June 26, 2019

Haunted Forest brings fright and fun to Williston

Volunteer Bob Carmody, an actor with the Shelburne Players, took on the sinister role of Mr. Knoct during last weekend’s performance at the 32nd annual Haunted Forest. The Haunted Forest, held at Catamount Outdoor Family Center, is set to run from Thursday, Oct. 25 – Saturday, Oct. 27. (Courtesy photo)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

As Halloween approaches, ghouls and ghosts will once again emerge from between the moonlit branches of the Haunted Forest.

“This year, the theme is a haunted carnival,” Managing Director Lizzy Fox said. “Like a spooky, ghostly carnival that’s been condemned to woods.”

Each October, more than 400 volunteers—actors, costume designers, pumpkin carvers, technical crew and more—transform the trails at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center into the largest and longest-running outdoor theater production in the state. By night, the Catamount Center becomes a spooky, sprawling outdoor haunted house, complete with nearly a thousand eerily glowing jack-o-lanterns and a slew of Williston residents-turned-ghouls.

Kathleen Porter and her husband, Devin—longtime Halloween enthusiasts—have volunteered at the Haunted Forest since they moved to Williston three years ago. Starting Thursday, Porter will shed her ordinary appearance and turn into several macabre characters over the show’s three remaining days.

“We both really love Halloween,” Porter said. “We love dressing up and the spooky nature of it … we don’t like the bloody gory Halloween, more the fun, spooky ghostly Halloween.”

The Haunted Forest fits the Porter’s vision of Halloween, with an emphasis on family and fun rather than grisly horror scenes.

“It’s a great way to get into the Halloween spirit, first of all, and a wonderful way to go out with your family,” Porter said. “You bundle up and get some hot cider at the concession stand, and it’s just a great fall event.”

Along with returning favorites, including the Pumpkin King and Brothers of the Forest, a number of unsavory characters will join the cast this year, including a carnival barker and a fortune teller with “questionable means of maintaining a long life,” Fox said.

Attendees are admitted into the Forest in groups of 20 to 25, then escorted through a series of spooky skits along the dark forest paths by a “silent, creepy guide,” she added.

“We rely a lot on the serenity and darkness,” Fox said. “We’re in the depths of night out here at the Catamount Center.”

This year marks the 10th year at the Catamount Center and the 32nd year since the Haunted Forest began at the Green Mountain Audubon Center in Huntington. Despite having to cancel the Haunted Forest’s opening night on Oct. 20 due to stormy weather, Saturday night was packed, Fox said.

“The Haunted Forest really is a Vermont tradition,” Fox said. “If you haven’t been to it, you’re really missing out on a key part of fall.”


The Haunted Forest is set to run from Thursday, Oct. 25 – Saturday, Oct. 27. Showings are at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. on Thursday, and 7, 8, 9 and 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $12.50. There are children’s matinee shows on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. for $8.50. For more information or tickets, visit www.thehauntedforest.org.

Water, sewer, affordable housing initiatives approved

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

After cancelling its Oct. 1 meeting for lack of agenda items, the Williston Selectboard made up for lost time Monday with the approval of a variety of initiatives, including the selection of a preferred set of alternatives for stormwater mitigation in the Lamplite Acres neighborhood, the chartering of an affordable housing task force and the authorization of a three-year sewer allocation extension for Cottonwood Crossing.

The Cottonwood project—a mixed-use subdivision proposal that calls for 55,200 square feet of retail space, 26,000 square feet of office space and 118 dwelling units on the site of the former driving range on Williston Road—has been in a holding pattern since September 2011, when Target Corp. revealed its interest in building a store at the same location.

Al Senecal of Omega Real Estate Associates Inc., who previously received site plan approval from the Williston Development Review Board for Cottonwood Crossing, told the Selectboard on Monday that the Cottonwood project represents plan B if the “large retailer” (i.e., Target) decides to abandon its pursuit of the driving range parcel.

“There has been no decision on that large retailer, but we do intend if that does fall through to continue our Cottonwood Crossing project—that being the reason why we’re looking for an extension of the sewer allocation,” Senecal said. “We’re waiting to hear what that large retailer plans to do.”

Before moving to approve the sewer allocation extension, Selectboard member Debbie Ingram put in a plug for the Cottonwood concept.

“Cottonwood Crossing has always been one of my favorite projects that has come to the town,” Ingram said. “I think it’s a wonderful model of mixed-use dwelling and retail and commercial.”


At the Sept. 24 Selectboard meeting, there was general agreement on a plan to alleviate stormwater flooding in the Lamplite Acres neighborhood by installing infiltration trenches and roadside rain gardens in flood-prone areas of the neighborhood.

