By MICHELLE MONROE
NORTH HERO – Earlier this week, the Islander reached out to Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office concerning the delays in mail delivery in North Hero.
Leahy spokesperson David Carle said today that the Senator’s staff had been assured mail will be delivered today.
The U. S, Postal Service (USPS) acknowledged that the delays are the result of a shortage of carriers, Carle wrote in an email to the Islander.
“There are similar staffing shortages around the country right now,” Carle continued. “They have assured [Senator Leahy] that North Hero customers will receive mail today, and that USPS has a plan going forward to improve delivery in North Hero and to prevent further delays.”
However, Carle said the Senator’s staff will be remaining in close contact with USPS until Leahy is confident the situation has been resolved.
The rest of Carle’s statement is below:
“Last year Senator Leahy joined 46 other senators in sending an oversight letter to the new Postmaster General about his recent moves that have slowed mail service to millions of Americans. During negotiations for a second COVID relief package, as chairman of the Appropriations Committee he fought hard for increased funding for the Postal Service, and Congress was able to pass a bill that included $10 billion in emergency funding for USPS. That bill was signed into law on December 27, 2020.
“The problems that the Postal Service is experiencing are not due to its dedicated workforce, which has heroically struggled to serve Americans during the pandemic. A strong and dependable Postal Service is a vital and critical service for all Americans, all the more so in rural states like Vermont, and he will continue to fight for policies that ensure its viability for generations to come.”
By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
GRAND ISLE -- Former longtime Grand Isle Selectboard member Ron Bushway is returning to the governing board to fill an unexpected vacancy.
Bushway was a member of the Selectboard for 11 years, including 10 as chairman. He also has served his hometown in many other capacities, including Highway Commissioner, Building Facilities Manager, Town Health Officer and Fire Warden. He said his experiences would allow him to hit the ground running.
The other applicants seeking the appointment were: Josie Leavitt, who was active in Charlotte before moving to Grand Isle in 2018 and Cooper Shaw, who moved away after graduating from Castleton University in 2016, but returned to town recently.
The candidates had to file letters of interest by Monday afternoon and were expected to attend a special meeting that evening to answer questions from the board and from the public both attending in person or by Zoom. Each candidate was expected to answer every question.
The candidate interviews were conducted in open session and the votes were also in public session. Selectboard member Eric Godin said filling the seat was like an election and the public deserved to know where each candidate stands on issues. Chairman Jeff Parizo said he agreed with transparency and didn’t want the town criticized for holding secret meetings to fill an important post.
After the public interviews Leavitt was nominated to fill the slot, but the board deadlocked 2-2.
Another motion was made to appoint Bushway and it passed 3-1.
Vice Chair AnnaMarie DeMars swore in Bushway after his selection and he joined the rest of the board at the conference table for the rest of the meeting.
Parizo and other board members thanked the three candidates for applying and urged them all to remain active in the town no matter which one was selected. He said the town is always looking for people to serve and noted there has been a longtime vacancy on the planning commission.
Bushway replaces Diane Cota who quit abruptly when she walked out of a July 19 meeting. As she left Cota called her fellow board members liars and said she was done with the "nonsense" and stated "I can't stand working with them." She later submitted a formal letter.
The posting for the board vacancy noted Grand Isle was looking for somebody to help move the town forward and meet the needs of all town residents.
By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
NORTH HERO -- The Grand Isle County Courthouse is now closed Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays due to an inability to find qualified deputy sheriffs or security officers.
Sheriff Ray Allen said he had alerted the Court Administrators Office in Montpelier earlier this summer that his department would likely discontinue having a uniformed deputy sheriff at the courthouse entrance due to lack of qualified personnel.
Deputy Sheriff Kevin Scott, a retired Vermont state trooper, had held the job in recent years, but he indicated he would be moving out of state at some point. Allen said he has been unable to fill that slot and two vacancies for deputies doing patrol work on the roads. The contract with the court formally ended last Friday.
Court Administrator Pat Gabel has made provisions for some security to be available at the historic courthouse on Tuesdays and Thursdays when hearings are scheduled. Hearings are conducted remotely, but legal papers still need to be filed in criminal, civil, family and probate courts.
