach Ian Coates says that these wins demonstrate how solid teamwork can keep the team at the top of the league.

Woodstock started the game against Missisquoi Valley strong by scoring three unanswered goals in the first period. Coates recounted that those were “beautiful goals.” Specifically, he says, “We were talking about the passing that was happening within those goals. Normally, you’re allowed two assists. I like to see multiple assists on a goal; it means there’s teamwork. Versus the unassisted goal, which happen when there’s a rebound or there’s an end-to-end rush, but it’s really cool to see the amount of assists that my team gets because of the team play.”

“They also had three penalties in the first period. So we’re on the power play. That’s something that we work on year to year. This year, we were able to work on it earlier, so we’re really confident with how we set up and move the puck. It’s really fun to watch when you see a power play goal with our first unit, it’s pretty impressive,” Coates stated proudly.

Read more in the January 26 edition of the Vermont Standard.

Triple threat Isabel Konijnenberg sees sports as more than just a game

By Michael Coughlin Jr., Standard Correspondent

“Playing sports has become vital to the person that I am and the person that I strive to be. Not only because it has taught me discipline and the value of teamwork but because it has introduced me to some of my best friends and the best people — in my unbiased opinion — in the world.” 

Those are the words of Woodstock Union High School’s (WUHS) senior star three-sport athlete Isabel Konijnenberg who chronicled her life in sports thus far and underscored that what some may consider games are foundational in the lives of young people around the world. 

Konijnenberg, who now is a standout contributor to WUHS’ soccer, lacrosse, and hockey teams, got her start in sports when she was young. A Dutch native born in the Netherlands, who moved to Vietnam when she was two and eventually moved to the United States at age six, Konijnenberg got her first taste of sports in soccer, where she essentially grew up with a soccer ball by her foot. 

“Soccer is something that was always kind of ingrained in me from when I was little. I come from a Dutch family, and speaking Dutch at home and having been born in the Netherlands – soccer is kind of like a massive piece of identity. I would say too almost every kid goes out and plays soccer,” said Konijnenberg. 

“So that was kind of a given from the get-go — that I played soccer — and I just grew up and loved it.” 

As she got a bit older, Konijnenberg found herself in uncharted waters. Her aggressive play in soccer caught the eye of a friend’s father, who then introduced Konijnenberg to hockey, and eventually, she made her way onto the ice. 

“[My friend’s father] reached out to me — he saw me play soccer and that I wasn’t afraid to push anyone around — this is when I was like nine or so — and he was like, ‘Well, you got to come play hockey for me now,” said Konijnenberg.

Then when Konijnenberg got a little older, she was able to commit to another sport entirely — lacrosse. 

“When I got to that middle school, high school age group, I finally actually had the time to commit to a high school or middle school age lacrosse team – that’s how I really got into it, and then from that, I absolutely loved it more than I thought I was going to initially,” said Konijnenberg. 

While she made her way through the sports scene, when she reached high school, Konijnenberg found herself at a high school in Lexington, Mass. – but not for long. At the beginning of the hockey season in her sophomore year, Konijnenberg came to WUHS when her family moved to the more remote climes of Vermont to ride out the pandemic. 

Since the move to Woodstock, Konijnenberg has seen her fair share of athletic success. She was a key contributor to the Wasps’ first-ever state championship in girls hockey last season. She also helped her soccer team make a finals appearance last spring. 

Konijnenberg says that these are the achievements she is most proud of. She could have named her two scores en route to the girls hockey program’s first-ever title, but she did not — she was all about the team’s achievement.  

“I think that’s pivotal to the person I am and the atmosphere I want to be in — I want to be part of a team. I know it’s very cliché, but you win together as a team, and you lose together as a team, and I think that’s really central to who I am as an athlete,” said Konijnenberg.

While her dedication to sports has afforded Konijnenberg great achievements like winning a championship and making lifelong friends, sports have also helped her in other facets of life, such as academics. 

Konijnenberg mentioned that athletics have helped her with time management, so she can not only juggle but excel in all three sports and keep up with schoolwork and social commitments.

Although being a three-sport student-athlete is a tough task, Konijnenberg says she draws on goals she set for herself and others for inspiration to keep going. 

“Internally, I am motivated just because I feel like I have set these certain goals and expectations for myself, and those motivate me to show up every day just because what I want to accomplish is not going to happen on its own, whether that’s academically or athletically,” said Konijnenberg. 

