June 20, 2018

PHOTOS: Chicken pie supper

Observer photos by Stephen Mease (www.stevemease.com)

The Williston Federated Church’s annual chicken pie supper on Oct. 15 attracted more than 300 people over three servings.

This Week’s Popcorn

‘50/50’ — odds are you’ll laugh

3 & ½ popcorns

Oct. 13, 2011

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer



Director Jonathan Levine’s “50/50,” about a 27-year-old man stricken with a rare spinal cancer, hardly seems a likely source for levity. But while brazenly demonstrating the opposite, it is testament to the fantastic mental balancing act we are capable of when the chips are down. It is both frightening and inspiring.

The emotional odyssey Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Adam must navigate reminds in part of the heroic rationalization manifested by Roberto Benigni’s Guido Orefice in “Life is Beautiful (1997).” Only here, instead of a Nazi death camp terrorizing the bejesus out of our protagonist, it’s the great unknown and a medical establishment often in disconnect.

And, while for Guido romantic love was his survival instinct’s chief ally, in this case the afflatus is friendship. Seth Rogen as Kyle, smartly transforming the devil-may-care slacker that’s served him so well into a Kiplingesque pal, has Adam’s back, literally and figuratively. Of course he’s not above using the situation to further his womanizing ways.

Such a friend can come in handy, especially after act one, scene two. In the cold, sterile doctor’s office, an equally chilly physician matter-of-factly rattles off some technical terms. Adam, though certain his ears deceive him, picks up a few words. “But I’m going to be alright, aren’t I?” he asks. The doc shuffles papers. One can never feel more alone.

Thus begins the dreaded process, and what we pray is not our modern day answer to bloodletting. We’re talking chemotherapy and the devastating turmoil it unleashes on body and soul. It also proves a litmus test for Adam’s relationship with Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard), the live-in girlfriend who wants to “be there” for him.

Serving as subplot to the tragicomedy is his relationship with mom, touchingly portrayed by Anjelica Huston. Understandably distraught by the news he hesitatingly relates, what was once just a full plate of troubles for Diane now increases to a veritable buffet. You see, dad has Alzheimer’s disease. And yes, there is comedy in this film.

The thought of getting laughs from this scenario would on first blush seem crass, until you dip into its very special sort of witty madness. It works on several levels. First off, there’s the thing in us that likes to whistle through the graveyard…to thumb our nose at the inevitable. And then there’s the humor that comes with identifying the hidden truth.

But even more profound is the hopeful, self-satisfied smile the film surfaces…the one that separates us from every other beast on the planet. It’s part and parcel of that ennobling spirit that declares, “I’m human, and by gosh someday one of us is going to wipe this vile thing from the face of the Earth.” But right now, Adam isn’t so sure.

Commiserating with the good buddies he meets where the chemo is administered, the gallows humor holds sway. No punches pulled, it’s the cancer patient’s version of “Beau Geste (1939)”…brave men facing up against the odds. That’s where the “50/50” comes from — the statistical chances that Adam will beat this rap. The three are a fine ensemble.

Philip Baker Hall is Alan, the dour oldster. If good-natured cynicism could conquer the scourge, he’d be cancer-free in no time. Matt Frewer is Mitch, the ever-cheerful victim who supplies marijuana-laced treats his wife bakes. Whether or not the weed diminishes the chemo’s side effects, they sure do have a high old time. Sometimes Kyle joins them.

Also supplying succor, or at least really trying hard to, is Anna Kendrick’s Katherine, the hospital’s novitiate therapist assigned to Adam’s case. With both of them inexperienced in the challenge at hand, their ensuing relationship is an innocently engaging series of bicker-filled battles and armistices. To boot, they are opposites in almost every way.

In one comically telling scene, Katherine figures it won’t be unprofessional to offer the non-driving Adam a lift home. The fact that her Volkswagen is totally loaded with empty food wrappers and other sundry garbage isn’t lost on the neat freak. Finally, no longer able to take it, he orders her to pull over and thoroughly cleans out the car. Ah, catharsis.