However, Deputy Chairman Jeff Fehrs requested that a decision on the matter be deferred, in case residents wanted to weigh in. On Monday, Fehrs said he received no feedback from residents.

“I got no ecstatic phone calls supporting it, no angry calls opposing it and I haven’t come up with any reasons why not to move forward with it,” Fehrs said.

The proposal was unanimously approved.


The idea of creating a task force to address Williston’s lack of affordable housing was first raised by Kenn Sassorossi of Housing Vermont during the Selectboard’s annual retreat on June 25.

On Monday, Williston Director of Planning and Zoning Ken Belliveau proposed that the task force should have between six and 10 members, including one representative from the Selectboard, one or more representatives from either the Williston Planning Commission or Development Review Board and one or more representatives from a nonprofit agency that specializes in affordable housing.

Belliveau said the charge of the task force should be broken into two phases: a detailed assessment of current housing conditions, and the development of a set of policy recommendations.

Fehrs proposed that the task force should also examine the concept of the town acting in a fiduciary capacity to ensure the perpetual affordability of housing units.

“What is it that the town ought to be doing, and what is our role? That’s really what I want the task force to focus on,” Fehrs said.

The board ultimately approved the chartering of the task force as outlined by Belliveau, with the additional language suggested by Fehrs.


Belliveau stuck around for the evening’s last order of business: a consideration of a set of amendments to the town’s Unified Development Bylaw.

The more than 60 changes—many of which were housekeeping items involving typographical fixes—previously received the blessing of the Planning Commission on Oct. 2.

The one sticking point at the Selectboard meeting involved permitted uses in the Industrial Zoning District East, which includes the Williston portion of the IBM campus.

While the Selectboard agreed with Belliveau and the Planning Commission’s assessment that the use of “computer systems design and related services” should be added to the bylaw to reflect the current scope of IBM’s Williston operations, a permit application that Belliveau received Monday morning added an unforeseen wrinkle to the matter.

Belliveau told the Selectboard that he was forced to deny an application by People’s United Bank for an estimated $1.25 million renovation to an existing office space on the IBM campus, due to the fact that banking related services are not included in the permitted uses of the IZDE.

“There’s nothing in the range of uses today for this zoning district that would allow that,” Belliveau said.

Selectboard member Chris Roy suggested that it might be prudent to do a wholesale revision of the zoning district’s bylaws, rather than selectively add a permitted use as the need arises.

“Why wouldn’t we throw everything and the kitchen sink in there as far as commercial and industrial uses, so that we have maximum flexibility?” Roy asked.

On a motion by Roy, the board agreed to remand the IZDE zoning question back to the Planning Commission for further analysis.

The Planning Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 6.

CVU thespians ‘Greased’ up and ready for the spotlight

Champlain Valley Union High School students Seamus Buxton and Juliet Walsh act out a scene as Danny and Sandy in a dress rehearsal for CVU’s fall musical, ‘Grease.’ (Courtesy photo)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Danny, Sandy, Kenickie, Rizzo and the rest of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies will take the stage at Champlain Valley Union High School on Thursday night for the first of four performances of “Grease,” the definitive musical play of teen angst and raging hormones.

Set in the late 1950s, “Grease” premiered on Broadway in 1972 and didn’t close until 1980, after 3,388 performances. But perhaps better known today is the 1978 film version, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as Danny and Sandy, the star-crossed lovers whose summer dreams are ripped at the seams by the start of senior year at Rydell High.

CVU Theatre Program Director Candy Padula said the CVU production is based on the 2007 Broadway revival of “Grease,” which incorporates some music from the film version but is mostly faithful to the original play by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.

“In the film, most of the big numbers are shared by Sandy and Danny, so the movie was really geared to highlight their big stars,” Padula said. “The wealth is spread out much more evenly in the play, so that’s nice, because we have a lot of talented kids.”

Padula said that in past years the CVU fall musical has consisted of three performances. She said she added a fourth show this year because of the enduring popularity of “Grease.”

“Everybody seems to love ‘Grease,’” she said.

That includes sophomore Juliet Walsh of Shelburne, who will play Sandy in the upcoming production.

“I’ve been watching the movie since I was little, and I’ve always loved it,” Walsh said. “So it was exciting to get to play Sandy.”

Walsh noted that she has used motivation from her personal memory bank to avoid imitation of Newton-John’s iconic performance.

“I try to stay true to my own interpretation and try not to compare myself to other performances I’ve seen,” she said. “I try to bring my own experiences and keep it truthful to myself. Because it’s set in high school and the kids are about our age, I think I’ve had a lot of the experiences Sandy has, and it’s relatively easy for me to connect.”

