February 6, 2016

THIS WEEK’S POPCORN: “Wreck-It Ralph” A Tale to Build a Dream On

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


It was Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, who offered that “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” But I think it was my Uncle Ignacz who opined, “Morality is originally taught in the animated films of Hollywood.” True or not, numerous funny examples abound in director Rich Moore’s “Wreck-It Ralph.”


Safely recuperating in a warm Catskill movie house after fighting the cruel ravages of     the very unladylike Hurricane Sandy, I was tossed among the tots, moppets and urchins generally delighted by this novel paean to the video game. And in all honesty, I think I laughed more than the little viewer to my left, a look-alike of the film’s female heroine.


But my tacitly adopted, cinema barometer doubtless was much hipper to the jive. As she animatedly rocked to the colorful, music-filled adventure about Wreck-It Ralph, a video game villain who wants to be a good guy, and Vanellope Van Schweetz, an ill-treated, would-be race champion, I could only speculate what marvelments she saw that I didn’t.


A stranger in a strange land, an Alexis de Tocqueville visiting and observing in the realm of the kiddy flick, I guessed at the countless, actual video game characters who essentially supplied credibility to the fictional scenario. Wary of getting lost in the minutiae, I nonetheless made connections and learned the language as best I could.


And I can only hope I’m a better man for it, the ethical lessons taught in Wreck-It Ralph’s sojourn to self-fulfillment having at least somewhat rubbed off on me. The fine voicing by John C. Reilly as the title character, Sarah Silverman as the diminutive gal he befriends and Jane Lynch as the head honcho in another game make it all come alive.


Act #1, Scene #1, Ralph explains his plight to his group therapy cohorts. He doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore. But after the venting ends Ralph is back to the grind in Fix-It Felix, Jr., destroying everything in sight and fated to ultimately be bested by game namesake Fix-It Felix, a handyman with a golden hammer and the perennial hero.


However, as is oftentimes proved in these cartoon cells, the heart is a lonely hunter and the ego needs to be fed. Figures Ralph, if he’s stuck in this microchip caste system, with no chance of ever getting the shiny medal he so longs for, he may as well immigrate to another game and try his chances there. The big lug washes ashore at “Hero’s Duty.”


There, where Jane Lynch’s Sgt. Tamara Calhoun commands deadly force and leads the way in a never-ending battle against the Cy-Bugs that threaten the video game world, he becomes a soldier of fortune. Challenged but undaunted, he fights the good fight. But the real epiphany comes when, loping through the arcade universe, he meets exile Vanellope.


Decried a glitch, the outcast is to the other gal racers in “Sugar Rush” what Rudolph was to his fellow reindeer…barred from their games. This makes for a catch #22. You see, to free herself from the electronic curse, she must cross the finish line. But fat chance if disingenuous King Candy (Alan Tudyk), who sounds like Ed Wynn, has his evil way.


Happily, after a sizing-up tussle when Wreck-It Ralph first lands on Ms. Van Schweetz’s square, a scene reminiscent of Robin Hood’s initial meeting with Little John, the odd couple find a commonality. It’s a familiar variation. If you were casting a live action version back in the day, Wallace Beery could play Ralph to Shirley Temple’s Vanellope.


In any case, forming a camaraderie that refuses to relinquish its chiding component, the two set out to build the ultimate race car…one that hopefully will enfranchise the winsome waif. Constructed of confections—I think those wheels are cookies—as is all of Sugar Rush’s infrastructure, one can only venture the number of hypothetical calories.


The tutorial in morality, tolerance and optimism is obvious. And while no substitute for lessons that should be instilled at home, like chicken soup served to cure a catarrh, it couldn’t hurt. Equally present but far less accessible unless you’re a video game fanatic are the innumerable send-ups, references and cameo appearances of arcade royalty.


Thus a disconnect exists between fairy tale and the ode to gamers. But then again, the odyssey through the folkways and laws of this world has its fascinations. Did you know that if you die in any game other than your own you can’t regenerate? So while “Wreck-It Ralph” is in need of repairs, it shouldn’t short-circuit gramps and junior’s plans to see it.

“Wreck-It Ralph,” rated PG, is a Walt Disney Motion Pictures release directed by Rich Moore and stars the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch. Running time: 101 minutes



Strong finishes at New Englands for cross-country

Taylor Spillane, seen here at the Vermont State Championships finish line. (Courtesy photo by Dan Grossman)

The Champlain Valley Union High School cross-country teams put in strong performances at the New England Championships last weekend, as the season draws to a close.

Both teams will head to the Nike Cross Northeast meet in two weeks.

The CVU girls cross-country team finished third, and was the top Vermont team. The boys came in thirteenth, the second Vermont high school.