Thus, unless we’re mistaken, it looks like that new wrinkle now flitting through their association just might be the early signs of sexual tension. Meanwhile, back at the little bungalow Adam rents, we are beginning to see artist/girlfriend Rachael, increasingly daunted by her beau’s illness, in a new light.

It’s all pretty realistic…except it’s really not. Hold this film up next to the real thing and the differences are harshly evident. Still, it’s a gutsy step displaying the optimism it takes to defeat the foe. Cancer is not whispered. To the contrary, shouting its message, educating and making jokes, “50/50” bets you, 3-1, you find its tale uplifting.


“50/50,” rated R, is a Summit Entertainment release directed by Jonathan Levine and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick. Running time: 99 minutes.


Sports shorts

Oct. 13, 2011



The Champlain Union cross country teams will run at Mills River State Park in Jericho Friday, a race hosted by Mount Mansfield Union. It will be the final tune-up before the district, state and New England championship events. Districts are Oct. 22 in Swanton.

The defending N.E. champion and nationally ranked girls team took on an elite field of competition in New York City last Saturday (Oct. 8) and emerged with a fifth-place finish. CVU had 156 points. Top ranked Fayetteville-Manlius (Syracuse, N.Y.) won the competition.

Taylor Spillane’s 11th-place finish led the Redhawks, followed by Adrianne DeVita (33), Autumn Eastman (38), Sophie Hess (40) and Alexsey Jordick (43).



It has been a knotty campaign for the Champlain Valley Union field hockey team, which heads into its final three games of the regular season Thursday afternoon at Essex (3:45 p.m.)

The Redhawks motored down Vermont 116 to Mount Abraham Tuesday and came away with their fourth deadlock of the season and second with the Eagles, a scoreless affair.

CVU had a 6-4 edge in shots as Redhawks’ goalie Evangeline Dunphy garnered her third blanking of the campaign.

Last Wednesday (Oct. 5), the Hawks (2-5-4) played to a 1-1 tie at home against Mount Mansfield. Sara Reed scored in the second half after the Cougars took a first-half lead.



The Williston Soccer Club is holding open registration for winter indoor leagues at its website, www.willistonsoccerclub.com. Registration closes Oct. 22.


CVU football faces critical contest

Hawks to take on 5-1 Rebels, top Mount Anthony

Oct. 13, 2011

Back on the victory trail after a 28-13 win Friday night (Oct. 7) over Mount Anthony Union in Bennington, head coach Jim Provost and his 5-1 Champlain Valley Union football Redhawks will travel to South Burlington Friday (7 p.m.) and square off against the 5-1 Rebels.

“This is a pivotal game in the playoff jockeying,” Provost said Oct. 9 in a telephone interview with the Observer.

Provost noted that the two teams have similar records and that both were “pretty well handled by BFA.” The Redhawks had a four-game winning streak snapped by the Bobwhites, 48-0, two weeks ago. The St. Albans ground pounders popped South Burlington, 30-13, two weeks before that.

The Hawks and Rebels have questions at key running back slots. CVU lost junior yardage eater Nick Ferrentino with an angry ankle in the first quarter against Mount Anthony. Provost said Ferrentino is “questionable” for Friday night. Backup scatback Patrick Shea has been out with a concussion and is day-to-day.

South Burlington was without star runner Connor Devarney for a few games but he got some touches Saturday when the Rebels rolled to a 41-18 victory over Mount Mansfield.

CVU’s senior quarterback Drew Nick was spot on in Friday’s trip to Vermont’s tropical climes, passing for three touchdowns and dashing five yards for another.

“Drew had an unbelievable night,” said Provost, adding that the signal caller had 22 pass completions.