Charlotte resident Seamus Buxton, a junior, will play opposite Walsh in the role of Danny. His approach to his character is similar to his leading lady, although he admitted that the shadow of Travolta looms large.

“There’s definitely certain attributes that you have to bring to the part that Travolta exemplified so well, just that kind of swagger,” Buxton said. “So I did try to imitate that a little bit, as well as putting my own personal spin on the character.”

Buxton, who observed that ticket sales have been strong thus far, said he and his fellow cast members are prepared for a packed house.

“The whole cast is excited and we’re ready to put on a show for everybody,” Buxton said.

The Co-Curricular CVU Theatre Program will present four performances of “Grease:” Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $6 for students, children, faculty and staff. For more information about ticket availability, click the CVU Theatre link on the CVU website (www.cvuhs.org).

PHOTOS: CVU boys soccer


By Kim Dannies

A friend sent me this kitschy and it made me realize why fuses DO seem shorter and the line between mere decorum and actual aggression grows blurrier as the autumn days grow darker. Triggering the state of “hangry” creates ugly consequences for us and for the innocent victims in our immediate vicinity. It’s the food equivalent of Flip Wilson’s “the devil made me do it.”

When the body starts to feel hungry (the Brits call it “peckish”) levels of the brain chemical serotonin dip, erupting rabid emotions like anxiety and crabbiness. These fluctuating serotonin levels affect the brain regions that enable us to regulate anger, making us prone to aggression when hungry. The onset of dark winter days compounds this problem.

Williston’s own Dr. Deb Norton says that “not satisfying hunger, for example, when you are dieting or simply don’t have time to eat can cause low blood sugar or clinical hypoglycemia. This happens to a varying degree amongst those of us who do not have diabetes (folks with diabetes can have profound hypoglycemia that can lead to dangerous circumstances). The brain is one of the vital organs that is deprived of sugar or energy during periods of low blood sugar causing symptoms like irritability and moodiness.”

You are human. You ARE going to get hungry. So don’t allow a failure to plan healthy snacks curdle encounters with colleagues and friends. Stick to the rules of the jungle: keep calm, share your bananas, and refrain from patronizing Krispy Kreme shops. And, do your part for world peace: load up a small cooler with the foods that boost serotonin intake such as pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, avocado, dates, bananas, rolled oats, peanut butter, almond butter, fruits and veggies, whole grain crackers, deli turkey, cottage cheese, chocolate milk (and a bit of dark chocolate won’t hurt either).


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

Around Town

Williston Children’s Center to close 

Williston Children’s Center recently announced it is closing its doors on Oct. 19. Child Care Resource purchased the center, located in the Williston Federated Church, in 2003.

“Child care is a complicated business,” a press release sent out by the center states. “In these difficult financial times, it doesn’t take much to disrupt the delicate balance that makes it work. For Williston Children’s Center, multiple changes in too short a period made it impossible to continue to operate and stay true to our mission.”

Staff members intend to work with the Williston Federated Church, the Williston School District, Building Bright Futures and the Williston community to create a new plan for the space to best support the community’s families in raising young children.


Williston Recreational Basketball taking registrations

The Williston Recreational Basketball program is now accepting applications. To register, print a form from the town website, www.willistonvt.govoffice3.com, and return it with payment to the town clerk’s office at 7900 Williston Road.
For more information, call Williston Parks and Recreation at 878-1239 or email finnegank@willistontown.com.


Legislative internship for high school girls

High-school age girls with an interest in government service and advocacy are invited to apply for Girls Rock the Capitol, a legislative internship led by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. No Girl Scout experience is needed.

The program links girls to female legislators who act as mentors while girls learn about and work on issues affecting the future of Vermont from inside the State House.

To apply, contact Michelle Carignan at 1-888-474-9686, ext. 142 or mcarignan@girlscoutsgwm.org. Applications are due Oct. 31.

Alzheimer’s walk raises more than $100,000

More than 800 people from across the region joined the Alzheimer’s Association at the 2012 Vermont Walk to End Alzheimer’s late last month. The event raised $117,820 for Alzheimer’s care, support services, educational programs and research. The walk raised 66 percent more than last year’s event and nearly four times more than it did in 2010.

“It is clear from the incredible success and attendance at this year’s event that Vermont has shown its commitment to the fight against Alzheimer’s,” said Martha Richardson of the Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter in Williston. “It is truly inspiring to see our community answer this call to action in support of the more than 11,000 Vermonters currently living with Alzheimer’s disease across our state.”

