May 26, 2018

PHOTOS: Variety show

March 17, 2011

Photos by Kayla Walters

The 12th annual Variety Show at Williston Central School took place on March 11. The event is a fundraiser for Families As Partners.

PHOTOS: Champlain Valley Youth Wrestling Club

March 17, 2011

Courtesy photos by Jennifer Olson

The future of Champlain Valley Union High School wrestling was on display on March 12 when the Champlain Valley Youth Wrestling Club participated at the Otter Valley Tournament.

PHOTOS: CVU girls basketball versus Rice in Division I state final

March 17, 2011

Courtesy photos by Scott Yates

The Champlain Valley girls basketball team lost to Rice Memorial in the Division I girls basketball final on March 10, 45-36.

PHOTOS: CVU boys hockey championship

March 17, 2011

Courtesy photos by David Yandell

The Champlain Valley Union boys hockey team became the Division I state champions on March 15 with a 1-0 victory over Essex.

This Week’s Popcorn – “The Adjustment Bureau”

March 17, 2011

A Twist of Fate

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer

Filmgoers who welcome hypothesis, wonder, and flight of fancy in their celluloid outings will most likely appreciate director George Nolfi’s “The Adjustment Bureau.”

A witty sci-fi/romance concept adapted from the Philip K. Dick (“Blade Runner,” “Total Recall”) short story, it is convivially brought to life by principals Emily Blunt and Matt Damon.

Tackling one of our favorite mysteries of the universe and traipsing through a few related quandaries along its alternately thoughtful and adventurous way, the suspenseful tale isn’t afraid to ponder outside the box. Fellow travelers soon buy into the creative conjecture, allowing themselves to be wafted about in the inspired system it envisions.

As is oft opined in science fiction and, depending on the circumstances, either heartily welcomed or met with absolute terror, we are not alone. But in this case it’s initially uncertain if this is a good or bad thing. Put simply, someone’s sticking his or her nose in humanity’s business.

The revelation comes after U.S. Senate candidate David Norris (Matt Damon) doesn’t spill his coffee as ordained, and thus once again bumps into Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) who, as the plot conundrum goes, may or may not be his truly intended. You see, these secret agent-looking guys suddenly appear and order a stop to all billing and cooing.

Now, said dudes normally shun direct contact with their clients. But when it’s apparent that their lovesick politician isn’t the sort who’s easily dissuaded, a face-to-face is necessary. They read him the riot act. Move on, buddy. Find another girl. “But why?” he beseeches. “It’s just not how the Chairman has written it,” they inform.

Chairman? Is he, uh, you know? And that, dear reader, is for the Adjustment Bureau agents to know and for Damon’s character and we other mere mortals to find out. Hopefully that will occur before this possibly star-crossed love affair is sent to the recycling bin. In other words, it’s the Olympians messing in Cupid’s bailiwick, American style.

With “this can’t be wrong” as his passionate battle cry, it’s en garde as far as Matt Damon’s determined David is concerned. At threat of being “reset” (essentially lobotomized) if he divulges his knowledge of their existence, he sets out to deter the ubiquitous Adjustment Bureau from extinguishing love’s flame. Elise is flummoxed.

What’s a gal to think? He calls and then he doesn’t…sometimes for curiously long periods of time. Only we know he’s fighting the good fight, trying to outsmart these grim intercessors. Suffice it to note, it’s not easy if your adversary is the sort of fellow who can walk through a door on a skyscraper roof and wind up on the grass at Yankee Stadium.

Historically, we loyal supporters of all things good have backed every manner of heroic combatant. But hey, this is fate itself David is challenging. What’s more, the enemy stoops to tantalizing him with hints of a great political future if he ceases and desists. But let’s not be too quick to sell us humans short. Bear in mind, we have a secret weapon.

I mean, we wouldn’t want to call the songwriter who said, “Love is a many-splendored thing” a liar. He did win the Oscar in 1955. And let’s not forget the Virgil-attributed “Love conquers all.” We’re either a bunch of babbling idiots or there’s something to this love stuff we’ve been spouting. Now is as good time as any to see if it’s true.