CVU’s top harrier Taylor Spillane took the number two spot, completing the challenging 3.1-mile course in 19:03.11. She finished behind Elle Purrier of Richford High School. Autumn Eastman finished at number eight with a time of 19:22.68.

“Taylor Spillane finishing 2nd was the best result of any girl I have ever coached and Autumn Eastman finishing 8th was great,” Coach Scott Bliss wrote in an email to the Observer. “To have two girls in the top 10 was pretty awesome.”

Julienne Devita was 88th with 20:58.82; Abby Keim 96th with 21:04.14; Aleksey Jordick 108th with 21:13.22; Carly Neeld 158th with 21:44.82; and Emma Putre 191st with 22:17.5.

Autumn Eastman

Barrington High School in Rhode Island took the top spot, followed by Coe-Brown of New Hampshire.

The boys’ finish at number 13 was “the best result in a number of years,” Bliss wrote.

CVU’s top finisher on the boys side was Nick Bouton, who finished 98th with a time of 17:52.54. Jared Keyes was 114th with 17:59.61; Zach Marshall 121st with 18:02.6; Clarke Shedd 127th with 18:05.04; Sean Delaney 131st with 18:08.13; Will Kay 158th with 18:22.1; and Chase Weaver 166th with 18:25.42.

Nick Bouton

The New England meet came two weeks after the CVU girls team won the Vermont Division 1 State Championships in Thetford and the boys were runners-up.

“We have had a great season and most of the team goals were met,” Bliss wrote. “The girls winning the state championship and the boys finishing 2nd at States and making New Englands was exactly what we wanted to do.”

Though several seniors, including Spillane, will graduate this year, Bliss said he hopes to keep building on this year’s success.

“We have a number of talented freshmen coming to CVU on both the boys and girls side,” he wrote. “We are hoping that they will come in to our program and start to contribute and help right away. I’m definitely excited for next year and the possibility the freshman and our returning JV runners helping to keep the program on a successful path.”

—Stephanie Choate,
Observer staff

EVERYDAY GOURMET: Breaking up is hard to do

By Kim Dannies

The slackening season affords a moment to reflect upon the beauty and bounty of an exceptional summer. Plump Caprese salads, luscious ripe melon, fresh corn on the cob dripping in butter: all sweet but fading memories. Kale, winter squash and celeriac have now all moved into the kitchen, along with the queen of winter slaw, red cabbage. Beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, salsify, turnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, fennel, peppers, green beans, leeks, onions, shallot and garlic will all be worthy companions for the long winter ahead.

To ease the transition to hard-core winter cooking I bought a big container of cherry tomatoes at Costco, and roasted them with lots of chopped garlic, sea salt and olive oil. Then, I lightly steamed a package of haricot vert  (also from Costco) and lined them up on a rectangular platter. Next, I doused them with the roasted tomato and juices and laced the edges with a lemon aioli (mayo, lemon juice, garlic). It was gorgeous and delicious and it took the sting out of my dwindling summer romance.

This is a terrific dish for large groups—a real stunner on the buffet. To balance the season, serve it alongside a creamy chevre-infused butternut squash studded with bacon. A simple green salad and grilled sliced meat will feed and please a crowd with minimal effort.


Bacon & Chevre Squash Gratin


Roast a large butternut squash, or purchase pre-cut chunks. Cook enough squash to yield 8-cups of pulp. In a large prep bowl combine the squash with 2 cups of chicken stock, 1 or 2 T Garam masala, salt to taste, and half a cup of maple syrup. Using an immersion stick, blend the squash until smooth. Fold in 1 cup pre-cooked bacon bits and 6 ounces of crumbled goat cheese. Taste for seasoning; pour into a casserole dish. Can be prepared three days ahead.

To serve, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the squash, covered, for 30 minutes.

Uncover and top with the breadcrumbs; bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Serves 14.

Breadcrumb mixture: in a food processor pulse 4 garlic cloves with a large pinch of sea salt. Add three handfuls of artisan-style bread cubes and 2 T of cold butter. Pulse mixture gently until crumbled.


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.

Tips for guilt-free holiday eating

By Dr. Stuart Offer

When it comes to food and weight management, there is not a tougher time of year than the holiday season. I am going to share with you some of the ideas and strategies that have worked for me and the people I coach. These ideas are about guilt-free eating — understanding your choices and feeling good about them.

Often behavior change is about changing the way we think. If we can change the way we think, we can change the way we act. The holidays really boil down to three or four days of awesome holiday celebrations. Here lies one of the big holiday traps — you may think that just because you let loose one day, say on Thanksgiving, and Christmas is around the corner, why bother holding back in between? But, it is the in-between times that are truly the most dangerous.

