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May 2011

May 31, 2011

Shumlin Signs "Nick's Law" to Crack Down on Repeat Drunk Drivers

Photo Nick Fournier would have graduated from college this spring.

Instead, Fournier's family, teachers and former classmates assembled this morning in the auditorium at Missisquoi Valley Union High School in Swanton, where Fournier attended high school, to watch Gov. Peter Shumlin sign "Nick's Law" — legislation meant to prevent the kinds of drunk-driving accidents that claimed Fournier's life in 2007.

Fournier was killed on Interstate 89 in Colchester by a repeat drunk driver going the wrong way. He was 18 years old. Backed by a dedicated crew of Fournier's friends and family, Franklin County legislators made two failed attempts to enact a "Nick's Law" that would impose tougher penalties on repeat drunk drivers before finally winning passage this year.

Asked by reporters how he felt after the signing ceremony, Fournier's dad, Rene Fournier, said: "Feels good. Really good. Also sad. Brings back a lot of memories."

Continue reading "Shumlin Signs "Nick's Law" to Crack Down on Repeat Drunk Drivers" »

Alice Eats: A&W Drive-In

1557 Route 7, Middlebury, 388-2876

IMG_2348 When 7 Nights comments come in, we here at Seven Days read them carefully. Over the last couple of years, we've noticed a downturn in star ratings for A&W Drive-In in Middlebury. A recent negative comment was the final straw that made one of my editors ask me to go check out one of New England's last car-hop drive-ins, once considered so great.

Guess what? It's still great.

Great enough that I drove an hour in torrential rain and thought it was unquestionably worth it.

There has been talk of a change in ownership, which is not correct. Tony Neri has owned the snack shack for years.

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Goodbye, 215 College Gallery and the Art House!

Jackson It's always sad to see an art gallery close. Especially when it's a place with vision and a great track record for interesting shows. Vermont will lose two such galleries at the end of June: 215 College Gallery in Burlington and the Art House in Middlebury. 

Sculptor and painter Catherine Hall planted the seed for the artist-run cooperative 215 College Gallery five years ago. The rent had gone up at the College Street space she had been using as her studio, and she was about to move out, when she had a change of heart. What if she and some of her artist friends pitched in to make it a gallery?

She enlisted her friend Charlotte Hastings, a sculptor and educator with a can-do spirit. Together they rounded up a dozen artists to split the rent and show their work on a rotating schedule. Hastings died of pancreatic cancer before the first show, but the 11 current artist members credit her enthusiasm and energy for getting the gallery off the ground. 

"We are proud to have been able to realize the goal of Charlotte's efforts: an independent, successful, artist-run gallery," the members wrote in a press release at the time.

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Vermont: A Wholly-Owned Subsidiary of Canada?

Flag_canadian_maple_leaf Vermont's power future can be summed up in two words: "O Canada!"

On Monday, Fortis, a Newfoundland-based power company, announced a $700 million deal to buy Central Vermont Public Service, Vermont's largest utility. The deal includes Fortis buying up about $230 million in CVPS debt. Fortis owns several utilities across Canada, as well as the Caribbean and Belize.

If approved by Vermont regulators, CVPS would become the third major state utility owned by a Canadian firm. Quebec-based Gaz Métro owns Northern New England Energy Corporation, which, in turn, owns Green Mountain Power and Vermont Gas.

GMP's sale to Gaz Métro was approved in 2007, while Vermont Gas was taken over back in 1986.

In addition, all of the dams along the Connecticut River are owned by TransCanada, which is based in Alberta. They purchased the dams in 2005 from USGen New England.

Who's got the power now, eh?

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May 30, 2011

Invasion of the Healthy Vending Machines

Healthy_vend Recently I spent a few days with family in a suburb in the South, and by the time I returned, a few extra ounces were clinging to my middle. Memories of childhood visits with my Southern clan are filled with Pepsi, grape jelly and American cheese sandwiches. Last weekend's fare was an upmarket variation filled with yummy but artery-clogging hamburgers and muffins, as well as visits to McDonald's and Cold Stone Creamery.  

Not wanting to detox too quickly upon my return, it seemed natural to seek solace in the arms of a fresh! healthy vending machine. If you haven't yet seen or heard of such a thing, these colorful, glowing beasts originated in San Diego in 2010, and have been spreading eastward as franchisees snap up territory. Chittenden County franchisee Brent Farrell has installed 20 machines so far. "Our machines offer over 400 choices of organic and natural snack and beverage choices. With obesity and diabetes at an all-time high, we think it’s important to provide an opportunity for the people of Vermont to have healthier choices,” explains Farrell in a press release delivered via the parent company. I found one of the machines at the edge of the food court in South Burlington's University Mall.

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Surfing Safari on Burlington's Booth Street

Skim-Surf-3-6224 As a portent of the end of the world (coming October 2011 or maybe sometime in 2012), we've had some intense weather thrown at us recently. While we haven't had to deal with such epic natural disasters as the tsunami in Japan or the recent tornadoes in Missouri, which half flattened the town of Joplin, we have had near Biblical amounts of water tossed on us. Thanks to record-breaking rainfall and heavy winter snowpack, Lake Champlain consumed its shores, roads along normally calm rivers became submerged and poor Barre was all but washed away.

