Friday, August 27, 2021

New Nature Playgroup for Toddlers at Burlington's Rock Point

Posted By on Fri, Aug 27, 2021 at 2:03 PM

Julie Garwood’s toddler, Porter, visiting the trails at Rock Point. - JULIE GARWOOD
  • Julie Garwood
  • Julie Garwood’s toddler, Porter, visiting the trails at Rock Point.

Toddlers and their caregivers looking to explore nature and experience breathtaking views can find both at a new outdoor playgroup in Burlington.

Rock Point is offering a new weekly nature playgroup this fall for little ones ages 2 to 4. The group will meet every Wednesday from 9:15 to 10 a.m., from September 8 to October 13, at the Rock Point Center.

Caregivers and toddlers can gather on the 130-acre property, owned by the Episcopal Church in Vermont and filled with trails overlooking Lake Champlain. Each session will kick-off with some loosely structured outdoor games and will include a short hike on the toddler-friendly Holy Trinity Trail.

Marketing coordinator Julie Garwood, the former camp director at Rock Point, will be leading families on the hike and plans to incorporate some scavenger-hunt-type games to help little ones search for things in nature. Garwood is a toddler-mom herself and will be bringing along her 2-year-old.

“A lot of parents, similar to myself, are working through whether or not to put their kids into any type of formal programming right now, unsure of what tomorrow will bring in terms of COVID,” said Garwood. She explained that the playgroup will allow toddlers and caregivers the opportunity to socialize while wearing masks and keeping a safe distance.

This will be the first time Rock Point has held any youth programming since it closed down its camps due to COVID-19. Garwood hopes this will be the beginning of many more toddler activities at Rock Point, which has never offered programs for this age group. Garwood said she welcomes parent input to create toddler programming that best serves the needs of families.

“I think parents are really struggling with the lack of community over the last year and a half. This is an opportunity to connect and see not only the milestones that their kids are hitting, or not hitting, but also that it’s really normal for it to be really hard with a toddler. I hope it meets all of those needs for parents,” said Garwood.

The playgroup is donation-based and has limited capacity. In fact, the website indicates that registration is full, but invites those who are interested to sign up for a wait list — organizers are considering adding additional programming. Find more information, and sign up here.

Other Free Nature Playgroups happening this fall:

Audubon Vermont’s ‘Free Nature Playgroup’ Audubon Vermont is resuming its free nature playgroup to provide children and families an opportunity to visit the forest, meadow, beaver pond, rivers and peeper pond on the Audubon Center's 255 acres in Huntington. Some of the trails are stroller-friendly while others are not. Every week there will be a snack, story and a nature activity such going to the pond and scooping, going to the river and making boats or studying bears and turkeys. Children ages 0 to 5 and their caregivers are welcome — sorry, no older siblings. The group will meet on Tuesdays from 9:30-11 am. It will start mid-September and be ongoing. It will meet at the Sugarhouse parking lot on Main Road in Huntington. Exact directions will be given upon sign up. Find more information here or email with questions.

Robin’s Nest North Branch Nature Center Children ages 0 to 5 and their caregivers will continue to gather at the North Branch Nature Center, a 28-acre preserve of forest and fields, just two miles from downtown Montpelier. In this free playgroup, toddlers play, dig, build and explore through songs, crafts and oral storytelling. The group will meet weekly beginning in September or October. Details are still being worked out but will be posted here when ready.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Boys & Girls Club Awards More Than $100,000 in College Scholarships

Posted By on Mon, Aug 2, 2021 at 2:35 PM

College students Bienfait Badibanga (left) and Tumba Felekeni (center) were awarded scholarships - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • College students Bienfait Badibanga (left) and Tumba Felekeni (center) were awarded scholarships
Cheers and claps erupted from Burlington's Roosevelt Park on the afternoon of July 28 as 47 young adults were awarded a collective $107,000 in college scholarships.  Students, who ranged in age from 18 to 24, each received at least $2,000 during the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington’s 8th annual Early Promise Scholarship presentation.  The money came primarily from the Pomerleau Family Foundation.

Many of the scholarship recipients are immigrants and the first in their families to attend college.

“When you’re blazing a trail and you’re the first in your family doing it, it’s that much harder,” Boys & Girls Club executive director Tanya Benosky said in an interview. “To me, it’s one of the best things that’s happening in this entire state.”

Benosky said that many students were left without adequate space to complete their schoolwork when COVID-19 shut down schools and libraries and classes went virtual. The club’s “college learning lab,” which has a dozen computers as well as printers, scanners and quiet work cubbies, became a place for many of the recipients to get their work done.

“The kids we had in there were studying all day, everyday,” Benosky said.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Sign up for Vermont Fish & Wildlife's Teen Conservation Weekend

Posted By on Tue, Jul 27, 2021 at 4:01 PM

  • Courtesy of Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
  • Teen Conservation Weekend
For high school students looking to get into the great outdoors this summer, space is still available in the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s Teen Conservation Weekend on August 14-15. Up to 25 participants, ages 14-17, will spend the weekend backpacking and camping at a remote pond at the Edward F. Kehoe Green Mountain Conservation Camp in Castleton.

Biologists, local game wardens and staff with lead activities like archery in the woods and teach about topics including local food systems. Campers will learn orienteering through map and compass activities and there will be a K9 demonstration with a warden dog trained in search and rescue. Fish and Wildlife educational specialist Corey Hart will take campers fishing and teach them about the ecology of the pond.

“The pond is beautiful. It’s very remote. You can’t drive to it. There are all kinds of lilies and lily pads. The lack of development is really what I love about it. It seems like we’re in the middle of nowhere,” said camp coordinator Hannah Phelps.

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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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camps central

The Willowell Foundation Camps

The Willowell Foundation Camps

Monkton, VT

The Willowell Foundation hosts week-long day camps for children ages 4-12 at our property in Monkton, Vermont. Spanning 230 acres and seven distinct ecosystems, the Willowell land offers diverse exploration in an environment filled with natural wonder. Skilled and caring camp leaders bring children of all ages together by combining…(more)

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