I’m all for love, in movies and real life, even if I am at times hard-pressed to differentiate between the two mediums. However, the most important qualification to accepting that show of affection is in being convinced that it’s entirely genuine. And in the case of “The Adjustment Bureau,” it is apparent Damon and Co. aren’t just pulling our heartstrings.

So, like ardent fans out to see their team win, we don our idealistic attitude and cheer: “Let’s go free will, let’s go free will! Boo predestination! We can love anyone we want, when we want! Hooray right brain thinking!” Gosh. The very idea of what it means to be human depends on how our young lovers fare. Psst. We may have an ally.

While all the mystery men are superbly portrayed, the Bureau’s Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) doesn’t seem quite as anal as company wonk Richardson (John Slattery) or hatchet man Thompson (Terence Stamp). Think Claude Rains’s Captain Renault to Bogey’s Rick or Henry Travers’s Clarence to Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey.

Caution is urged. Strict constructionists who didn’t do enough finger painting in kindergarten may find their sense of order upset by the imaginative mix of adventure and romanticism. But for those who believe that the best things in life result when you dare color outside the lines, seeing “The Adjustment Bureau” should definitely be in the cards.

“The Adjustment Bureau,” rated PG-13, is a Universal Pictures release directed by George Nolfi and stars Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and Anthony Mackie. Running time: 106 minutes

Everyday Gourmet


March 17, 2011

By Kim Dannies

A lover of all things Irish, I always have my eye on the Emerald Isle. Today will not mark a happy St. Patrick’s Day there, or any day soon, I fear. Irish eyes are crying as their once flush economy has been flushed down the toilet by banks busting to the tune of $10 trillion. The Irish have set a new standard of economic destruction in an era of mind-boggling bank blunders.

With unemployment at 14 percent, the Irish are drinking at home, or leaving home permanently. The local pubs, once the political and cultural heartbeat of a community, are feeling the nasty pinch and closing in record numbers. While one in three beers is still a Guinness, the brand has dropped 8 percent since December. Despite a $93 billion bailout of the country’s banks, this once robust island has been rocked to its core.

For comfort I turn to “The Ballymaloe Cookbook” by Myrtle Allen. Myrtle embodies the essence of stability during times of distress. Her cooking is the most earthy, clean food I have ever had the pleasure of eating. Back in the 1970s, she single-handedly put Irish cooking on the map, where it thrives today. Maybe Allen’s hard-working, passionate style is just what the Irish need to get back to the green.

Myrtle Allen’s Brown Bread

4 cups whole-wheat flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon salt

Put the whole-wheat flour in a large mixing bowl and place in a warm oven. The flour and bowl should be warm when making the bread. Dissolve yeast in 4 ounces of warm water; blend in the molasses. Let proof. Add another 4 ounces of water. Combine the flour, yeast mixture, and salt. Add enough warm water to create wet, sticky dough. Place in a buttered 9-by-5-by-3-inch bread tin. Cover; set in a warm spot. Rise bread to 1/3 its original size. Preheat the oven and bake at 450 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove bread from the pan and leave on the rack of a cooling oven for 20 minutes.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to

Rice proves to be difficult diet for CVU

March 17, 2011

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Yes, they divided two regular season games and their meeting and on March 10, in the Division I girls basketball championship game at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick gym, the rubber match between Champlain Valley Union and Rice Memorial took place.

For a while, the crowning contest was almost another split. But, after the fifth-seeded Redhawks led 18-12 with less than two minutes to go until halftime, the third-seeded Green Knights went on a roll that carried them to a dramatic four-point intermission lead and an eventual 45-36 triumph.

In winning its first state crown since 2001, Rice closed the season with a 19-5 record.
CVU was 17-7.

One could almost get away with calling Rice the Krispies since they pop from all over the place. Critical to the Knights’ triumph were their six bombs in 22 tries from beyond the three-point arc. CVU, a chilly 26.5 percent from the floor, hit only 1 of 12 from the far reaches.

Rice also took away CVU’s often effective transition game. The Redhawks had just three assists on their 13 hoops – they averaged between approximately 10 per game.