Chief Administrative Judge Brian J. Grearson sent a note late Sunday night to John Campbell, head of the state’s attorneys and sheriffs, alerting him about the staffing shortage and that the courthouse would be locked three days a week until further notice.
Grearson told The Islander on Tuesday that he had not been involved in the security discussions. He said he had been away for the weekend and didn’t want Campbell caught off guard. The email was sent as a courtesy or heads up, the judge said.
Allen said he has been dealing in recent weeks with Rob Schell, the chief of security for the Vermont judiciary, on ending the contract.
Allen said it was unclear where Grand Isle County residents seeking relief from abuse orders would file the paperwork. He said the sheriff’s office in Grand Isle will continue to help with people filling out the paperwork, but the person eventually has to file it personally at a courthouse. It may mean people seeking protection will have to drive to Burlington or St. Albans.
The Court Administrator’s Office contracts either with the local sheriff’s office or with private security firms to staff entrances at all the courthouses throughout the state. In Windham County the sheriff’s department gave up the courthouse contract in about 2016 because it was losing considerable money having certified officers and the judiciary later went with a private security firm.
In Chittenden County one deputy sheriff is on hand at the criminal court, but the rest are unarmed private security officers and screeners with no arrest powers. Over at the civil court on Main Street one security guard from a private firm with no arrest powers monitors people coming through the metal detector by the front door.
Allen said his remaining deputies were not interested in the job at the North Hero courthouse. Deputies doing road patrols and other work make more money and they would take a substantial cut with the assignment under the courthouse contract, Allen said.
He said his department also recently lost two other fulltime deputies that were working on the road. One joined the Williston Police and the other went into a private sector job.
Allen said he is trying to fill all three slots, but like many other police agencies the number of qualified applicants is seriously lacking.
Allen said he does have enough personnel to handle the patrol contracts with the five towns in Grand Isle County. He has four full-time deputies and a handful of part-timers still working.
“It’s a lack of personnel,” State Sen. Dick Mazza told The Islander on Monday.
Mazza, the state’s senior senator, agreed with Allen that law enforcement agencies are struggling to find qualified applicants in this current atmosphere.
Mazza said he has had several conversations with Judge Grearson on the issue and they have pledged to work together to get the Grand Isle County courthouse back open fully.
“It is not a closure,” Grearson told The Islander on Tuesday.
Grearson said he was not directly aware of what efforts had been done by Gabel’s office. He was aware that somebody did reach out to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department for possible help, but they were unable to help.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department also is struggling with personnel and staffing. It recently bailed out on the final year of its contract with the town of Georgia.
State’s Attorney reacts
Grearson sent an email Monday evening explaining the situation to Grand Isle County State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito. Most criminal court hearings are held on Thursdays. The courthouse still has not been cleared for trials.
DiSabito said he learned of the closing on Monday after he went to work. He said when he arrived at his office, he saw no cars in the parking lot next door at the courthouse.
DiSabito said he remains concerned that the partial closing is just the latest step in an ongoing effort to fully close the courthouse -- a hot political topics for many years. Sen. Mazza has always said it would be done “over my dead body” including when the supreme court considered the idea.
In a response to Grearson, DiSabito reminded the chief judge that the right of access to justice is fundamental in the Vermont constitution. He said Grand Isle County residents should be afforded the same access to justice as the other 13 counties.
DiSabito also cited the inability by local residents to file a relief from abuse complaints on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the North Hero courthouse.
The prosecutor said he is willing to assist in any way to help get the courthouse fully opened again.
He said he would continue to work with Sens. Mazza, Randy Brock and Corey Parent, along with state Reps. Leland Morgan and Michael Morgan and Assistant Judges Joanne Batchelder and Sherri Potvin. in His email to Greason, DiSabito also enclosed a news story and photo from The Islander covering the recent visit by Lt. Molly Gray.
By MICHAEL FRETT
ISLE LA MOTTE – While the rock in this part of the island is maybe best celebrated for its record of life from millions of years ago, the now retired Fisk Quarry is still very much alive.
On a recent July afternoon, birds leapt between trees and frogs bounced their croaks off quarry walls, providing the soundtrack for a visiting family and, on the opposite end of the quarry, The Islander.