Let’s talk about the holiday meals themselves. Do you think it is worth indulging? The simple fact is, it’s your choice. If your answer is yes, are there things that can take the “bite” out of the damage? If your answer is no, are there ways to enjoy yourself and feel satisfied without feeling deprived?

The good news is the answer to both of these questions is a big resounding “yes!” In order to get a better grip on the way I feel about these things, I often let my “left-brain” take control and do a little cost/benefit analysis. I list the pros and cons of eating this way, then the pros and cons of not eating this way. This can often steer me in one direction or the other. An example of an internal dialogue: “If I eat this, I will have such a great time, but also I will gain an entire pound and feel lousy physically and emotionally. If I don’t eat this, I will feel so much in control and reach my goals. However, if I don’t eat, I will have a lousy time and may disappoint the people who cooked and invited me here.”

In spite of being a health professional and an expert on nutrition and weight management, I find myself at times taking one path and at other times taking the other. In order to be satisfied, feel good about myself and maintain my goals, I find balance is the key.

Whether you go one way or the other, you can make it work and feel totally guilt-free. We often give little thought about diving into a high calorie meal. Then afterwards, we feel totally lousy and guilty for doing it. Think about if this guilt-riddled self talk sounds familiar. “I don’t know why I did that. It wasn’t my fault. I don’t know why I ate like that again. I just had no control. It looked so great and who knows when the next opportunity for me to eat an entire fruit cake with an eggnog chaser will be?”

In this instance, you’re likely feeling like a victim. It’s like some alien being was pointing a ray gun at your head and forcing you to eat. You have put yourself on a total guilt trip.

Now instead, if you do the analysis of pros and cons and decide it is worth it, you are going to throw caution to the wind and have the 3,500 calorie meal. You go into it with complete power over your emotions and acknowledge the negative effects and plan to enjoy the positive – you’re okay with the outcome. By thinking this way, you put yourself in control and you’re not a victim but instead a powerful, thoughtful person making a decision that is right for you at this moment. No guilt trip whatsoever!

Even if you choose this path, there are many things you can do to lessen the negative outcome. I am hoping when you do the analysis, you can find the middle ground where you can have a great time and not go totally over the top. Here are my top strategies to make that happen: Use smaller plates, glasses and utensils. These will deceive your brain and actually make you think you are eating more; Slooow down your eating and chew thoroughly, 20 chews per mouthful. The more slowly you eat, the less you will eat; Drink lots of water, or zero or low calorie liquids. Don’t drink your calories, those 800 calorie Margaritas are killers; Eat lots of calorie-free foods such as non-starchy vegetables. Don’t avoid, but have a small serving of, the high calorie, fatty or sugary foods. Offer to bring a low calorie “safe” dish; When milling around, mill away from the food tables; Most importantly, budget your calories and physical activity. If you are going to eat more one day, plan to eat a little less and add more physical activity on the days before and/or after to compensate.

Remember, parties are more about the people and the social connections. You can have a great time and also stay in control while feeling totally guilt-free. Happy holidays to all of you!

Stuart Offer, DC, CSCS, CLC, is a Williston resident and a Wellness Coach & Educator with Hickok & Boardman Group Benefits. Email soffer@hbbenefits.com

Giving gifts, despite the fiscal cliff

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

As the U.S. economy inches closer to the fiscal cliff that will ring in the new year should congressional Democrats and Republicans fail to reach a budgetary compromise, most estate planners agree: ’tis the season for giving.

The fiscal cliff, a catch-all term for the series of tax increases (due to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts) and across-the-board budget cuts (known as sequestration), also carries with it changes to estate and gift tax laws.

“When it comes to gifting to your heirs, this year there is an unprecedented opportunity that is expiring—or is at least scheduled to expire,” said Ken Nussbaum, a Richmond-based certified public accountant.

Currently, estates with a net value of $5.12 million or less are exempt from the federal estate tax. By the same token, the current lifetime gift tax exclusion is also set at $5.12 million. Amounts above the gift/estate exemptions are currently subject to a maximum 35 percent tax rate.

If the respective party leaders fail to reach a grudging accord before the dawn of 2013, the lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion figure will be reduced to $1 million, with amounts exceeding that limit subject to a maximum 55 percent tax rate.

To put it callously, should an old miser suddenly decide to gift $5.12 million of the farm on Dec. 31, then die during a college bowl game the next day, his estate would escape taxation on $4.12 million of what would have become taxable assets.

Patricia Nowak, a Williston-based financial adviser, agreed that the time is now to gift assets to one’s heirs—regardless of what happens between now and New Year’s.

“Right now, people have kind of a fire sale to give away,” Nowak said.

But she was quick to insert that gifting of cash or securities—and the ramifications of the potential gift and estate tax changes—shouldn’t exclusively be a consideration for the so-called rich.