“Rice deserves all the credit,” CVU coach Jeff Evans said immediately after the game. “They made the adjustments and did what they had to do.”

But the defensive-minded Redhawks ruled early as floor general Carlee Evans’s eight points and forward Lazrin Schenck’s four helped provide the 18-12 lead.

With the clock showing well under two minutes in the half, Rice freshman Hailee Barron (15 points) launched the first of two treys.

Operating out of a full court press, Rice defenders forced a CVU turnover and Williston resident Ellen Boucher (13 points, five rebounds) knocked in a jumper from the elbow. Another CVU turnover and Barron struck again from downtown.

After a timeout and the clock down to just seconds, Rice produced another turnover, and got the ball to Reagan Jewell for a layup at the buzzer and a 22-18 halftime.

After CVU got back to within 22-20 on two Shae Hulbert free throws early in the third quarter, Rice slowly pulled away to a six-point edge by the end of the reel and to a 42-28 lead before the Redhawks managed a furious 8-1 rally in the final two minutes.

Coach Evans, in the late stages, threw a double Kinneston at Rice with sisters Amanda and Emily at the guard slots along with Carlee Evans. Armanda Kinneston and Evans each bagged a pair of charity tosses before Evans passed to freshman Emily Kinneston for a base line twin-bracer, which got CVU to within 43-36 with 1:29 remaining.

The Redhawks got the ball back twice but couldn’t generate additional points while Boucher knocker down two free flips with 35 seconds left to seal the deal.

Carlee Evans paced the CVU scorers with 14 points, five rebounds, and an assist in her senior year finale. Hulbert, also a senior, had six points but climbed the boards for a game-high 13 rebounds. She also blocked three shots. Senior Amanda Kinneston, all over the floor defensively, had six points, six rebounds and five steals.

Rice returns juniors Boucher and Emma Chicoine, a Williston resident who had one point and two rebounds.  Freshman Barron, who ran the offense from point guard, is also coming back.

Crowds of supporters for both teams were large and enthusiastic, which lent a charged atmosphere to the proceedings.

For the second time in its last two appearances in the D-I championship, CVU was without a starter after an injury in the semifinal. Junior center Remi Donnelly went down with a knee injury early in CVU’s victory over South Burlington. In 2008, the Redhawks lost starting guard Katie Lavalette to a fractured hand in a semifinal win prior to a loss to Mount Anthony in the title tilt.

Redhawks bring championship home to roost

March 17, 2011

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

When the final buzzer sounded Tuesday night on the Champlain Valley Union boys hockey’s tense and thrilling 1-0 victory over top-seeded Essex in the Division I championship game at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Field House, the red shirted winners all bolted to the left of the cage and mobbed their goalie, junior Jason O’Brien.

The massive pile-on, which included all team members and accompanied by roars of approval from the huge turnout of Redhawk supporters, was a testament to the heroics the big netminder put forth all night with his quick mitt and heft.

In racking up his second shutout in three playoff games, O’Brien stopped 29 Essex shots with his glove, pads, skates and dervish-like moves with his body.

In one nerve-roiling time midway through the second period, after the lone penalty call of the contest sent a CVU man off for two minutes on a tripping call, O’Brien came up with six stops in the frantic two minutes of shorthanded defense against a dogged Essex power play, aided by the screaming Redhawk boosters at the his side.

“That really helped, hearing the cheering that was going on,” the goalie said after the game.

He also gave credit to his defense (led by veterans Erick MacLean, Wilson Yandell and others) for “having my back all night.”

The lone goal did not come until there were just six minutes left in the final period, led up to by an unusual circumstance.

Senior Kyle Logan, who has been a pass master extraordinaire during his CVU career, controlled the puck in front of O’Brien as Essex was apparently making a line change. He spotted Robbie Dobrowski alone at the other end of the rink and fired a long pass to him.
Dobrowski, in the Essex end, made a quick turn from an approaching Hornet defender and launched a bullet shot into the high-right corner of the net past a surprised goalie Pat Campbell.