The Vermont Walk to End Alzheimer’s is one of six across the state and thousands across the country. Statewide, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s has raised more than $150,000.

For more information or to make a donation, visit alz.org.


By Bill Skiff

For five weeks in August, I washed dishes in an Alaskan deli. It had been years since I had been a “pearl diver” for any length of time. Pearl diving is a reference to the old days, when dishwashers sometimes found a pearl in the bottom of the sink after washing plates on which oysters had been served.

This summer, my dishwashing was in Wasilla—Sarah Palin’s town. Although I did not have the opportunity to see Sarah, I did see Russia.

The Lumberyard Deli is owned by my son Todd and he is always looking for cheap help—I figured room and board was a fair trade. Moose burgers, fresh salmon and the use of a little cabin were a great exchange, especially when it meant I could attend my granddaughter’s second birthday.

I like working in the deli because I get to talk with all the local characters and hear their stories. The ones about how they came to Alaska and why they stayed are fascinating, but the ones I enjoy most are the ones about their life experiences.

Take Pete for instance. He is a short burly guy in his late 60s with a wild scraggly beard, snapping brown eyes and facial skin like tanned leather. He drinks coffee by the gallon.

Pete came to Alaska as a young man and stayed because he liked the wilderness and the laid-back lifestyle. He soon realized that to get the most out of the Alaskan life he would need to learn to fly. He took flying lessons, then bought a plane he found sitting in a field. After much repair work he started flying and eventually earned a living as a bush pilot.

Then he got married. Soon his wife wanted to learn to fly. After teaching her, they spent a lot of time in the air together. Then one day she got in the plane, flew away and never returned.

In one day, his wife left him and took his plane with her. To this day he says he doesn’t know which one he misses the most.

Ed is a more sophisticated guy who worked as a guide on an Alaskan’s cruise ship. His job was to point out mountain ranges and ice formations and locate wildlife for the tourists.

One summer, the weather was very bad. Fog hung on the mountains, obstructing not only the hills but any game that wandered down to the shore. In short, there was nothing for the guests to see … or for Ed to talk about. The tourist trade came to a standstill.

One day in a staff meeting, Nellie, a guide, said she knew how to fix the situation. When asked what her plan was she said, ‘’Never mind, just look at the shore next time you pass Moose Point.”

When Pete went by the point he looked—and there stood a moose. The tourists whipped out their cameras and began snapping pictures. The moose, however, was Nellie in a costume. With word that the animals were back on the shore, business picked up.

After a few weeks, Nellie’s appearance became so routine that Pete and the other guides paid little attention while the tourists continued their frantic picture taking.

One day, as the boat rounded Bear Point, the tourists ran across the deck and began waving and shouting as they stared at the shore. When Pete glanced over, he saw Nellie dipping her antlers in the lake as usual but this time was different—there was a bear behind her. Nellie had not seen it and the bear was getting closer.

When Nellie finally caught sight, she started running. As the bear approached, she picked up her front legs and ran faster. The tourists went wild as they had never seen a moose run on two legs before. Pete told them it was a new kind of hybrid moose. Soon, the bear was so near that Nellie climbed a tree with the bear in close pursuit. As the predator closed in on Nellie, she started to take off her antlers to further defend herself.

Then it happened: The bear reached up with his left paw and jammed the antlers back down on Nellie’s head and said, “Nellie, if you don’t keep those antlers on, we are both going to lose our jobs.”

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 vtcowcal@yahoo.com.

LIFE IN WILLISTON: October celebrations

By Karen Wyman

Did you know that the month of October holds the most commemorative titles? Most of us are probably familiar with the major ones: National Breast Cancer Awareness, National Bullying Prevention, National Adopt a Shelter Dog and my personal favorite, National Pharmacists Month. I am willing to bet that the majority of people are not aware of some of the other October designations I came across, such as: National Pizza Month, National Cookie Month and, now my new personal favorite, National Sarcastic Month.

I feel that Sarcastic Month is especially appropriate since October is also the month of my wedding anniversary.

I know, I know: marriage is built on mutual respect, love, honor … blah, blah, blah.  But isn’t laughter equally important? To me, certain aspects of sarcasm are witty and humorous. I know that the general definition of sarcasm is mocking and acerbic, but when it’s presented correctly, instead of coming off as mean, I think it is hysterical! Think Patricia Heaton’s character, Debra, in “Everybody Loves Raymond” (actually any of the characters in that show!), Chandler and Monica on “Friends,” or Doug and Carrie on “King of Queens.” This comical banter definitely makes for great television, but I think it can also work in a marriage if both parties understand and appreciate each other’s sense of humor.