“But I think also that those goals have been instilled in me through being around people who are the epitome of commitment. Such as the coaches who show up to youth hockey on Saturday morning at eight o’clock every week and the players who have been playing and show up to 6 a.m.’s at 5:20 a.m. just to get on the ice early.” 

This inspiration will undoubtedly fuel her in her future endeavors, in which Konijnenberg will attend Williams College and go on the pre-med track while she continues to play soccer. 

As the final stretch of her senior year begins, Konijnenberg says she is grateful she ended up at WUHS. “I am so glad I ended up at Woodstock; I think that everything from the athletics to the academics to just all the various relationships I have been able to make while being at Woodstock have been truly invaluable to the person that I have become since moving here,” said Konijnenberg

While her impending graduation from WUHS certainly comes with mixed emotions, Konijnenberg is definitely looking forward to her next steps in life at college. 

“I am super excited that I get to further my athletic career at a school that also allows me to engage in rigorous academics, so I am super excited about that next step in my life,” said Konijnenberg.

Obituaries

Bettyjane Jess Curry

Bettyjane Jess Curry, 83, died peacefully Sunday evening January 22, 2023, at the Jack Byrne Center in Lebanon, NH

Bettyjane was born June 25, 1939, in Rumford, Maine the daughter of Arthur Burton and Helen (Jordan) Jess.

She graduated from Stephens High School in Rumford, ME in 1957. She worked at Dixfield Health in Dixfield, ME as a CNA for a number of years. After moving to the Upper Valley she worked in home healthcare, as a teacher’s aide at Thetford school, along with teaching an alcohol and drug prevention program throughout the northeast.

She was an avid reader until her eyesight deteriorated, and she enjoyed going for walks in the rain and snow, spending time with family and friends, going to church and singing hymns, getting her hands dirty planting in flower beds, and traveling to many places.

Bettyjane is survived by her husband of 10 years Joseph C. Curry, her daughters; Rebecca (Randy) Gallant of Mexico, ME, Margaret Lloyd of Rumford, ME, and Jennifer Lloyd of Mexico, ME, Grandchildren; Rachel (John) Ryerson, Eric, Thomas (Camilla) and Callahan Pendergast, Nicole (Isak) Porter, great-grandchildren; Reese, Mack, Hazel, her siblings; Marilyn (John) Theriault, and James (Marilyn) Jess. She is also survived by Joe’s daughter Pamela (Tom) Poirier, grandchildren; Brandon, Ryan (Sarah) Poirier, and Stephanie (Chad) Lynch, and great-grandchildren; Josiah, Levi, Jacob Lynch, and Joe’s son Michael (Sherry) Curry and his son Sean.

In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by a son Robert Lloyd, a brother Arthur Burton, and her two previous husbands, Richard Runnals and Norman Lloyd.

A funeral service with burial to follow is being planned for a later date and will be announced.

Those wishing may make memorial donations to Olivet Baptist Church, P.O. Box 5407, West Lebanon, NH 03784

An online guest book can be found at cabotfh.com

Gail Bernard

Gail Bernard unexpectedly passed away on January 18, 2023, peacefully at her home in Englewood Florida at the age of 80. Gail was one of 9 children who were born in Medford Massachusetts and made a home wherever she lived including Billerica Massachusetts, York Beach Maine, Woodstock Vermont, and Englewood Florida. In each place, she made wonderful lasting friendships that are still alive today. Gail was a fabulous cook who enjoyed hosting dinner parties and cooking for her friends and family. She was always interested in people’s lives and would sit and talk with you in an effort to create genuine and meaningful connections.

Gail was an avid reader and movie buff. She loved to knit and each one of her children, grandchildren, and grand puppies has a homemade Christmas stocking that will be cherished forever.

Gail’s family was her pride and joy. She would never miss a graduation, wedding, or birth, and would come to as many sporting events as possible including this year’s Thanksgiving football game in Dunstable. When she couldn’t be with her family up North, her Park Forest community filled her life with so much fun and companionship.

Gail was preceded in death by her husband George and Son James.

She is survived by her daughter Robbin and husband Jeff Kalmes of Billerica Massachusetts, her son Derek and wife Jennifer Bernard of Dunstable Massachusetts, her grandchildren Patrick and his wife Taylor, Sarah and her husband Andy, and Drew, Ryan, Finn, Owen, and great-grandson Jack as well as many extended family members and great friends.

There will be 2 celebrations of life in Gail’s honor. The first celebration of life will be February 5, 2023, at Park Forest ClubHouse on Park Forest Blvd. in Englewood FL at 2:30 pm. The second one will take place on March 5, 2023, at The Groton Country Club, 94 Lover’s Lane in Groton Ma. at 1 pm. Anyone who loves Gail is welcome to attend.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.nationalcremation.com/location/port-charlotte for the Bernard family.