“That was a dream come true,” said Dobrowski of the winning score and his first in the three playoff victories. It was his 37th of the season and 94th of his career.

“I didn’t know what he was doing up there,” said Logan of Dobrowski. “But he had broken out, I got the puck to him and he did his thing.”

The big and noisy crowd of supporters also charged Logan up.

“It’s just crazy, playing in front of a crowd like that,” he said, wide-eyed and grinning.
Logan credited Essex with being “a great team,” but also noted, with a nod to O’Brien, “we have the best goalie in the state.”

Head coach Mike Murray was low-key outside the tumultuous CVU locker room after the game, and talked about a late season renewed emphasis on defense that helped bring the Redhawks back to early season triumphant ways that produced nine straight wins to open the campaign.

“We were getting a lot of goals but losing our focus on the defensive side,” said Murray, who made some line changes to “get better scoring balance.”

He added: “The guys bought into it. Our goals per game went down but we won.”

The Hawks won their last four games to finish 18-4-1.

The previous playoff wins were 1-0 over South Burlington and 3-1 against BFA-St. Albans last Wednesday night at the Gut, a game in which O’Brien had 31 saves in another scintillating performance between the pipes.

Derek Goodwin, Jeffrey Thompson and Ethan Childs, his career first, had the CVU goals. Childs clinched the decision in another cliffhanger with 6:33 left in regulation by tipping in a rocket from MacLean at the point.

Puck shots

• Wednesday night’s crowd for the final was pegged at 3,904. Supporters for both sides were noisy and had the joint jumping and rocking.

• Veteran Essex coach Bill O’Neil had high praise for O’Brien’s work in keeping Essex off the scoreboard.

• It was the second time in three seasons that CVU has bumped off the Hornets in the title match. The two teams met once this regular season and skated to a 1-1 deadlock.

• Kyle Peckham, Steve Jurkiewicz, Ben Adams and Lucas Martin were the Essex sharpshooters who were the most troublesome for the CVU defense.

• CVU had just 14 shots at Campbell, four of those from Dobrowski’s stick. The Redhawks had just two shots on goal in the final 15 minutes, but nailed 50 per cent.

Little Details

More than a potato

March 17, 2011

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

When clouds lift over Ireland, it’s as if God Almighty flips a switch; illuminating emerald, sapphire and diamond jewels of landscape. Grainy images of fields, sea, and countless sheep assume crisp color and clarity. Soggy boots matter no more.

Hiking along the Dingle Peninsula on Ireland’s southwestern coast, my family visited abandoned 19th century stone cottages, ancient circles of stone and promontory forts jutting over jagged Atlantic cliffs. Blood-red bleeding hearts lined our path, dripping with dew or raindrops. We walked deliberately, taking care to avoid thick, black, Harry Potter-esque slugs, fat as a Castro cigar.

Balintaggart House, a hunting lodge built in 1703 and transformed into a cozy hostel, provided clean and comfortable accommodations. We shared the communal kitchen with other families and a group of students from France. Rhythms of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” reverberated amid pots and pans as a French-accented youth sang, “We don’t need no education…,” while chopping vegetables. Our daughter formed fast friendships with  Tawnya and Fionn, friendly Irish kids, as they swatted balls across a ping pong table.

Balintaggart House served as a soup kitchen during The Great Hunger (aka the Irish Potato Famine). The exterior courtyard revealed an enormous cauldron – a relic of the Famine – perched in a corner. My daughter and I role-played cooking and serving of soup for hungry tenant farmers as I tried to relate the tragic consequences of widespread crop failures.

St. Patrick’s Day seems like an appropriate time to reflect on this aspect of Irish history.  While some may enjoy green beer or corned beef, I’m opting to focus on the humble, yet very significant, potato.

Ireland was formally annexed to the United Kingdom in 1801 under the Act of Union.  This small nation experienced explosive growth in the first four decades of the 19th century. Population jumped from 4 million to 8 million – an expression of dire poverty.  Ireland’s predominant Roman Catholicism compounded its stepchild status in the Kingdom. This religious majority sustained and was substantially beaten down by centuries of Penal Laws imposed by the British. Access to education, land ownership and military service – traditional paths toward upward mobility – were hindered or blatantly denied. Land parcels of any significance remained firmly in the hands of British or Anglo-Irish families, most of whom resided in England.

