Thursday, July 22, 2021

One to Watch: Violet Mercieca

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2021 at 5:42 PM

Violet Mercieca performing in the Farm to Ballet Project - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Violet Mercieca performing in the Farm to Ballet Project
Lots of kids come to watch performances of the Farm to Ballet Project, which brings original, classical dance to Vermont farms. But there’s just one young cast member in the show: 9-year-old Violet Mercieca of Shelburne. She’s the first young girl to join the production, organized by Ballet Vermont; she plays a farm kid.

Violet actually pitched the new character to Ballet Vermont’s Artistic Director, Chatch Pregger, in a letter she wrote at age 7.

“She sees something that she wants to make happen and then she goes for it,” said Violet’s mom, Maria. She wasn’t surprised that her go-getter daughter would write the letter, but she was stunned when Pregger actually followed through on the request.

Violet kicks off the show as the only person on the stage, reciting a poem that’s six paragraphs long.

Katie Decker, Ballet Vermont’s executive director, described the scene at one recent performance: “It’s dead silence. We had 400 people at our show and she stood out there with such stage presence with her arms open and so confident. She is this powerful girl.”

Violet, who was also recently cast in season three of “Mister Chris and Friends,” confesses to feeling a bit nervous before the shows. “But then when I get on stage — or on grass — I feel excited,” she said.

Her mom can relate; Maria is also a member of the company. A professionally trained dancer when she was younger, she ultimately walked away from a career in ballet. “I didn’t have that ideal body type that ballet called for,” said Maria, who stands 5 feet tall.

But Ballet Vermont is intentionally different and inclusive, with a cast that represents all body types and ages. When Maria joined the Farm to Ballet Project cast in 2016, she was a full-time stay-at-home parent. It was the first creative outlet she’d sought since her two daughters were born in 2012 and 2014.

Towards the end of this year’s show, Violet and Maria perform a duet together where Maria plays a donkey, the farm kid’s favorite animal, all re-imagined from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Violet and mom Maria performing in the Farm to Ballet Project - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Violet and mom Maria performing in the Farm to Ballet Project

“If you know that they’re mother and daughter and you watch it, it just makes you cry,” said Decker.

“I feel really proud of her and I have to work really hard to stay in character. I start smiling ear to ear,” said Maria, who slipped a quick kiss on Violet’s forehead at the end of their duet at Isham Family Farm in Williston.

“It’s really special that it went from me looking for an outlet outside of motherhood to me actually now sharing the experience with my daughter and sharing the stage with her,” said Maria.

The last two performances take place this weekend, at Peck Farm Orchard in East Montpelier, and Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Public Pool Roundup

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 6:17 PM

Here's a list of local pools where you and your kids can keep cool this summer. We've included some information about each one, including address, phone number and admission fee. Enjoy!

Maple Street Pool - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Maple Street Pool
1. Maple Street Park and Pool 75 Maple Street, Essex Junction, VT 05452 802-878-1376 Two pools at this location serve all ages. One includes a twisty waterslide with a spray and splash area for little ones. The big pool boasts two different level diving boards. $2-7.

  • Courtesy Paul Sarne City of Winooski
  • Myers Memorial Pool
2. Myers Memorial Pool 62 Pine Street, Winooski, VT 05404 802-497-2903 The Winooski pool reopened this summer after taking a couple summers off for a full renovation. The complex now includes a six-lane lap pool, a zero-entry program pool, spray features and a 16-foot water slide. $4-7 admission.

  • Courtesy Rob Lehmert
  • Montpelier Pool
3. Montpelier Public Pool 1 poolside drive, Montpelier, VT 05602 802-223-6839 Nestled in the mountains with great views, this pool features two stationary docks in the middle, one of which includes a diving board. $5-10 admission; $15 family pass residents, $22 family pass non-residents.

4. Middlebury Town Pool 298 Buttolph Drive, Middlebury, VT 05753 802-388-4020 Water toys beckon babies and toddlers to the wading pool. Big kids will enjoy doing cannonballs off the diving board. $2-5 admission.

Sand Hill Pool - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Sand Hill Pool
5. Sand Hill Pool 208 Sand Hill Road, Essex, VT 05452 802-878-1376 This suburban oasis includes two diving boards in the deep end and a splash pad with water features for little ones. $2-7 admission.

St. Albans City Pool - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • St. Albans City Pool
6. St. Albans City Pool 99 Aldis Street, St. Albans, VT 05401 802-524-6796 Friendly staff and fields for frolicking make this a pleasurable place to beat the heat. On Mondays and Wednesdays they offer night swimming. $3-8 admission.