“You might say, who does it really hit?” Nowak said. “Well you know what’s interesting, it hits a lot more people than most people know, because when you take a look at what gets taxed in your estate … the face amount of your life insurance that you personally own (is included). So you take a young person who has taken out a couple million dollars to protect their family—that’s $2 million already in their estate.”

Nussbaum, who pointed out that gifts to one’s heirs are separate from charitable gifts—the latter of which are deductible up to 50 percent of one’s adjusted gross income—also drew the distinction between a person’s lifetime estate exclusion amount and the separate annual gift tax exclusion of $13,000 per recipient, per year (set to increase to $14,000 in 2013).

“The annual exclusion amount is absolutely a use it or lose it,” Nussbaum said. “If someone is thinking about gifting, that would be the place to start. So if you’re thinking about gifting, start with the annual exclusion amount.”

Hub Happenings

AllEarth Renewables announces partnerships

AllEarth Renewables, the Williston-based manufacturer of the AllSun Tracker, announced new partnerships that will make the dual-axis solar tracker available throughout the eastern United States.

AllEarth Renewables began expanding with a partnership program late last year. It has expanded from northern Maine to Illinois and as far south as the Gulf Coast.

The company has now expanded its geographic reach with newly established partnerships with Paradise Energy Solutions, Joule Solar Energy, SECCO, and Hannah Solar.


Vermont to raise minimum wage

The Department of Labor announced on Nov. 9 that the state minimum wage will increase to $8.60 per hour from $8.46 per hour on Jan. 1, 2013. In addition, the same increase applies to the basic wage rate for tipped employees and the maximum tip credit allowed, as well as the state-allowed rates for employer provided rooms and meals that may be deducted from an employees pay.

Accordingly, the basic wage rate for “service and tipped” employees will increase to $4.17 per hour from $4.10. Tipped employees’ (as well as other employees) total earnings during a pay period must equal or exceed $8.60 per hour. If a combination of tips and the basic wage do not meet that requirement, the employer must make up the difference.


New staff at Stern Center

The Stern Center for Language and Learning, a nonprofit learning center with locations in Williston and West Lebanon, N.H., recently welcomed several new staff members.

Miriam Stoll is a clinical psychologist with more than 15 years of experience as an evaluator in private clinic, community and school settings specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorders, neuro-genetic syndromes and anxiety disorders.

Julie Baer, a clinical psychology postdoctoral fellow, recently completed a pre-doctoral internship specializing in intellectual and developmental disabilities at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Stoll and Baer join the Stern Center’s Learning Evaluations program, where they will provide cognitive, educational and psychological evaluations for children, adolescents and adults.

Danielle Kent is joining the Stern Center’s communication services program, where she will provide instruction to children with social, cognitive and general speech/language challenges including children with autism and social-emotional communication issues.

The center also recently elected the following new members and officers to its board of directors.

New members include: Will Billings of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters; Maureen Post with Lang McLaughry Spera; and Stephen Richards of Champlain Apartments. The elected officers are Eve Pratt Hoar as chair, Deborah Schapiro as vice chair, Elaine Ittleman as secretary, and Chris Gannon as treasurer.


Howard joins Davis & Hodgdon 

Trisha Howard has joined Williston-based Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs as an associate accountant. Howard received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Howard, a Colchester resident originally from Massachusetts, has accounting experience at a national public accounting firm in Boston, Mass. Currently, she is preparing to sit for the CPA exam.


Williston resident brings DRI to U.S.

Williston resident Mitch Lieberman recently launched U.S. operations for a global business consultancy and technology integrator, DRI, in collaboration with the DRI Portugal team

Lieberman will build and lead the U.S. team. DRI was founded in Portugal in 1999 and is established in five European countries.


Fischer to appear on TLC show

Gretel-Ann Fischer is set to appear on Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro’s TLC show, “Next Great Baker.” Fischer owns Cupps, a bakery and café in Winooski. The 10-episode season begins Nov. 26. Thirteen bakers will compete for a $100,000 prize, a feature in Redbook Magazine and a chance to work with Valastro.

“Each season brings out stronger contestants and I think this is the best batch yet. The challenges are tougher, the judges more critical, and the reward as sweet as ever,” Valastro said in a press release.


New business emphasizes local level online group buying 

LocalvoreToday.com, a new company based in Burlington, has created an online group-buying space for local products.

LocalvoreToday.com crafts a unique offer that supports each merchant, often capping the number of sales to below 50 to avoid overwhelming the business and allowing them to keep their quality standards high, according to a company press release.

“Most business owners are too busy running their business to learn how to create and maintain their own website,” says Michael Nedell, LocalvoreToday.com co-founder and owner. “We have those skills. And we want to offer the use of those skills to our neighbors so they can focus on making awesome bread, or pottery or cooking incredible meals in their restaurants.”