For the many homeowners and businesses, including so many local farms, piecing things back together in the aftermath of the flooding, the water is nothing to joke about. But after last Thursday's downpour, some folks couldn't help but make something fun out of a bad situation.

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On Finding Gold in the Woods

MorelEditor's note: Frances Cannon is passionate about the contents of her plate and adventures in the kitchen. As the summer food writing intern for Seven Days, she'll be contributing her thoughts on pastry, espresso and the wild forkfuls of the season

Before the weather warmed, I made it my goal to find the heavenly trio of the season: fiddle-heads, ramps, and morels. After all, finding wild edibles is certainly more exciting than a trip to the grocery store, or maybe even (dare I say) the farmers market.

My sister and I easily found fields of fiddle-heads in the flooded marshes near the Intervale in early May. A few days later, we took a trip to Milton to gather baskets of wild leeks, otherwise known as ramps. We collected enough to make eight jars of ramp pesto.

Although morels are prevalent in Vermont around this time of year, they are also very elusive, and so I had little hope of finding them. I did not give up my quest, however, for unlike us, the treasured mushrooms love heavy rains. They grow most commonly under ash trees, but you can also search under aging elms, cottonwoods and sycamores, or in abandoned apple orchards and in regions recovering from fires. Look for black, yellow or large brown morels, but be wary of their deadly doppelgangers. Clue: the edible morel is hollow through and through.

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May 27, 2011

Into the Hot Zone with Fletcher Allen's Hazmat Decontamination Team

FAHC photo #3 8:03 a.m. Wednesday morning: I'm about to get thoroughly soaped up, scrubbed down and hosed off by a grown man for the first time since I was a child. No, this doesn't reflect some radical, new lifestyle choice on my part — not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. Actually, it's an opportunity for me to help out the folks at Fletcher Allen Health Care Emergency Department in their regular hazardous materials decontamination training.

FAHC photo #5 Each month, the hospital's decon team suits up in its terrifyingly sci-fi-looking haz-mat gear and drills for a worst-case scenario, such as an overturned gasoline tanker on I-89 or a chemical explosion in a University of Vermont lab. The goal, explains John Berino in Fletcher Allen's Environmental Health and Safety office, is to put their safety team through its paces, in real time, in order to see what goes well and who forgot to duct tape their plastic trousers to their booties. Because if you're going to get an accidental snoutful of concentrated hydrochloric acid, better for it to happen during a drill than when real lives are on the line.

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Hanging Out With the Fort Ethan Allen Laundry Line

IMG_3042 This garganutuan clothesline hung across Fort Ethan Allen Park, which appeared earlier this week, is actually a work of art, courtesy of Essex Junction artist Ann Laberge. She describes her guerilla art as "a gift." But the 74-year-old man walking the path beneath it Thursday morning sure didn't see it that way. 

"Do you know anything about this nonsense?" he spat in my direction. I was stepping over clumps of freshly mown grass, trying to photograph the faraway t-shirts and socks. I explained to him that it was the work of a local artist who wanted to promote the use of clotheslines and, you know, just to generally surprise and delight people. 

Photo(3)I was one of the surprised and delighted. When I first saw a huge navy blue sheet flapping in the wind from Route 15, I thought someone's laundry had flown up into the trees, or that a circus with colorful tent flags had come to town. But as I got closer, I could see the clothesline stretched out across the width of the park, attached on either side to the tippy-tops of the pine trees.

Laberge didn't want to talk about her Fort Ethan Allen piece — she prefers an element of mystery surrounding her public art — but on her website, she describes another clothesline project. "I love the look of laundry hanging on the clothesline, the fragrance, the knowledge of others living close by going about their daily lives." 

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May 26, 2011

Meet the 7D Marathon Relay Team... and Weep

7dmarathon-back Attention, Burlington Marathon relay teams: Prepare to eat our dust!

That's right. Seven Days is no longer just an awesome source for Vermont news and entertainment. With the debut of our relay team at this Sunday's KeyBank Vermont City Marathon, we are now officially an unbridled athletic juggernaut. And we're gonna waste your pathetic relay team.

Our five-member squad is stacked with elite athletes who've spent months training for this awesome challenge. While the rest of you spent your winters on treadmills with TVs at some cushy, heated health club, the 7D runners were training deep in the Siberian wilderness — sawing logs, lifting bags of rocks and mushing on all fours like freakin' sled dogs.

It's that kind of intensity that's going to propel us to an easy-breezy, chest-slapping finish at Waterfront Park this Sunday. When you're done puking and nursing your sore hammys, come find us. We'll be the ones in the blue 7D T-shirts (designed by our own Don Eggert) kicking back with Gatorade martinis.

Now, let's meet the Seven Days runners.

Continue reading "Meet the 7D Marathon Relay Team... and Weep" »

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