Waterbury Community Pool - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Waterbury Community Pool
7. Waterbury Community Pool 27 Butler Street, Waterbury, VT 05676 802-244-6340 Take a dip, then head to the Ben & Jerry's Factory Store for a scoop or two, and you're living the Americone Dream. $5 admission; $20 family day pass.

Sam Fishman Pool - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Sam Fishman Pool
8. Sam Fishman Pool 47 East St, Vergennes, VT 05491 802-877-1054 This public pool with two diving boards is located in the heart of Vergennes right next to Vergennes Union Elementary School. $3-5 admission; age 5 and under free.

White Memorial Park Pool - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • White Memorial Park Pool
9. White Memorial Park Pool 21 Ave B, Rutland, VT 05701 802-345-0137 This water oasis includes a family pool filled with colorful spray and splash features and a waterslide as well as a separate competition pool. Day passes $5 residents, $6 non-residents.

10. Greater Burlington YMCA 298 College Street, Burlington, VT 05401 802-862-9622 You don’t have to be a member to swim for the day. Just pay the daily guest fee, which is $15 for a family swim pass. You must make a reservation ahead of time either online or by phone.

11. Upper Valley Aquatic Center 100 Arboretum Lane, White River Junction, VT 05001 802-296-2850 A day pass gives entry into the entire facility including a splash park, warm water pool and competition pool. $8-15 day pass, ages 2 and under are free. Reservations are required; make them online or by phone beforehand.

Historic Bates Farm Pool - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Historic Bates Farm Pool
12. Historic Bates Farm 3103 Huntington Road, Richmond, VT 05477 802-434-2311 Swim with panoramic views of Camel’s Hump. Community ‘Fun Swims’ are offered on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. $5 admission. Swimming lessons offered through August. You can also rent out the entire pool, lifeguard provided, for a pool party or event if you reserve online or by phone.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Berries in Charlotte: From Deep Roots to Sweet Roots

Posted By on Thu, Jul 15, 2021 at 4:44 PM

Jane MacLean, the new owner of Sweet Roots - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Jane MacLean, the new owner of Sweet Roots
It’s blueberry season! And after 40-plus years, the Charlotte Berry farm has turned over a new leaf: It’s now known as Sweet Roots Farm & Market, and owned by Jane and Dan MacLean. In March, the Charlotte couple began a lease-to-own agreement with Vermont Land Trust through the Land Access Program, designed to help new and existing farmers find land to sustain crops and livestock while building financial viability.

“I’ve always wanted to have a fruit farm,” said Jane MacLean who started her farming career 15 years ago growing fruit in other parts of the world including stints as a winemaker in Australia and most recently as the head grower at a different Vermont farm. The couple previously owned a farm in Maine, also named Sweet Roots.

“We want to set down roots in the soil. We want to take care of the roots that are already here. And we want to create a foundation for our family and our community that is joyful,” said MacLean.

They have revamped the farm store as a full market now selling everything from beef to veggies and fruit. They’ve partnered with other local farmers and businesses, including Das ButterHaus, a local bakery in Charlotte, to serve fresh pastries daily.

“The goal is to be as family friendly as possible both in what we offer in the market as well as the experiences that families get to have on our farm,” said MacLean.

The market now offers full-plate items like beef and veggies as well as fruit - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • The market now offers full-plate items like beef and veggies as well as fruit
MacLean plans to add more diversity to the farm’s perennial fruit production including vegetables, flowers and herbs, and eventually extend the seasonal business to a year-round operation.

“The goal is to take this incredible piece of land and put it into as much food production as possible. It’s an incredible planting that ‘s 40 years old,” said MacLean.

Sweet Roots is open during the pick Your Own season on Wednesdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Looking for other options? Check out Kids VT's 2018 berry picking roundup, but be sure to call ahead to confirm hours.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Fletcher Free Library Displays World's Largest Ball of Stickers

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 11:05 AM

  • The world's larges sticker ball, on loan from Sticky Brand
  • Courtesy of Fletcher Free Library
A ball of stickers weighing 308 pounds — that's a lot! Families can see it for themselves if they visit Fletcher Free Library, from now until mid-January. And they don't even have to go inside to get a look.

The Burlington library is displaying the world’s largest ball of stickers in its front window. The sticky sphere weighs 308.25 pounds, to be exact, and clinched the Guinness World Records title on November 11, 2020. It's on loan from Sticky Brand, a Vermont-based company that specializes in custom-made stickers and decals.

To extend the World Record-themed fun, the library has partnered with Burlington City Arts and Church Street Marketplace to create an outdoors scavenger hunt. Families can look for eight clues related to other Guinness World Records entries from Vermont in the windows of the library and businesses on the Church Street Marketplace. 