Local horse farm awarded

Cedar Spring Farm of Charlotte was recently honored with the 2012 Horse Farm of Distinction award given by the Vermont Farm Bureau. The award is given annually to farms that excel in criteria including management, community service, expertise and curb appeal.


 Perkins Smith wins environmental award

Shelburne-based Perkins Smith Design Build was recently awarded an environmental excellence award for its Eco-Lodge project at the Common Ground Center in Starksboro. Owner John Perkins received the award at the recent Home Builders and Remodelers 2012 Better Homes Awards banquet, where Perkins Smith was chosen from 58 entries.


Petty Appointed Dean of Academic Affairs at Vermont Tech

Philip W. Petty has been appointed dean of academic affairs at Vermont Technical College, beginning Jan. 1, 2013. Most recently on staff with the Vermont Council on Rural Development, Petty served as e-Vermont community director, advancing the goals of a project focused on increased Internet adoption and use, particularly for populations that have underutilized broadband technology.

“Philip’s impressive academic credentials, knowledge of Vermont Tech’s people and culture, and management experience make him the perfect fit for this important position,” said President Philip A. Conroy.


Wake Robin welcomes new board chair, directors

David Provost, vice president of administration and finance at Champlain College, was elected chair of Wake Robin’s Board of Directors at its annual meeting. Provost brings seven years of experience on Wake Robin’s board.

Wake Robin, a senior life care community,  also welcomed three new directors, each elected to three-year terms.

Kate Lampton of Charlotte is a former director who chaired Wake Robin’s Board Governance Committee. Catherine Frank of South Burlington has served on several local boards, including chairing the Vermont Ethics Network Board and membership on the Board of Fletcher Allen Health Care and the Visiting Nurse Foundation boards. Geoffrey Hesslink of Shelburne is senior lender and executive vice President of the Merchants Bank where he has worked for 17 years, and is president of the non-profit General Education Fund.


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont announces senior appointments

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT) announced recently that Ruth K. Greene has joined the health insurer as vice president and chief financial officer and Daniel Galdenzi has been promoted to vice president, business technology and CIO.

A native Vermonter, Greene is a 1983 graduate of the University of Vermont and spent the last 26 years at UNUM Corporation. Most recently, she served as vice president and CFO for Global Business Technology, a division of UNUM based in Portland, Me.

Galdenzi joined BCBSVT in 2010 as the corporate director of IT. Prior to joining BCBSVT, he served in senior IT management positions for several privately held and public companies in the health insurance field. Most recently, he was vice president of IT at WellCare Health Plans, Inc. He is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University.


Hileman named grants manager at Shelburne Museum

Shelburne Museum Director Thomas Denenberg recently announced the hiring of Nancy Hileman as grants manager.

Prior to joining Shelburne Museum, the Vergennes resident was director of development at Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Conn. In addition, Hileman worked in arts administration at the Connecticut Commission on the Arts and the Oregon Arts Commission.


Bitybean wins innovation award 

Bitybean, a new company in Charlotte, recently received the 2012 Innovation Award from the Juvenile Products Manufacturer’s Association (JPMA) at the All Baby and Child Expo in Kentucky. Bitybean also launched its Bitybean compact child carrier.

Every year, JPMA holds a competition for the most innovative products in the market. Entries are evaluated by a selection committee of trade media representatives and industry retail buyers, and judged on their innovation, marketability, trend-setting potential, appeal and usefulness.


VBSR Honors Botzow, Pollina with Awards

Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) announced this week that it is honoring Rep. Bill Botzow and Sen. Anthony Pollina with its Lawmaker of the Year awards for their work during the past legislative session.

Both lawmakers scored perfectly on VBSR’s 2011-12 Legislative Scorecard and worked on legislation that enhanced Vermont’s economy. The statewide business organization presented the two lawmakers with awards at its annual Fall Conference at Mount Snow in West Dover on Nov. 14.

“We think it is important to recognize and thank the legislators that are doing the hard work necessary to improve the business and social climate as the two are inextricably intertwined,” said Russ Bennett, owner of Waitsfield’s Northland Design and Construction and chair of VBSR’s Public Policy Committee.  “Both lawmakers always have a seat at the table for VBSR. They truly understand what makes Vermont’s economy work and the conditions that lead to success for socially responsible businesses and for our citizens.”


Benton joins VHFA 

Executive Director Sarah Carpenter announced that Brittany Benton of Winooski has joined Vermont Housing Finance Agency as an accounting specialist.

Benton is a recent graduate of Saint Michael’s College with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in accounting and a minor in finance.