Warning: it’s an extremely fine line to walk and there’s a time and place for this wit! I do realize that real-life marriage isn’t a sitcom and that’s why many times my own self-proclaimed hilarious comments fall flat. If only there was a studio audience or a laugh track in my house.

In all seriousness, I love and value my husband and our marriage immensely. Just like they say with parenting, there is no manual for marriage. I believe supporting each other’s hopes and dreams, open communication and making time for each other are some of the most important aspects of a relationship. To compare again to raising a child, I think it often takes a village to have a successful marriage. This may sound strange, but having a strong and caring community like Williston is beneficial for all aspects of life, including marriage. We tend to have a less stressful existence (less traffic, noise pollution, crowding, etc.) and we have camaraderie as a town that isn’t easy to find. Williston promotes a healthy lifestyle. It wonderfully blends a historic village with suburban housing and shopping and offers great healthcare, churches, schools and many support programs. To continue with my television theme, Williston really sets the scene for a successful run. Williston could be the modern day Mayberry.

Each year on our anniversary, my husband and I love to re-watch our wedding video, and now, it’s even more fun to watch it with our girls. The video makes us smile at all of our beloved friends and family who were celebrating with us and cry for the ones who are no longer with us today. We especially love listening to our best man’s toast and our maid of honor’s roast. (Doesn’t it make perfect sense that my best girlfriend also has a sarcastic sense of humor?)

All in all, I’m very thankful that my marriage is built on more than just a shared sense of humor/sarcasm. I can’t forget that all those playful and funny television characters whose teasing I love to emulate are one inappropriate or ill-placed joke away from being Roseanne and Dan on “Roseanne” or Peggy and Al on “Married With Children.” I am also thankful that we are living in Williston where we find encouragement and support to help our marriage flourish. And to paraphrase comedienne Rita Rudner, I am thankful to have found that one special person that I want to annoy for the rest of my life. Happy Anniversary, Honey—here’s your gift, which I came across while researching this column: Just for you, the girls and I will observe every Jan. 3, which is “National Silence Day.”


Karen Wyman has been a Williston resident for seven years, and lives with her husband and twin 5-year-old daughters. 

Boys soccer really on the ball

The Champlain Valley Union High School boys soccer team is set to go into its last regular season game with one of the best records in Division 1. After recent a spate of wins, the boys team is at 11-1-1.

On Friday afternoon, the Redhawks will welcome South Burlington High School to their home field.

As of Oct. 16, the Redhawks held the top ranking, according to the Vermont Principals Association. The team is fighting for the number one seed, and if it wins against South Burlington, it will have at least the second seed, Coach TJ Mead wrote in an email to the Observer.

“Our goal going into the play-offs is to be healthy and playing well in order to have momentum,” Mead wrote. “We know it will be a tough road no matter who we draw for an opponent though.”

Among CVU’s 11 wins this season, eight have been shutouts, including the last three games played.

Last Wednesday, they defeated Burlington 2-0. Captain Shane Haley scored both goals in the first half—the first on a penalty kick and the second with an assist from Noah Lieberman. Goalkeeper Brandon O’Connell had five saves.

On Saturday—Senior Day—the Redhawks squashed North Country High School 3-0, with all the goals in the first half. Haley scored the first, assisted by Sam Rose. Rose claimed the second goal, assisted by Kidder Spillane. Haley scored again for the final tally, with an assist going to Joe Castano. O’Connell and Oscar Kelly shared net duties, with a total of three saves.

CVU racked up a mass of goals during its game against Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans on Tuesday, winning 8-0. Roshi Brooklyn scored first, assisted by Joe Castano. Noah Lieberman scored the next two, followed by a goal from Haley, assisted by Castano. Lieberman then assisted the fifth and sixth goals, both scored by Tucker Shelley. Castano shot in the seventh, and the final point came from Tucker Mathieson, with an assist from Kidder Spillane. Goalkeepers O’Connell and Kelly had a total of three saves.


—Stephanie Choate,
Observer staff 

Football on the road for last game

The Champlain Valley Union High School football team will head down to Middlebury for its last regular season game on Friday night at 7 p.m.

Saturday’s game against South Burlington bumped the Redhawks’ record up to 5-2 for the season. The Redhawks defeated the Rebels 31-13, with touchdowns scored by Ryan Beaudry, Pat Shea and Steele DuBrul, plus a field goal from Max Whitcomb.

“That’s about as well as we’ve played in the last couple years,” Coach Jim Provost said. “I couldn’t have been more pleased with our efforts from top to bottom.”

CVU will be one of eight teams in the playoffs, but their position depends on the outcome of the weekend’s game.

—Stephanie Choate,
Observer staff