Pick up the scavenger hunt sheet from the Fletcher Free Library or download and print it out at the library's website. Return a completed puzzle sheet to the library by January 8 to be entered into a raffle the following day.  The first 50 entrants will receive a piece of candy from Lake Champlain Chocolates.

“We’re excited to share some of the special — and wacky — things people do, and to help add joy and fun to an unusual holiday
season with this outside scavenger hunt," said library director Mary Danko.

Who knows? Maybe your kids will even be inspired to try to break a record of their own this holiday break.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

End the Year With a Virtual Film Festival for the Whole Family

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2020 at 3:46 PM

'Wash Day,' an animated short in the NYCIFF Kid Flicks festival - COURTESY OF VTIFF
  • Courtesy of VTIFF
  • 'Wash Day,' an animated short in the NYCIFF Kid Flicks festival
As we slide into a long, dark winter season, chances are you’ll be craving at-home entertainment that goes beyond your normal Netflix queue. The Vermont International Film Festival (VTIFF) is offering two enticing options this month.

From Friday, December 18 through Thursday, December 31, VTIFF — in partnership with the New York International Children’s Film Festival – presents NYICFF Kid Flicks, a pair of mini-festivals of short films from around the world geared to families. The first installment is a 58-minute compilation of seven short films with minimal dialogue, suitable for ages 5 and up. The second 64-minute collection is aimed at ages 8 and up, and includes English subtitles to accompany the multilingual dialogue.

“Perhaps more than ever, during this worldwide pandemic, watching films from all over the globe can be both enjoyable and educational, a way to ‘travel’ without leaving your home,” wrote VTIFF assistant director Gail Clook in an email. “Watching films from other cultures is an excellent way to broaden one's view of the world, and to develop tolerance and understanding for diverse customs and viewpoints.”

  • Courtesy of VTIFF
Hailing from Europe to Asia to South America, the first slate of films offers a visual feast for the eyes. While The Magic of Chess, an American short that documents the National Elementary Chess Championship, is a live-action film, the other six films all feature beautiful animation. Overboard!, from Slovakia, has a sleek, collage-esque style to it; Japanese film Konigiri-kun: Butterfly features skillfully crafted stop-motion animation; and German-made Cat Lake City has a minimalistic approach, which complements a fun story that will generate laughs with younger viewers. Though Boriya was produced in South Korea and France, the animation style is clearly influenced by anime, a popular type of Japanese animation that Western audiences are likely familiar with through Studio Ghibli films or Pokémon.

The second group of films also spans the globe and includes a mix of traditional, stop-motion and computer animation, as well as live action. Many of these shorts are coming-of-age tales.

“Encouraging viewing all the films is a great way to encourage a love of films, as one in particular could resonate with a child and inspire their interest in more culturally diverse films and subjects,” explained Clook.

So pop that popcorn, and dive in!

Each festival costs $8 to stream. Find the first installment for ages 5 and up here and the second installment for ages 8 and up here.  Explore Vermont International Film Festival membership options here.

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Friday, November 13, 2020

Music for Sprouts Rolls Out At-Home Music Series

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2020 at 11:05 AM

Mister Chris and Miss Emma - COURTESY OF MUSIC FOR SPROUTS
  • Courtesy of Music for Sprouts
  • Mister Chris and Miss Emma

Popular local kids' music program Music for Sprouts is offering a subscription-based video series for families, with new videos released every Saturday for six weeks, starting on November 14.

The class-style videos are hosted by Chris Dorman and Emma Cook — known to young fans as Mister Chris and Miss Emma. Pre-pandemic, the musicians hosted interactive classes for toddlers and preschoolers and their caregivers at Bread & Butter Farm in Shelburne. Since the spring, they have been offering livestreams via social media five mornings a week. Dorman also hosts a musical children's program on Vermont PBS, Mister Chris and Friends, which won a regional Emmy award in June.

The series will be offered on a sliding scale, from free to $50. Each session will run 40 minutes and feature a warm-up for voices and bodies, seasonal tunes and sing-alongs with ABC Caterpillar. Each class will also include downloadable lyrics and chord sheets so families can play and sing along at home.

"Connection is so important right now," said Dorman "and it pains us not to be in the classroom with families at this time. That is why we made this series."

Find more information and subscribe to the classes here.

At Home with Music For Sprouts - Fall 2020 Promo from Music For Sprouts on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'The Witches'

Posted By on Sat, Oct 31, 2020 at 11:16 AM

Happy Halloween! In honor of this spooky holiday, I wanted to suggest a truly frightening film that is often overlooked — The Witches. The film was recently remade by Robert Zemeckis, co-starring Octavia Spencer and Anne Hathaway. While both the filmmaker and actresses in this new version are extremely talented, it doesn’t compare with the 1990 original. We all have films that frightened us as a child, and for me it was absolutely the original The Witches.