Statewide seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate increases slightly in September

The Vermont Department of Labor announced that the seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for September 2012 increased by one-tenth of a percent from the prior month. At 5.4 percent, Vermont’s seasonally adjusted rate continues to remain significantly lower than the national average of 7.8 percent, which fell by three-tenths of one percent from the prior month. For the third straight month the Northeastern region posted increases in the unemployment rate as reflected in the standard household survey data.

w“As the economy improves and people become more optimistic that they can find a job, this can be accompanied by temporary increases in the unemployment rate as people start to look for work again and thus identified in our survey data. The slowing of the rise in the unemployment rate could indicate a turning point as we examine the data. We are seeing an increase in job postings by Vermont employers, collected by our department which we believe will allow VDOL’s regional career centers to match more job seekers to available job openings in Vermont. With significant economic development projects like the project in the Northeast Kingdom, the signs of continued economic recovery are tangible in this state,” said Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan in a statement.


Survey show Vermont’s fish and wildlife important recreationally and economically

Fish and wildlife resources contribute to the economy, according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Census Bureau and released in September.

In total, $704.4 million was spent in 2011 on fish- and wildlife-based recreational activities in Vermont.

Resident and nonresident hunters spent $268.7 million in Vermont. People also spent $288.5 million to watch wildlife in Vermont in 2011.  Wildlife watching activities are defined as observing, feeding or photographing wildlife.

“Hunting, particularly, comes at a fortuitous time for our tourist centered businesses – after the leaves are off and before the skis are on,” said Berry.  “Fishing and turkey hunting also spike big in the spring, after skiing is done and before summer tourism gets rolling.”

The nationwide survey showed that Vermonters ranked second only to
Alaskans in enjoying fish and wildlife resources recreationally in 2011.


THE HUB: New UVM program jumpstarts student businesses

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

As winter approaches in Vermont, a group of entrepreneurs at the University of Vermont are working to solve a problem faced by skiers and winter athletes—freezing hands.

“A lot of people were saying that their gloves are really bad. Their hands get really cold and really wet,” said UVM student and Windsor native Kyle Weidman. “It’s a problem I have and all my friend have.”

Weidman, U.S. Ski Team member Skyler Davis, and two biochemical engineering majors are working to create a better glove, one that takes into account how heat circulates through the hand and utilizes what Weidman described as scientifically based, “radical” design ideas.

As Weidman and his team develop innovative solutions to poor glove design, a new UVM program is working to help fund them and other young entrepreneurs across campus.

In October, the school launched UVM Start—a website similar to popular funding platform www.kickstarter.com—where students can post their business ideas and receive direct donations from alumni.

“Everyone came on board and rallied around the students,” said Andrew Stickney, one of the founding members of UVM Start and vice president of Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies.

Along with providing the initial capital, UVM Start hopes to connect student entrepreneurs with alumni mentors.

“There’s not really a great support system for students entrepreneurs on campus, so that’s one of the main things we’re trying to solve,” said Liz Bernier, a UVM Start co-founder. “Students are creating businesses all over campus and they don’t really know where to turn. This is somewhere they can go for mentoring and also the funds that are needed to get the project off the ground.”

Stickney added that it can be difficult to find help and resources for an outside project within the framework of a large institution like UVM.

“Especially for a young entrepreneur, they don’t have the networks, they don’t have the resources,” he said. “This pulls them out of the dorm room and starts to connect them with resources, advisors, mentors. It helps them make their ideas come to life.”

UVM Start is modeled on a program started recently in Middlebury, called Midd Start. Middlebury College staff member Elizabeth Robinson, a VCET board member, suggested that the program would work well at UVM, which has a much larger alumni base. Stickney approached John Evans, senior advisor to UVM’s president, whom Stickney said was instrumental in getting UVM Start running in two months.

UVM Start is intended to be a student-led and student-centric program. Bernier, a UVM senior, said they are looking for younger students to help lead the program once she and other co-founders graduate.

The program is built around the school calendar, so that funding periods end at the end of the semester, meaning students receive funding when they have schoolwork-free periods to work on it.

The website currently hosts seven student businesses looking for funding, including a menswear line, new bike rack design and a robot helicopter that films with a smartphone.

Alumni have already stepped up as mentors and donated more than $4,000 since the launch in October, Stickney said.

Weidman said UVM Start is helping “give us that initial funding to be able to buy materials and just get going on what we want to do.”

Max Ebenstein, a Richmond native whose door-mountable ski and snowboard rack is among the first round of projects, said that aside from startup capital, UVM Start has helped him network.

“It’s been helping me make connections with people in the business world who can help me move my idea forward,” he said.

Helping student entrepreneurs develop a network of local connections could help keep young people in Vermont after college, Stickney said.