Bruce E. Marier

Bruce Edward Marier, 86, of College Hill Road in Woodstock, died of Covid-19 and complications from cold agglutinin disease on December 17, 2022, at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He, his wife Suzanne, and their West Highland White Terrier, Oscar, had driven from Woodstock in late October to visit Northern New Mexico and the people and places that had become special to them during the twelve years they lived in Taos. A superb skier and an intrepid hiker, Bruce loved the Taos mountains. He loved too the opera and classical music performances that so enrich Taos and Santa Fe.

Born on September 8, 1936, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Bruce was educated in Holyoke public schools, served in the U.S. Navy, and graduated with a degree in Mathematics from the University of Hartford. His professional career was with computer consulting and manufacturing corporations including IBM, Honeywell, and DEC. Although corporate assignments took him to states including Arizona, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts, and to several European cities as well, the Boston area and Vermont were always considered home.

A second career began in 1995 when he and two others formed Claret Software in Lebanon, NH and developed Clarifye, a successful PC-oriented wine-management system. At that time he and Suzanne built a home for themselves and their Westies, Parker and Maddie, on Rose Hill in Woodstock. For several years Bruce was president of the Upper Valley Computer Industry Association. After 9/11, and after Claret Software closed, Bruce embraced his knowledge and love of wine to serve as wine steward at Hemingway’s in Killington. He and his family moved to Taos in 2005 and returned to Woodstock in 2017.

Bruce is survived by Suzanne, his wife of forty-five years, and by his niece, Melanie Peetz, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, his nephew, Kevin Peetz, of Natick, Massachusetts, and his many friends and companions. His verve, his enthusiasms, and his love of life will be missed. Final arrangements were made by Rivera Family Funerals and Cremations in Santa Fe.

Beatrice (Bea) Robinson

Beatrice (Bea) Robinson, 94, passed away peacefully, on Wednesday, January 18, 2023, with her loving family by her side. Bea was born in North Pomfret on October 5, 1928 daughter of Arthur and Susan (Boyd) Longley. She was one of eleven children who grew up on the family farm, with four brothers and six sisters. At age eighteen she married Gilman Frank Robinson on July 1, 1947, joining the Robinson Farm in Woodstock. She took great pride in caring for the home, the animals, and the vegetable and flower gardens alongside her mother-in-law.

Bea enjoyed many hobbies including knitting, making root beer and fresh bread, pies and donuts from scratch, puzzles and playing board games with her grandchildren.  During the winter months, Bea and Gilman spent their weekends traveling the state on their snowmobiles, until his tragic logging accident in 1988.  Bea and her mother-in-law would soon move up the hill to a smaller home overlooking the Robinson Farm.

In 1992, Bea was introduced to Leeds Ackerman who became her companion for the next 23 years. They enjoyed spending time feeding the fish in the pond; taking nature walks, and watching hummingbirds and other wildlife outside their front door.   Together they traveled by RV across the United States, stopping to visit monuments and national parks. In the winter months, they spent time in Florida, fishing and visiting with family and friends.

Bea will always be remembered for her witty sense of humor, love of dogs, obsession for owls, Blueberry Buckle, and her gorgeous flowerbeds that were impeccably maintained. She is survived by her son Stanley (Lori) Robinson, her three granddaughters; Amanda Robinson, Brenda (Rob) Narucki, Carrie Paquette, and her grandson Jake (Hali) Robinson as well as seven great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren, and several nieces, nephews, close friends and all the loving caregivers and staff at the Woodstock Terrace.

She was predeceased by her husband Gilman Robinson, daughter Phyllis Templeton, companion Leeds Ackerman, and her grandson Jesse Robinson.

At Bea’s request, there will be no visiting hours. A graveside service will be held later this spring.  In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to your favorite local charity in her memory.

An online guest book can be found at cabotfh.com

Dennis Michael Adams, Sr.

Dennis Michael Adams, Sr. went home to be with the Lord, at the Jack Byrne Center in Lebanon, NH on January 16, 2023.

He was born on January 25, 1961, in Rutland, Vermont the son of Lester Earnest Adams and Velma Florence Bell

Dennis graduated from Woodstock Union High School in 1979 and married Paulagay Nielsen in 1981.

Dennis shared his love of trains with James, his love of sports with Ethan, his love of mischievousness with Alice, and his ability to make anybody laugh with Aaron.