One of the scoring pitches, a 37-yard hookup, went to junior Davis Mikell — making his varsity football debut. Another touchdown toss went to Ryan Fleming, typically a linebacker who put in some time in the CVU backfield as a fullback.

Nick’s final six-point pass was to end Trevor Kennedy with just over seven minutes left in the contest, which sealed the decision.

Ryan Beaudry’s goal line interception and 28-yard return with 2:07 remaining snuffed out the Patriots’ last spark.

“Beaudry had a big night on both sides of the ball,” Provost said of the 6-foot-4 receiver/defender.

— Mal Boright and Peter Foutz compiled this report.


CVU Sports Schedule

Oct. 13, 2011




Friday: at Mount Mansfield (Mill River State Park), 4 p.m.



Thursday: at Essex, 3:45 p.m.

Monday; at Middlebury, 3:45 p.m.

Wednesday: BURLINGTON, 3:45 p.m.

End regular season



Friday: at South Burlington, 7 p.m.



Friday: ESSEX, 4 p.m.

Tuesday: BFA-ST.ALBANS, 4 p.m.



Thursday: COLCHESTER, 4 p.m.

Wednesday: SOUTH BURLINGTON, 4 p.m.


Schedules subject to change


CVU boys soccer’s winning streak reaches seven

Oct. 13, 2011

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The Champlain Valley Union High boys soccer team, in its quest for the top seed in the fast-approaching Division 1 playdowns, opened the final four games of the regular season Wednesday (after Observer press deadline) with a trip to Burlington (7-1-1 as of Tuesday).

The 7-2 Essex Hornets will invade the Redhawks’ nest Friday afternoon with BFA-St. Albans rolling into Hinesburg next Tuesday.

Coach T. J. Mead’s 9-1 Red and White had to scramble Monday for a 2-1 victory over visiting Brattleboro (4-6) despite an almost total domination of play. It was CVU’s seventh straight victory.

The packed-in Colonels’ defenders, with help from crossbars and posts, held CVU to goals by Shane Haley (first half) and Tucker Shelley (second half). Brattleboro’s active goalkeeper, Galen Finnerty, made 15 stops — including some that were absolute robbery. As CVU shooters Zack Evans, Todd Forrester and Chad Bateman among others can no doubt attest, somewhere the ghost of Jesse James is smiling.

Haley’s score came with just less than 25 minutes to go in the first half, assisted by Ben Comai.

CVU had such an edge in territorial play that keeper Brandon O’Connell did not touch the ball until there were eight minutes left in the half, and he came out of the cage to scoop up the sphere in a non-save situation.

Brattleboro tied the game at 28:09 in the second half when Cesar Moore tucked a long and hard direct kick just under the crossbar at the right corner of the cage. O’Connell, who had three saves, had no chance.

The winning goal came with 19:14 remaining in the game when Shelley headed in a perfect set up from Sam Raszka.

On Oct. 8, Raszka had a pair of goals and Comai netted one to lead CVU past North Country in Newport, 3-0. The Redhawks outshot the Falcons, 14-4.

Hawks girls soccer hunting top seed

Oct. 13, 2011

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

TOP: Champlain Valley Union senior captain Shelby Hanlon (25) fends off an Essex defender during the Redhawks’ 2-0 win on Oct. 7. Hanlon scored one of the goals. BOTTOM: CVU’s Kristen Place (right) tries to take possession from an Essex player. (Observer photos by Shane Bufano)

Two teams with winning records will give the high flying Champlain Valley girls soccer team some homefield work before coach Brad Parker’s Redhawks close out the regular season at Burlington on Oct. 21.

Colchester (5-3-1) comes to Hinesburg Thursday and 8-2 South Burlington is at the Hawks’ nest on Oct. 19.

CVU traveled to Mount Mansfield Tuesday and hiked its record to 10-0-1 with a 3-0 triumph. Audrey Morehouse’s goal broke a scoreless tie midway through the second half. Shelby Hanlon and Sophia Steinhoff then added goals (Mackenzie Kingston assists).