“Young people are leaving the state in droves, and it’s hard to find good young talent in Vermont,” Stickney said. “If we give these students the mentoring and support they need to make their dream real, it will be a compelling reason for them to stay and be job creators in Vermont. That, and some of them are just doing some cool stuff.”

THE HUB: VABIR enables employment for the disabled

Courtesy photo
VABIR, a nonprofit organization that provides employment assistance to job seekers with disabilities or other barriers to employment, is headquartered in Williston. Pictured (from left to right) are Operations Manager Renee Davies, district managers Mary Alice Leonard-Heath, Sacha Barber and Janet Cunningham and Executive Director Christine McCarthy. (Courtesy photo)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Despite being around since 1979, VABIR is among the least identifiable flavors in the alphabet soup of acronymed nonprofit organizations in Vermont.

Perhaps that’s because VABIR, which stands for Vermont Association of Business Industry and Rehabilitation, does its work behind the scenes, without fanfare.

“We’re best known for helping Vermonters with disabilities go to work, so our goal is to work with folks and get them to the point where they can get long-term, gainful employment,” said Executive Director Christine McCarthy. “That’s always our ultimate goal.”

Founded in Rutland but currently headquartered in Williston, VABIR assisted 2,135 employment-seeking Vermonters during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. That figure includes people with both mental and physical disabilities, plus military veterans and those re-entering the workforce after incarceration or receiving financial assistance through Reach Up (Vermont’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program).

“While our primary mission is helping people with disabilities, probably in the past two years we’ve expanded a little bit the folks that we’re helping,” McCarthy explained. “So in addition to helping folks with disabilities, we’re now helping other Vermonters who have other barriers to employment who need some help going back to work.”

VABIR is a member of Creative Workforce Solutions, a state-sponsored program through VocRehab Vermont that aims to streamline statewide job resources for employers and prospective employees.

“The goal was to do collaboration and ultimately work better with employers throughout the state and to ideally create more job opportunities for all the folks of Vermont that need help going to work,” McCarthy said of CWS. “It’s been a very successful initiative.”

She added that CWS’ mission aligns remarkably well with the goals VABIR has set since 1979.

“We kind of have two customers. We have the clients that we serve, but we also serve employers, because we want the employers to see us as a resource for hiring,” she said. “We want employers to know that if we work with them, we’re not just going to send them everyone we have. We’re going to make sure that the referrals that we give them are qualified to do the jobs.”

McCarthy said part of VABIR’s work with employers involves dispelling common myths about disabled workers.

“I think that some employers are afraid that hiring a person with a disability brings different rules, and it doesn’t,” McCarthy said. “I think there’s this thought that if I hire a person with a disability and they’re not working out, I can’t fire them, which is absolutely not true.”

Renee Davies, operations manager at VABIR’s Williston office, commented that once business owners get over initial preconceptions about disabled workers, they often turn to VABIR to fill subsequent job openings.

“There’s a lot of businesses around the state now that call us first when they have an opening, because they know that we’re going to give them a qualified match,” Davies said.

Five years ago, VABIR had 27 employees. It now has 95 employees—65 percent of whom have some form of disability.

“We walk the walk,” Davies said.

LIFE IN WILLISTON: Top 10 things Willistonians are thankful for

By Karen Wyman

It has been brought to my attention that one of my most popular columns was the one in which I included my own version of David Letterman’s Top Ten list. (Thanks Mom and Dad for that valuable feedback!) In order to not disappoint my two fans, I have decided to offer up another attempt at such humor. Since Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, I have tried to compile a lighthearted and entertaining list of things to be thankful for. Queue the house band please, here it goes.

Top ten things Williston women are thankful for:

10. Marshall’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Old Navy, Christmas Tree Shops and Yankee Candle are all within a mile of each other. No further explanation needed.

9. McGillicuddy’s offers numerous flat screen televisions which get Nick Jr. and Disney, so we can actually relax and eat while the kids are enthralled in their shows.

8. Two markets that carry fine wines: Shelburne Meat Market and Vermont Meat and Seafood.

7. A nice selection of gyms and fitness class centers that offer generous hours, so we can go at a time that is convenient to our family’s schedule. (Many even offer childcare!)

6. A candy store with gourmet chocolates. Amarah’s is a great place to pick up hostess gifts and birthday party treats, not to mention an easy stop for when those chocolate cravings hit!

5. Friendly, clean grocery stores:  Shaw’s, Hannaford, and Natural Provisions. Plus, you’re bound to run into a girlfriend at one of them to exchange meal planning ideas with!

4. A variety of wonderful hair salons and spas—Stelletta’s, Oasis and Trio just to name a few. The only thing greater at the big city salons are the prices!

3. Safe, well-maintained and close-knit neighborhoods. When you need to organize a meal train for a family in need, there are always a ton of people willing to help you out.