He loved to spend time with family and friends, fishing, camping, hiking, traveling to historic places and teaching the history. He also enjoyed playing drums, strategic games on the computer, and model trains.

He played in the band Automatic Pilot in Woodstock, VT., and worked with the Boy Scouts of America for several years.

He served in the Air National Guard from 1983-1990, and at one time actively served at West Lebanon Baptist Church, now Hope Fellowship. He served several consecutive terms on the Hartford School Board, and in later years occasionally attended River Bank Church.

Over the years he worked for the Woodstock Inn and Resort, Woodstock Soapstone Co, making Soapstone stoves, as a Premier Coach Bus Lines Driver, a Vermont Transit Driver, an Advanced Transit Bus lines Driver, and drove as an Uber/Lift Driver.

He leaves behind his wife of 41 years Paulagay Adams, his children: Grace Gay Adams Hazen and husband Dylan, Dennis Michael Adams Jr., Kellie Nicole Adams Fernander and husband Jimmy, Matthew Christian Schill and fiance Lindsay Storey, grandchildren: James Michael Fernander, Ethan Alexander Fernander, Alice Bell Fernander, Aaron Andreas Fernander, Daisy Hazen, his 4 brothers, David Adams of Bridgewater, VT, Jeff Adams of Woodstock, VT, Richard Adams of Woodstock, VT, Greg Adams of Florida, several cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews

A celebration of life was held on Saturday, January 21st at 11:00 am at the Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Windsor, and a potluck was held following the service. Burial will be at a later date.

Memorial donations may be made to Rachels’ Kitchen, 165 Main Street, Windsor, VT 05089, or the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Conservation Group, PO Box 207, East Charleston, VT 05833 https://www.vtfwcg.org/support-us/

The Cabot Funeral Home in Woodstock is assisting the family. An online guest book can be found at cabotfh.com

Ruth Merritt Wiegand

Quechee

Ruth Merritt Wiegand, 94, of Quechee, Vermont died peacefully on January 15th in Woodstock, Vermont.

Mrs. Wiegand is survived by her husband of 72 years John J Wiegand, Sr. and her five children; Claudia Wiegand of Rehoboth Beach, DE, Linda Wiegand Packard (George) of Quechee, Donna Wiegand Bicknell (Raymond) of Beebe Plain, VT, John J Wiegand Jr. (Cindy) also of Quechee, and Michael J Wiegand (Ghaddra Gonzalez) of Mercer Island, WA. Mrs. Wiegand is also survived by 6 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Wiegand graduated from Baldwin High School, Adelphi College for Mathematics, and New York State University at New Paltz with a Master’s in Education. She taught in the Long Island, NY schools. She married John on February 11th, 1950. In 1964 the Wiegands moved to Quechee, VT where Ruth was a substitute teacher in the Hartford School System.

She was a member of Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church since 1964 and was an active member of the St. Anne’s Club. Joining Woodstock Country Club in 1967 heightened Ruth’s love for golf and traveling the state with her many friends. The Wiegands became members of the Quechee Club in 1973 and Ruth continued her active life as a member of the golf committee and the health club advisory committee. She volunteered at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Ruth was also the past president of the Quechee Cemetery Association, the Vermont State Women’s Golf Association, and the New England Women’s Golf Association.

A funeral mass will be held at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Woodstock, VT on Saturday, January 28th at 11:00 am. She will be interred at a later date in the Quechee Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to; Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church, The Mertens House, or the Quechee Cemetery Association.

Arrangements by Cabot Funeral Home, Woodstock, VT. An online guest book can be found at cabotfh.com

Clyde Kenneth Hershey

Clyde Kenneth Hershey – January 7, 1934 – January 9, 2023

Ken Hershey, 89, died Monday, January 9th, at home in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. Ken was born on January 7, 1934, in Lancaster, PA to Clyde and Lila Good Hershey.

Raised on a family farm, Ken finished school after eighth grade and began working full-time on local farms. At the age of 23 he decided to return to school, and with determination was able to pass the GED and enroll at Eastern Mennonite College, eventually graduating from Millersville University.

After college he worked for two years in Germany, volunteering with PAX, a Mennonite church agency, to build houses for war refugees. Upon return to Pennsylvania, he met Joanne Shenk. They soon married and moved to Bridgewater, Vermont. He built the home they were to live in for over 50 years and started a home-building business.

In retirement he regularly volunteered at Bethany Birches Camp, mowing the extensive grounds for the next 15 years. He enjoyed using the tractor, which reminded him of times on the farms he worked on in his youth.