Heliana Burhans also had an assist at the Redhawks outshot the Cougars, 12-3, in racking up their ninth shutout.

The Redhawks went to 7-2 Essex on Oct. 7 and put away the Hornets, 2-0, on goals by Kate Raszka and Hanlon. CVU’s defense was mighty again, holding the Hornets without a serious offensive threat.

Raszka scored about halfway through the first half on Burhans’ rebound, created after the sophomore speed merchant unleashed a blast from the left side of the net.

Hanlon got loose inside the Essex defense after getting a forward pass from alert midfielder Taylor Goldsborough and fired a hard shot past Essex goalie Lara Collins with less than four minutes gone in the second half.

Goldsborough led the CVU defense as the “Sherriff of the Midfield.” She broke up Essex possessions before the Hornets could organize an attack and maintained order, keeping the game at the Essex side of the field.

On a couple of occasions, when an Essex player with the ball did get near the CVU net, back Abby Eddy was there to clear the ball and threat.

CVU keeper Bryn Philibert was credited with three saves. Collins had 12 stops for the Hornets.

On Oct. 5, Goldsborough, Burhans and Morehouse nailed the goals in the Hawks 3-1 home victory over Burlington. Goldsborough and Burhans also had assists

CVU goalie Sarah Monteith made two saves wwhile her mates fired 15 shots on the BHS net.

Cemetery Commission questions its role

Longtime members may resign due to loss of responsibility

Oct. 13, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

The upkeep of Williston cemeteries like Thomas Chittenden’s (above) has been assumed largely by the town’s Public Works Department — leading Cemetery Commission members to question whether they need to continue serving. (Observer photo by Adam White)

Five generations of Lynwood Osborne’s family are laid to rest in Williston. For the past three decades, the lifelong town resident has dutifully looked after their final resting places — and those of many others — through his role on the Cemetery Commission.

“I have always taken a lot of pride in how the cemeteries are kept up,” Osborne said.

But Osborne and Joan Pentowski — the second longest serving of the Commission’s four current members — said they are likely to resign this winter. With the town’s Public Works Department assuming more responsibility for cemetery maintenance, the Commissioners have been left feeling powerless to do a job they always took seriously, despite being volunteers.

“I think this has snowballed more than we ever thought it would, to the point where we have nothing left to do,” Osborne said.

He referenced a list of upkeep issues left unaddressed in local cemeteries.

“Had it been left the way it was, everything on this list would have gotten done; instead, none of it has,” Osborne continued. “The town doesn’t seem to care so much about putting in the money to properly keep up a cemetery. It’s at the bottom of the ladder.”

Chairman Paul Young made reference to the Commission’s unrest when he appeared, along with fellow member Bea Harvey, at the Selectboard’s Oct. 3 meeting. Young warned the Board that two members might resign, a problem compounded by a vacancy left open since March and Harvey’s potential exit from the Commission when her term expires this spring.

“If she doesn’t take that term on next year, that leaves just me,” Young said. “I have a problem with that.”

Young said the Commission was concerned about its decreased involvement in cemetery upkeep, particularly in regard to managing expenditures.

“We have money being spent on cemeteries, and the Cemetery Commissioners don’t have any clue what it’s being spent on,” Young said. “We don’t think that’s the way it should be done.”

Young reiterated that point prior to the Commission’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, saying the financial report he is given is largely devoid of itemized expenditures.

“We’re sort of blind,” Young said. “I can tell you that we’ve spent $9,000 so far this year, but I can’t tell you what it was spent on.”

Town manager Rick McGuire said the reshaping of the Commission’s role has occurred over time, but was at least partially dictated by concerns raised by former chairman Don Phillips about the Commission’s ability to adequately supervise an employee, in this case sexton Bob Gokey.

“Full-time, paid staff are in a better position to do that than part-time, volunteer employees,” McGuire said.