2. A wonderful school system that offers Williston students the latest technology and learning systems to help create responsible citizens for our beloved community.

And the number one thing Williston women are thankful for:

1. All of the dedicated community members who serve and protect us and help make Williston such a great place to live. This includes the police, fire and other emergency personnel, religious leaders, medical professionals, town employees and many more too numerous to name!

Top ten things Williston men are thankful for:

10. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Home Depot, Best Buy, Superstore Electronics and Creative Sound are all within a mile of each other. Enough said.

9. McGillicuddy’s offers several flat screen televisions so multiple sporting events can be watched simultaneously.

8. Two specialty places to buy a good steak: Shelburne Meat Market and Vermont Meat and Seafood.

7. A wide selection of workout facilities with flexible hours, so we can go at a time that doesn’t interfere with important things such as NFL Sunday, The Ryder Cup or March Madness.

6. A candy shop, which is a perfect stop for last minute gifts when a birthday or anniversary is forgotten.

5. Friendly faces and rounds at our three local golf courses: Catamount, Rocky Ridge and Williston Country Club.

4. Two men’s hair salons: GTO and Oasis (most towns don’t even have one).

3. Lots of neighbors, so it’s very likely that someone will always have that tool or gadget we need to borrow. If not, refer back to #10.

2. The schools generously allow our sports leagues and clubs to use their facilities.

And the number one thing Williston men are thankful for:

1. All of the dedicated community members who serve and protect us and help make Williston such a great place to live. This includes bartenders, waitresses and other restaurant personnel, the plumbers and electricians who help fix our home improvement blunders, the golf professionals who help fix our swing and many more too numerous to name!

Top ten things Williston kids are thankful for:

10. Toys ‘R’ Us, Buttered Noodles, Once Upon a Child, AC Moore and Wal-Mart are all within a mile of each other. That’s a lot of toy and arts and crafts sections!

9. McGillicuddy’s has flat screen televisions that get Nick Jr. and Disney. Finally, we can enjoy a meal out on the town without having to make boring conversation with Mom and Dad.

8. Two amazing playgrounds at ABS and WCS.

7. Kids in Fitness at The Edge, Camp Jazzercize, Zumbatomic for kids at UDC, Green Mountain Gymnastics, martial arts studios … so many fun options to help keep us healthy.

6. Amarah’s Candy store has a wall of Jelly Bellys.

5. We still have a Friendly’s.

4. There are no “just for kids” hair salons. Sitting in a race car or on a plastic horse does not make us forget that we are getting the knots combed out of our hair.

3. Big safe neighborhoods—the mother lode for trick-or-treating!

2. Did we mention that ABS and WCS have awesome playgrounds?

And the number one thing that Williston children are thankful for:

1. All of the dedicated community members who serve and protect us and help make Williston such a great place to live. This includes the bus drivers and other school personnel who determine snow days and school cancellations, the ice cream truck driver, Dottie the Bookmobile volunteers, the face painters, the bouncy house inflators and many more too numerous to name!

No matter what you are thankful for, I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!


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

PLACES I’VE PLAYED: No turkey today

By Bill Skiff

My uncle, Sgt. Cecile Gratton, was stationed at Fort Ethan Allen in the fall of 1916; he was training there before sailing to France during World War I. Uncle Cecile was assigned to Baker Company #17 of the Q.M.E.R.C. of the U.S. Army. Those words were written on the inside cover of his Manual for Army Bakers, 1916. Uncle Cecile was a baker for the troops in WWI. I have always referred to him as our family’s true American Dough Boy.

After completing training at Fort Ethan Allen, Uncle Cecile was stationed in St. Aignan Noyes, France from March 1918 until May 7, 1919. On Thursday, Nov. 28, 1918, Thanksgiving Day, the entry in his diary reads “No Turkey Today.” The day before, he recorded, “withdrew 11,991 pounds of flour to bake bread and cakes to make up for no turkey.” Uncle Cecile’s entry on April 6, 1919 noted that the bakers had used 292,600 pounds of flour to bake bread during the month of March.

Uncle Cecile carried a small sketchbook during his tour in France. Although he had only completed the eighth grade and never had any formal art training, Uncle Cecile was an accomplished pen and ink sketcher. These pictures are only a few of the beautiful visual memories he left behind. Through them you can feel what he experienced during the war to end all wars.

Next Thursday, let us give thanks for those who had no turkey on Thanksgiving Day 1918—so that we can have one today in a country where we are safe and where peace still reigns. Thanks to the Uncle Ceciles of WWI, to the Roger Johnsons of WWII, and to Williston’s own sons and daughters like Mike Coates, town father, Korea; John Welsh, town cobbler, Vietnam and Deb Beckett, town clerk, Iraq.

Thanks for your service, your courage and your faith in the United States of America.

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.