Ken was known for having an easygoing nature and being generous with his time helping family and neighbors. He had a deep faith that he often expressed by leading worship services at church and especially through singing with his strong, bass voice.

He loved working outside, exploring the hills and forests of Vermont with his family, gardening, and volunteering. He often sang while he worked.

Ken is survived by his wife of 58 years, Joanne; daughter Denise (Phil Lapp) of Sharon, Vermont; son David (Kris Koehne) of Colchester, Vermont; daughter Tanya (Billy Sneed) of Ripton, Vermont; grandchildren Annabel and Becket Lapp; Benjamin, Clara, Lila, and Rachel Hershey; and Berend Sneed; and sister Betty Frey of Lititz, Pennsylvania. Ken is predeceased by his sister Janet and brothers Edwin and Melvin.

Those wishing may make memorial donations to Bethany Mennonite Church or Bethany Birches Camp, 169 VT-100A, Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, 05035.

A service will be held on Saturday, January 21, 2023, at 11:00 am at Bethany Mennonite Church in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont.

The Cabot Funeral Home in Woodstock is assisting the family, an online guest book can be found at cabotfh.com

Harvey Norman Bumps

Harvey Bumps passed away on January 11th, 2023 after a long battle trying to recover from a car accident resulting in a brain injury.

Harvey was born April 16th, 1945 to Warren and Mary Lewis Bumps and graduated from Woodstock Union High School in 1964. He then served in the US Army Signal Corp during the Viet Nam War era, mostly in Germany. He enjoyed draft horses, fishing, and other traditional Vermont activities. Harvey enjoyed helping the community and served on the Planning Commission. He was an EMT for the Woodstock Ambulance Service as well as a member of the Woodstock Fire Department for 37 years, rising to the rank of Captain. His passion for giving blood led him to become a regular pheresis donor at DHMC. He also owned his own business as a very talented stone mason.

Harvey had a great love for his family and is survived by his wife of 54 years, Sam (Sandra), daughter Jenn and husband Bob Firpo, daughter Becky and husband Kenneth Bailey; grandchildren George and Megan; grandson Mike Firpo and wife Signe; great-grandchildren Gabriel and Karen; and his brother Harry and wife Dianne, nephew Ethan and niece Lindsay.

In lieu of flowers please honor Harvey’s spirit of giving by donating blood, donating to the Jack Byrne Center at DHMC, the Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation, or to a charity of your choice.

A Celebration of Life will be held in the spring.

An online guest book can be found at cabotfh.com

David Chester Courtney

David Chester Courtney of Hartland, Vermont, son of the late Joseph Donald and Elaine Hooper Courtney, passed away on December 14, 2022.

Born September 13, 1953, David grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and spent summers at the family’s cottage on Great Neck in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

David graduated from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in 1971 and went on to Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1975.

After college, he moved to Pomfret, Vermont with several classmates from Merrimack.  He became a ski patroller at Mount Tom, Okemo, Suicide Six, and Pico, and eventually became the ski patrol director at Quechee Lakes, a title he held for nearly 35 years. He was a member of the National Ski Patrol for over 40 years. David is credited with founding the very successful Quechee Ski Team which continues to thrive.

David was the proprietor of Barron Enterprises, a small residential construction company that he operated for more than 25 years in the Upper Valley region.  David built numerous homes and specialized in renovations throughout the Quechee area.  He was a licensed real estate broker and was most recently involved with the Masiello Group.

He was on the Board of Trustees with the Quechee Landowner’s Assoc. for several terms. He also played a large role with the Trails Committee. He deeply cared for the community and tried to help people to be aware of the history and many enjoyable aspects of Quechee.

He leaves his wife of 35 years, Claire E. Courtney (nee Comeau).  They have two sons, William of Sun Valley, Idaho and James of Winooski, Vermont. He leaves his brother, Neil and his wife Patty of Camden, Maine. He also leaves many nieces and nephews.

David’s love for outdoor sports spanned his entire life, with varsity sports in high school and college, then league sports after graduating, along with boating in Ipswich Bay, Vermont lakes and rivers, playing golf, and certainly skiing.

He frequented the Quechee Library to inquire about a book someone had mentioned that he wanted to read or one he saw mention of. As always Kate pulled through providing David with whatever book he was looking for.

David had an endless love of life. He lived with passion and a wealth of knowledge of whatever he tackled including his health.

One of his final wishes was to donate his body to the Geisel Anatomical Gifts Program. That wish was fulfilled.