Irish peasants toiled as tenant farmers, squeaking out a subsistent existence while raising crops and livestock for export to Mother England. Landowners collected their revenues – in the form of cash and food product. England’s hearty appetite for beef consumed vast swaths of fertile farmland. Raising cattle is far more resource intensive than growing crops for human consumption. It did not matter. The British felt entitled to their roasts with Yorkshire Pudding.

Small patches of land available to tenant farmers were too scant to support significant livestock. Potatoes were planted for their resilience as a crop and its ability to weather winter storage in dank root cellars. Flavor is a secondary consideration when one is threatened by hunger.

Although Ireland’s potato crop experienced earlier blights, the succession of widespread crop failures from 1845 – 1852 dealt a deathly blow to the Irish. The plant disease, Phytophthora infestans, transformed flowering fields of potatoes to rotting blackness.  Annual harvests were lost. Precious seed potatoes for the next planting season suffered similar fates.

Massive food exports to England continued. British Parliament watched with a casual eye, tossing a few occasional crumbs, as the Irish people suffered. Tenant farmers, unable to pay rent, experienced wholesale evictions. Displaced families and individuals flowed into cities in search of food and shelter from soup kitchens and workhouses. Disease and malnutrition extracted an enormous toll. Desperate, orphaned and approaching hopelessness, thousands upon thousands boarded so-called “coffin ships,” vessels of questionable seaworthiness pointed towards England, Scotland, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

An estimated 1.4 million Irish citizens died during the Famine, and an estimated 1.4 million emigrated in a desperate search for survival.

I am not of Irish descent, and yet, I harbor a special affinity for the small nation which, for centuries, lived within the shadow of a powerful and aggressive neighbor. I consider the many Vermonters I know with Irish blood flowing through their veins and wonder which, if any, are direct descendants and beneficiaries of that desperate migration.

Enjoy corned beef, Irish soda bread, Guinness, green beer, and that humble potato. Raise a mug or tea cup to the courage and resilience of a nation that found a way to persevere.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at or

Places I’ve Played

Not in the spring

March 17, 2011

By Bill Skiff

One afternoon in late March, I was standing in a barnyard on Pleasant Valley Road in Cambridge, talking with an old farmer friend. It was the kind of spring day that made you glad you’re alive: white clouds scattered the brilliant blue sky, patches of snow lingered on the ground, and the smell of mud thickened the air.

We were talking about spring and how wonderful it made us feel, how good it was to feel the sun again, to hear the birds singing, and to see steam drift up from local sugar houses.
At one point the farmer stopped talking. His eyes rose up toward  Mt. Mansfield, then swept over his meadows, and back up to the barn where new lambs were nursing. Finally, his gaze rested on my face.  He was quiet for a moment and then said, “Bill, I hope I don’t die in the spring.”

Every spring for years after that conversation, I have reflected on my friend’s wish. As I have grown  older, his words have taken on a more complex meaning. This morning, as I witnessed another spring approaching, I realized that I, too, do not want to die in the spring.

My friend passed on 10 years ago this February – just before spring. Recently, I felt compelled to write the following poem:

“Not in The Spring”
I hope I don’t die in the spring,
I want to taste Isham’s syrup
and hear the first Robin sing.

I want to hear Dad’s Farmall
burst into life,
I want to feel the sunshine warm
my strife.

Let me wet a worm in a brook
in Stowe.
You know, Lord. I just lived through
six months of snow.

Now February, that’s a good time
to explore.
But please Lord, in the spring,
don’t come knocking on my door.

The grandchildren are coming to
play on the farm,
So Lord, in the spring, please
don’t do me no harm.

When it’s thirty below
and my bones won’t go,
Come on down
and we’ll plan the show.

But when the snows
just melted
and the ground smells sweet
Lord, please stay up yonder
and rest your feet.

‘Cause Lord, I’m sure of just one thing;
I know I don’t want to die in the spring.

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at