McGuire added that a “falling out” between a contractor hired by the town to dig graves and a member of the Cemetery Commission also played a part in shifting responsibility to Public Works.

“It was a crucial private contractor who would not have been easy to replace,” McGuire said.

Osborne said the disagreement stemmed from regulations the Commission drafted last winter involving how the placement of dirt affects memorial services. He said members were disappointed that town officials chose to circumvent them rather than consider their position.

“Our feeling was the Selectboard or Town Manager should have called us together to hear our side of it,” Osborne said. “Instead, they just turned it over to (Public Works Director) Bruce Hoar to handle. That made us wonder why we’re even here.”

The responsibilities mainly handled by Harvey — the showing and sale of burial plots and coordination of paperwork following funerals — remain vital parts of the Commission’s role, according to McGuire. He added that Hoar has been tasked with developing a charge for the Commission, outlining exactly what its duties are.

“Their role may have shifted, but that doesn’t mean it is any less needed,” McGuire said. “It may be less hands-on and more focused on policy, but it is no less important.”

But that clarification of responsibilities may not be enough to keep the present members from walking away, according to Pentowski.

“They need to define what they expect of us, then it’s up to us to decide if it’s something we want to do,” she said.

‘No happy endings’ in Haunted Forest

Outdoor theater event twists fairy tales into nightmares

Oct, 13, 2011

By Adam White

Observer staff

This year’s Haunted Forest at Catamount Family Outdoor Center in Williston will feature a ‘Twisted Fairy Tale’ theme, showing the darker side of some classic fables. The annual Halloween tradition showcases the creativity of people like (from left to right) Nick Fry, Michelle Gates and Kathleen Porter — Westford residents who lend their technical, organizational and dramatic support. (Observer photo by Adam White)

The Haunted Forest’s 13th year in Williston should prove to be unlucky for people who dare to wander into its dark depths.

An annual Halloween tradition, the Haunted Forest takes shape every October through the efforts of a non-profit organization called “Fun For Change.” More than 400 volunteers help transform the trail network at Catamount Outdoor Family Center into the largest outdoor theatrical event in Vermont, aimed at scaring jack-o’-lantern-sized smiles onto hundreds of faces.

“This year’s theme is ‘Twisted Fairy Tales,’” said Michelle Gates, Fun For Change’s lone employee and the managerial director of the Haunted Forest. “It’s like these classic fairy tales have been trapped in the forest, and there are no more happy endings.”

In fitting with that theme, guests will be introduced to the Haunted Forest by the Brothers Grimm — whose stories are a natural fit for the shadowy atmosphere and Halloween spirit of the event.

“Some of them don’t need to be twisted, because they are pretty dark already,” Gates said. “They were written to scare kids into behaving.”

Many of the Haunted Forest’s traditional elements will remain this year. The Pumpkin King — who lorded over a demonic dance party in the climactic final scene of last season’s event — will be featured earlier on this year, along with a “sinister Mother Goose,” according to Gates. The classic maze near the start of the Forest walk will be supplemented by a second, labyrinth-like “Dot Room.”

New additions will include special visual and sound effects, as well as a riddle that guests will try to solve as they progress through the different scenes.

Though the Haunted Forest entails hundreds of performances during its six-day run, the actors involved avoid a sense of monotony by switching repeatedly between scenes and roles.

“It’s a story that keeps evolving,” said 27-year-old Kathleen Porter of Westford, who played a devil, a wax museum guest and a storyteller in last year’s Haunted Forest. “There is a lot of improvisation that goes on; by the final night, some of the lines have taken on a life of their own.”

Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with the production. Last year, cold and rainy weather was almost like an extra character in the Haunted Forest — but Porter and company weren’t fazed.

“By the time we got the last group out on the last night, it was after midnight,” she said. “It was freezing cold and it had been raining all day, but time just flew by — it was awesome.”