Funeral arrangements were made by Knights Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, the family would be honored for donations to be made to any of the following:

Jack Byrne Center for Palliative and Hospice Care:  Palliative & Hospice Care | Causes | Dartmouth Health & Geisel School of Medicine Giving (dhgeiselgiving.org)

Dave Courtney Quechee Ski Team Scholarship:  https://gofund.me/bbf1b9af

Quechee Public Library:  https://www.quecheeandwilderlibraries.com/home/?page_id=2

Annual Appeal

Please don’t wait until it’s too late

As our annual appeal enters its final week, we’d like to thank those of you who have thus far stepped up to assist us with your donation. We shoulder our ongoing financial burden all year long – trying to produce quality local journalism for our community even though the traditional advertising revenue funding model for newspapers has deteriorated — and it’s gratifying to know that we have friends who readily answer our call for help, who care as much as we do about the role the Vermont Standard plays in keeping our community strong. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It’s a fact; we simply cannot keep doing this without you.

But now we face a real sense of urgency. I promised that this annual appeal would only last four weeks so you wouldn’t have to hear from me constantly about our need. And indeed, this is my last appeal article in ’22. But our revenue shortfall is daunting, and it leaves us in a very precarious position. If we’re going to sustain the Standard, we absolutely need more capital to work with.

Today, I’m hoping to attract the attention of more of our readers who care deeply about each of our local towns (Woodstock, Hartland, Pomfret, Bridgewater, Barnard, Reading, Quechee, West Windsor, Plymouth, Windsor and Killington) and the greater community that we’re all a part of. I’m trying to reach more of the people who truly appreciate the way the Standard helps residents stay informed and know about and support one another. I’m trying to tug on the sleeve of more of those who — if ultimately the paper cannot make it without them — would very much miss the Standard once it’s too late. I’m trying to remind all of you who love us, warts and all, to make a donation.

Now.

It’s a fact of life. There are lots of other important things to do and spend money on. They’re all vying for your attention at once. Fundraising appeals like ours can easily get shuffled to the bottom of the pile. But today I hope you’ll understand that our need is absolutely critical. Without your help we won’t be able to put the plans in motion that can help sustain local journalism in our community for the near future and long term.

So far, the response to our 2022 appeal isn’t as strong as it was last year. I hope that’s simply a result of distractions at this time of year or procrastination and not a drop-off in the community’s endorsement of our mission. I hope you agree that certain things in our busy lives are worth taking a moment to support, and local journalism is one of them.

For more than 40 years, Vermont Standard president Phil Camp has dedicated his heart and soul to this endeavor in an effort to give back to his hometown. He’s joined by the Standard’s staff and key supporters who have literally gone all-in, doing whatever it takes in an effort to keep this community treasure going strong against stacked odds. And I believe that if there’s any one place in the country where local journalism can be sustained despite the very difficult financial obstacles newspapers face, it would be here in this community that embraces its paper so enthusiastically. A place where both full- and part-time residents routinely support the people, organizations, and institutions that make this community so phenomenal. My guess is that there are still a lot more people who are willing to help the Vermont Standard than we’ve heard from thus far.

We sincerely appreciate your consideration.

If you’re willing to make a donation to our 2022 Annual Appeal, please send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go to our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website to make a contribution with your credit card.

The Standard is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your gift can’t be deducted from your taxes, but your gift will help ensure that the Standard will be around to serve our community for a long time.

Trying to avoid becoming a “ghost” story

By Dan Cotter, publisher

Many years ago, while discussing the Troubles in Northern Ireland with a good friend, he said to me, “anyone who thinks they know the solution doesn’t really understand the problem.”

That quote crossed my mind this week as I contemplated the grave challenges we face in the newspaper industry – both throughout the country and right here in our community.

Just to review, newspapers in general, and our Vermont Standard, have troubles of their own. We have a revenue shortfall. The funding that traditionally supported local journalism has been drying up. Over the past twenty years in particular, big box stores, chains, and now online sellers such as Amazon have wiped out most of their competition, especially the smaller independent retailers and service providers who loyally supported local newspapers with their weekly ads.

And newspapers used to receive a substantial amount of classified advertising revenue too from help wanted, auto, and real estate/rentals ads, and private parties selling used merchandise. Today, those classified advertisers use a variety of online and digital marketing options instead of or sometimes in addition to a newspaper.

And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic set the national and local economy back in many ways, and it has had trouble rebounding due to staff shortages and supply chain issues. Newspapers rely on advertising dollars that just aren’t being spent in this economic environment.