The Story: Luke is a recently orphaned child taken in by his eccentric, yet loving, grandmother, Helga. Helga warns Luke of a type of demon who walks the earth, known as a witch. They are disguised as ordinary women yet have purple eyes they hide with sunglasses and hooked claws they cover with gloves, among other eccentricities. For reasons unknown, witches have a deep loathing for children and seek to eradicate them. When Luke’s grandmother falls ill with diabetes, the pair decides to take a vacation to a seaside hotel. Little do they know that this is the very same hotel where the witches, led by the vulturine Grand High Witch, are holding a conference. On the trip, Luke must contend with the wrath of the witches of whom he was warned.

Why It’s a Good Family Film: This is a great Halloween family movie that is guaranteed to frighten viewers, but doesn’t have any of the gratuitous gore or jump scares many adult-only horror films incorporate. Nicolas Roeg, who directed the incredibly disturbing horror film Don’t Look Now, helms this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s twisted tale. He takes a reality-driven approach, capitalizing on the fear children often have of strangers, and yields frightening results. The witches appear human at first glance, and are dressed like suburban moms, which gets at the fact that many of the “monsters” in real life look no different than average citizens. These witches are cold, cunning and ruthless, and although they share the same goals as the bumbling Sanderson Sisters of Hocus Pocus fame, they couldn’t be any farther from the comical portrayal of the witches in that film.

Like many horror maestros, Roeg chooses not to explicitly tell you what happened to the abducted children. In one scene that kept me up for weeks, a little girl is abducted by a witch and then suddenly shows up trapped in a painting, slowly aging. There are so many questions that arise from this scene and it hits on the existential dread of being trapped forever without any means of communicating to the outside world. To me, in terms of horror, this is much more terrifying than a shot of a witch attacking a child.

On an aesthetic note the makeup, puppets and animatronics in this film are exceptionally well-crafted. The creative genius Jim Henson, better known for The Muppets, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal movies is behind the creature designs here. The Grand High Witch, when she reveals her true form, is so unpleasant and well-realized, that it makes you wonder how disturbed Henson’s mind must have been.

Anjelica Huston, famous for The Addams Family and her many Wes Anderson film appearances, is also incredibly good as the Grand High Witch. She’s equal parts creepy and fun to watch, and never gets too hammy in a role that could easily tread into that territory.

Age Recommendation: There is virtually no violence in this film. The witches’ appearances and intentions are terrifying, and they often announce they want to kill children. People turn into mice in An American Werewolf in London- esque transformation sequence. There is minor swearing and mice are killed (mostly off-screen). I’d recommend this film for ages 9 and up and, for those who are easily frightened, 12 and up.

The Witches (1990) is streaming on Netflix and is available to rent on iTunes and Amazon.

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'Bridge to Terabithia'

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2020 at 9:07 AM

Originally a best-selling novel by Vermont author​ ​Katherine Paterson, the 2007 film ​Bridge to Terabithia​ is wonderfully crafted and emotionally resonant. Similarly to the book, it captures a certain magic that can only be found within the imaginary worlds that children create. However, it also isn’t afraid to confront the harsh truths and darkness of the real world. The two children at the center of the story come across as authentic and believable. Introverts, or anyone who has experienced shyness, will likely find both the novel and film extremely relatable and touching.

The Story: ​Jess is an introverted kid growing up in rural Virginia. He often feels alone in his house, living with four sisters and a father who is condescending and favors his daughters. Things at school aren’t much better. He is constantly bullied and ignored by fellow students. To cope, Jess takes solace in his drawing. One day, a new student named Leslie arrives. She and Jess form a strong friendship, solidified by their shared experience as artsy and imaginative outcasts. Together, deep in the woods of their shared​ ​backyard, they create a land called Terabithia. Life is going great for Jess and Leslie until one day a terrible tragedy strikes.

Why It’s a Good Family Film: ​One of the fascinating aspects of childhood is the ability to construct make-believe worlds that feel so real that you and your friends can seamlessly enter them together. These creative scenarios are seldom portrayed in coming-of-age films. The digital effects used in the film to create Terabithia and its fictional inhabitants are both original and whimsical, and perfectly capture a child's imagination.

At the same time, the film acknowledges that a child's imagination can also be a source of stress, like when a child sees clothing hanging in a closet at night and thinks it's some horrible creature. While Leslie and Jess imagine Terabithia as something magical and peaceful, at one point in the film, the trees and plants in the woods also appear as a terrible monster. When tragedy befalls Jess, he imagines a shadow demon hunting him.