The talent that goes into the Haunted Forest isn’t all on display, either. The production crew spends upward of an hour and a half lighting (and subsequently re-lighting, repeatedly) the more than 1,000 jack-o’-lanterns that line the Forest’s path, and work behind the scenes to keep the show running smoothly.

“One of the hardest parts is not being seen while we’re following the groups through the woods,” said 16-year-old Nick Fry of Westford.

The 31st annual Haunted Forest will be held at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston on October 20-22 and 27-29, with evening performances between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. A children’s matinee will also take place on Oct. 29. Tickets are available online at www.hauntedforest.org, or at the Alpine Shop in South Burlington. A free pumpkin-carving event will be held at Catamount on Oct. 15 and 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with refreshments and prizes including Halloween costumes.

Deb Beckett comes home

Town clerk returns after yearlong deployment in Iraq

Oct. 13, 2011

By Steven Frank

Observer staff

Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett is back serving the community after spending the last year serving the country in Iraq with the Vermont Army National Guard. (Observer photo by Steven Frank)

Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett is proof that one can go home again.

Beckett returned to The Green Mountain State over Labor Day weekend following a one-year deployment to Iraq with the Vermont Army National Guard. She returned to her office inside Williston Town Hall, and resumed civic duties on Oct. 3.

A 25-year veteran of the National Guard, Beckett had another tour of duty in the Middle East in 2005 — spending a year in Kuwait with Task Force Green Mountain.

After spending much of the last month reacclimating herself to life in Vermont after serving the country, Beckett is happy to be back serving the Williston community.

“It is great, but I’m happy I took the month off,” said Beckett, who was an administrator for the Co. C 3/126 Aviation (Air Ambulance) in Iraq. “It’s nice to see the maple trees outside. The trees (in Iraq) are so devoid of color, everything is very muted and sun drenched.”

Beckett isn’t the only one happy about her return.

“It’s great to have her back,” said Rick McGuire, town manager. “On a personal level, we enjoy each other’s company. It’s nice to have someone that you know you can work well with.”

Beckett, who chose Mexicali Grill & Cantina in Williston for her first meal upon landing on Vermont soil, worked approximately 60 hours a week and stayed within an area of approximately one square mile just outside Baghdad.

Despite being confined to a small space and wishing she could drive her Chevy Camaro instead of bicycles and pickup trucks, Beckett used technology to bridge some of the 5,000-mile gap. A longtime member of the Williston Federated Church, Beckett accessed an audio and video feed of the church’s Palm Sunday service via Skype.Beckett also used Skype on her personal computer to check out the sights and sounds of the town’s Independence Day parade.

“It’s better than nothing at all and broke up the 15-hour days,” Beckett said.

Beckett said her broadband Internet connection “was more reliable” in Iraq than it was during her first tour of duty, which was dial-up. That allowed her to send and receive more e-mails.

Another fact that made Beckett’s last tour harder: her children were then teenagers.

“My son was in high school, my daughter was in eighth grade so this was a lot easier,” she said, “but you still worry about something happening at home. You don’t have that control.”

Beckett will no longer have that concern. The 54-year-old is retiring from the National Guard, which will be effective in January.

“I’ve done my part,” said Beckett, who started in the U.S. Air Force ROTC when she went to college in the 1970s and worked in public affairs when she joined the National Guard.

Beckett, who was elected to a three-year term on Town Meeting Day in March, is now doing her part in Williston again — including but not limited to overseeing tax and water bill collections, local election results and license issuances.

“I love the whole dynamic, everything with elections. I love the whole process. Coming from a part of the world where you don’t see that, it really makes you appreciate things,” said Beckett, who credited assistant clerk Kathy Smardon and assistant treasurer Kathy Boyden for “keeping things running smoothly” in her absence.

Editor’s Note: Two other Williston residents, Keith Roy and Georgette Kandzior, were deployed to Iraq with Beckett as part of the Vermont Army National Guard. All three returned home the same day.