Acting as though they don’t really understand the problem – which is a revenue problem – many newspapers throughout the country have carried out hardcore expense trimming and staff reductions in an attempt to balance the budget. For example, just in the past few weeks, the largest newspaper company in the country laid off 400 workers. At the Standard, we’ve done our share of trimming expenses as well.

But despite the belt-tightening, the numbers don’t add up. Without an infusion of revenue, losses pile up. There aren’t enough expenses or personnel to cut without crippling the organization. You simply cannot save your way to prosperity, much less fund new initiatives. Something tends to give.

The remaining skeletal staff at these papers — once strong and proudly serving their communities with news, information and commentary that helps their readers understand local issues and each other so that they can make good decisions and solve problems they face together — can no longer adequately cover the news.

In industry jargon, we call these “ghost papers.” They’re now just shadows of their former selves, barely worth taking the few minutes required to read them cover to cover. And that loss of quality local journalism leaves behind a void in the community and a breeding ground for misinformation and division.

It’s estimated that as many as 20% of the newspapers in the country are now ghost papers.

The problem we’re facing isn’t that we need reliable, local journalism any less. We need it more than ever. With all the forces at play in our country that tear at the fabric of our democracy, citizens surely need a publication to turn to that tries each week to foster better understanding in their community. With all the “crisis fatigue” we experience in the national news today, we no doubt benefit from a regular dose of what’s often uplifting news about our neighbors and community to help us maintain balance, perspective and hope.

There’s certainly no drop-off in consumer demand for the local journalism we provide. The Standard’s circulation and website visitation volumes remain steady.

But our true problem is that the funding mechanism that served us well for so many years has deteriorated, and so we need to support local journalism in a different way. Unfortunately, very few newspapers have found ways to solve their revenue problem. More than a fourth of the country’s newspapers have gone out of business. And too many of those that remain have severely diminished their paper with drastic expense cuts that gutted the paper of the very journalism it is supposed to be providing. Leaving behind, well, a ghost.

The Standard is trying to avoid that trap. We want to sustain the paper as well as the quality of the local journalism we provide. Improve it even. The Standard exists to serve its communities, and now we need the community’s assistance to help us keep it going.

You can help by continuing to read the Standard and patronizing our advertisers. If you’re also in a position to advertise, please do so. And right now, please consider making a donation to our 2022 Annual Appeal. If you’re able, please send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go to our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website at www.thevermontstandard.com to make a contribution with your credit card.

The Standard is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your gift can’t be deducted from your taxes, but your gift will help ensure that the Standard will be around to serve our community for a long time.

Connecting people is important, irreplaceable

By Dan Cotter, publisher

It probably comes as no surprise that at a small newspaper like the Vermont Standard, everyone on staff has to do a little of everything and wear many different hats. But what is a bit surprising is that one of my favorite responsibilities at the paper is to post the obituaries on our website.

As I edit them, I really enjoy learning about the people who passed away. I’ve found that nearly everyone has an interesting story. The obituaries are usually submitted by family members, and the love they express for their dearly departed and their touching descriptions of lives well lived are quite inspiring. It amazes me when I read about all these remarkable people who lived in our area – their impressive accomplishments, their friends, relatives and pets that will miss them so much, their passions, their personalities, their favorite sayings, etc. It’s a good reminder that, despite all the tragic, discouraging events and bad actors we hear about in the national news every day, most people around here are upstanding and admirable.

Like I said, posting obituaries is one of my favorite duties. It makes me feel more connected with this place and the people who make it special.

I suspect that this type of highly-personal local news content is what the majority of our readers like most about the Standard. Whether it’s the stories about area residents who passed away or articles about fascinating people still in our midst — ordinary people doing extraordinary things — or the photos we present of individuals, often children or seniors, participating in local activities… I think it’s those stories about our lives playing out together and our shared experiences that help us appreciate one another and live together in harmony.

For 169 years the Standard has been telling stories every single week that help connect those who live here. Perhaps we’ve even told your story at some point along the way.

It’s classic local journalism.

In telling the stories of the people in our community, the Standard helps everyone to know each other better. Although it’s not our sole purpose, it’s one of our most important purposes. It’s one of the main functions we’re trying to preserve when we conduct our annual fundraising appeal.

Without meaningful human connection, towns are merely geography. But when we’re all better connected by the type of content published in the paper and on our website, we’re a vibrant community that values and respects each other. And therefore, we’re able to tackle the issues and concerns we all must face together.