Bridge to Terabithia​ doesn't shy away from tackling what it feels like to lose someone. When I first read the novel, I was taken aback by the tragic event at the end of the book, because it’s so sudden and gut-wrenching. Never before had I experienced an abrupt tonal shift like that. It isn’t written in for shock value, though, but rather signifies just how sudden tragedy happens in real life and the way friends can be incredibly important in our lives. Adding to this realness is the guilt the protagonist experiences over the tragedy, even if he had nothing to do with it. Author Katherine Paterson said in interviews that she drew from a traumatic experience in her own child's life when writing the story.

Age Recommendation: ​Kids roughhouse throughout the film. Bullies torment others rather viciously. Although death isn’t shown, a major part of the story centers around the tremendous loss, grief and emptiness we feel when someone very close to us dies. The kids imagine scary monsters, including trolls and shadow demons, in the woods. I’d recommend this film for ages 9 and up.

Bridge to Terabithia​ ​is streaming on HBO Max and is available to rent on iTunes and Amazon.

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Download the October Coloring Contest

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2020 at 12:50 PM

Because the October issue of Kids Vermont is inserted in Seven Days — and only on newsstands for a week — we realize that not everyone may be able to pick up a copy. So this month we're making the coloring contest available as a downloadable PDF so that you can access it at home. Entering the contest this month is simple. Just download the PDF below, print it out and let your kids go to town. Then, scan or take a picture of the entry with your smartphone, and send it via email to Make sure to include the title of the piece, your child's full name, age and town, and your email address and phone number. You can also send a hard copy of your kiddo's completed coloring contest to Kids Vermont/P.O. Box 1184/Burlington VT, 05402. We've extended the deadline for October coloring contest entries to Thursday, October 22 to give kids more time to complete it. Happy coloring!

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Franklin County Nature Guide Is Shaped by Kids' Observations

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2020 at 3:28 PM

The cover of the new nature guide - COURTESY OF JEANNIE BARTLETT
  • Courtesy of Jeannie Bartlett
  • The cover of the new nature guide
A recently released nature guide to Richford, showcasing 70 species of native plants and animals, features observations and descriptions from local kids.  

Released in late September by the Franklin County Conservation District, the second edition of The Locals’ Nature Guide to the Richford Playground was spearheaded by district manager Jeannie Bartlett, who worked with kids ages 5 to 14  who attended the free Richford NOTCH day camp in the summer of 2018. The project was funded by the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers Wild and Scenic Rivers grant program.
Chloe Decker, Tylee Shover and Taygon Shover check out a possible muskrat lodge at the edge of the Missisquoi River - COURTESY OF JEANNIE BARTLETT
  • Courtesy of Jeannie Bartlett
  • Chloe Decker, Tylee Shover and Taygon Shover check out a possible muskrat lodge at the edge of the Missisquoi River
Bartlett led a Stream Scientists program in which campers engaged in nature activities in and around the Missisquoi River: identifying both edible and dangerous vegetation; safely trapping, identifying and releasing crayfish; and observing and discussing what they found outdoors, from mushrooms to dragonfly larvae.

One page features friendly plants, like Virginia creeper and Jack-in-the-pulpit, that may be mistaken for poison ivy. Another section tells about forest animals and their tracks.

Charming drawings done by Bartlett are accompanied by scientific explanations and quotes from the campers. "Crayfish swim backward and they can be very, very fast. The tail acts kind of like a scoop," one quote, attributed to Isaac, reads.

A page from the guide - COURTESY OF JEANNIE BARTLETT
  • Courtesy of Jeannie Bartlett
  • A page from the guide
Bartlett created the guide by taking notes about what the kids noticed as they explored their natural surroundings. "I think my approach was very much to draw out what the kids already know... to be grounded in our shared curiosity," she said.

Including kids' direct quotes  in the guide shows them that "their observations matter" and instills a sense of capability and confidence, Bartlett added.

Copies of the 32-page guide are available at public libraries in Richford, Enosburg and St. Albans. Download a free copy of the guide, as well as the guide's first edition and The Locals' Guide to Nature in St. Albans, here.

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YMCA Camp Propel

YMCA Camp Propel

Burlington, VT

Get up and move this summer with The Greater Burlington YMCA’s Camp Propel, a co-ed day camp based at Rock Point in Burlington for ages 8-14. Campers will learn leadership skills and teamwork while participating in activities like basketball, soccer, baseball, archery, and more! Camp Propel is open to children…(more)

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