Despite the evaporation of the advertising revenue that traditionally supported newspapers and the economic devastation wrought by the COVID pandemic that exacerbated our revenue problem, we are working hard to keep the Standard afloat. Across the country, newspapers like the Standard are disappearing at a rate of two per week. In fact, according to a report issued recently by Northwestern University, 336 weekly papers like ours, serving small communities in the US, have shut down since the end of 2019.

There’s no question, we cannot sustain the Standard alone. We urgently need your help. We hope you’ll consider making a donation to our 2022 annual appeal. If you’re able, please send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go to our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website at www.thevermontstandard.com to make a contribution with your credit card.

The Standard is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your gift can’t be deducted from your taxes, but your gift will help ensure that the Standard will be around to serve our community for a long time.

Recently, one of our donors mentioned to me that his grandchildren were once featured in a photo on the front page of the Standard. It was a nice memory of a wonderful moment for his family that the paper captured and shared with the community.

That’s what I’m talking about. How essential it is to have local journalism that helps us share our lives with our neighbors. Just like when we get to pay tribute to our cherished loved ones for all to see upon their passing.

With this fundraising appeal, we’re trying to ensure that residents of our community will always have the Standard as a place to connect with one another in a truly meaningful way. Please join us in this important mission if you’re able to.

Our '22 annual appeal begins with gratitude

By Dan Cotter, publisher 

Last year at this time, when we made our first annual appeal, what stood out to me was how incredibly kind and generous our readers are.

A couple of hundred Vermont Standard readers who live locally or read the paper from afar to keep up on goings-on in the area took a few minutes to write a check or enter their credit card on our website to help us keep local journalism alive. Contributions ranged from ten dollars to gifts of thousands of dollars. And many came with a note of appreciation for our work and encouragement to keep doing it despite our daunting financial challenges.

Phil Camp and I were stunned at how good people were to us and how much they valued the service that our small but talented team provides to the community. We alternated between gasps, high fives and even a few tears as we opened the mail or checked our website for contributions each day during those four weeks.

Your help strengthened us financially and it strengthened our resolve to continue trying to find a way to sustain the journalism that has informed and connected residents in Woodstock, Barnard, Bridgewater, Hartland, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Quechee, Reading, Windsor, West Windsor and points between and beyond for 169 years.

I got the impression that many of our supporters were not just donating from their excess. They were actually sharing what they have with us. A big difference.

It felt like people were digging deep, as if it wasn’t just another handout for some good cause to them. It seemed more personal. Some told us that the local news coverage we produce plays a big role in how they experience, understand and enjoy the community. They claim that reading the paper is an integral part of their weekly rhythm and something they look forward to

Those kinds of comments inspire us. To keep going. To do better.

It seemed like many were picking us up, sharing our pain and joining our fight to keep the Standard going – as our friends, as our partners, as our backers. It felt like they were investing in us and counting on us to stay strong to help the community stay strong.

We are humbled, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.

I like that term, sharing. It reminds me, Phil and our staff that we’re not in this alone. That the responsibility to produce – and pay for – the local journalism that makes life here better is not just our problem. Rather, a lot of people who share in the benefit of our journalism are invested, and they’re offering whatever they can share to help keep this going.

Thank you, friends.

As the Standard begins its 2022 Annual Appeal, I hope you’ll take a moment to consider whether you’re willing to share some of your resources with us so that we can continue informing and fostering a wholesome connection among our neighbors in the communities we serve.

For the next few weeks, we’ll use this space to talk about what the Standard and local journalism mean to our community — the value it brings to life around here. If you’re able, please send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go to our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website at www.thevermontstandard.com/annual-appeal to make a contribution with your credit card.

The Standard is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so your gift can’t be deducted from your taxes, but your gift will be helping to ensure that the Standard will be around to serve our community for a long time.

It’s been tough sledding for the Standard this year. Although COVID itself finally eased up, its residual effects on the local economy have lingered and continue to inhibit our revenue stream. That, of course, on top of all the well-known factors that have severely cut into the advertising revenue that once supported newspapers like the Standard all throughout the country.

Regardless of our ad revenue challenges, we know that our community desperately needs the type of local journalism that the Standard provides. Especially right now. I’ll have more to say about that in the next couple of weeks as our 2022 annual appeal continues.

If you contributed last year, we hope you’ll consider doing so again. We need you. And if you didn’t but can offer us help now, you’ll be one of those we’re searching for to fill the gap in what we need to make ends meet this year.

Thank you for the distinct honor it is to serve you.

Newspapers Are In a Race Against the Clock

Woodstock

Throughout the country newspapers are in a fight for their lives.          Here too.

Race Against The Clock VT Standard Front Page

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