Turtles dipped into the water now filling the quarry at the first sign of a reporter’s camera. A beaver’s lodge sat idle. A fox sitting near the gate bounced into a nearby stand of trees.
Visiting wildlife specialists once told Linda Fitch, the eventual founder of the Isle La Motte Preservation Trust (ILMPT), they had documented as many as 110 species of bird around the quarry.
It was, to quote Fitch, “one of the richest habitats on the island.”
Four hundred million years ago, her statement may have been just as true.
Buried within Isle La Motte’s southernmost third are the imprints of what, according to the National Parks Service, represents the “oldest known occurrence of a biologically diverse fossil reef in the world.”
Across the island’s two nature preserves, both maintained by the Isle La Motte Preservation Trust, are outcroppings of a dark limestone pockmarked with the imprints of aquatic animals like gastropods and cephalopods, the early evolutionary ancestors of today’s snails and squids, respectively.
In the millions of years since snails and squids populated the shallow Iapetus Ocean, their remains would fall to the ocean’s bottom and subsequently be buried. Sediments washed over their left behind shells and as those layers of dirt and sand grew, pressure built and pressed remains into fossils.
Maybe more significantly are the remains of stromatoporoids caked into the Fisk Quarry’s walls. The ancient predecessors to sponges helped build the Ordovician Period reef now enshrined in the island’s limestone deposits once marketed as far away as New York City as luxurious “black marble.”
The outcroppings are significant enough that the two preserves, as well as the nearby Valcour Island in New York, have been enshrined as National Natural Landmarks, celebrating their contributions to modern understandings of evolution and prehistoric life.
“A deep satisfaction”
Today, the Fisk Quarry, a historic industrial site flush with wetlands, is one of two nature preserves maintained by the now well-established Isle La Motte Preservation Trust.
The second preserve, the Goodsell Ridge Preserve, fills out around 83 acres of former pastureland spread out northeast of the quarry. Now replanted as natural land, the retired farm is rung with trails, all leading back to a restored barn providing the preservation trust with its de facto headquarters.
Both are two of the only publicly accessible natural areas on Vermont’s westernmost island, a fact the trust’s founder and president Fitch takes pride in.
“I have a deep sense of satisfaction,” Fitch said. “I feel very good about having made possible a public place to go and to just walk.”
Earlier this month, The Islander met with Fitch at her property neighboring the Fisk Quarry, where the quarry’s former owners, the Fisk family, once headquartered their quarry operation and had raised a manor extravagant enough to host American presidents.
A state historical marker at the Fisk Farm celebrates such a visit from then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, whose visit would be notoriously cut short by news President William McKinley had been shot. Roosevelt, upon his return to Washington, D.C., would be sworn in as president.
While once the site of a general store servicing a small quarry town, the Fisk Farm is notably quiet.
Bikers occasionally stop by, passing cars rattle over the nearby gravel road and a gallery filling the farm’s former barn courts visitors, but things are, by and large, serene in the kind of romantic sense people often attach to the Champlain Islands’ quieter corners.
“Being here now,” Fitch said, “it’s quiet.”
It was when jackhammers began rattling off one day in 1995, threatening to break up that silence, that events would be set into motion leading to the preservation trust’s foundation.
“How cool is that?”
Fitch details the events leading up to the creation of the Fisk Quarry preserve in her book, The Qwarriors. According to her book, a not insignificant number of residents were concerned with the effects quarrying could have on both the environment and their lakeside quality of life.
Fitch’s book describes the roar of jackhammers and the sound of trucks pulling rock up the dirt road stretching past the Fisk Farm. “I was terrified,” she recalled to The Islander as she pointed in the direction of the Fisk Quarry, “because it was right there.”
By this time, the quarry had become the wetland habitat it resembles today. The visiting wildlife specialists who identified more than 100 birds in the area had already come and gone, according to Fitch, and her family had already made a habit of observing the beaver lodges pocketing the quarry.
In the years that followed, the quarry would become subject to a permitting battle involving Act 250, Vermont’s land use law that adheres new commercial projects to, among other things, a series of environmental criteria.
By 1998, the owners of the Fisk Quarry, whose limestone lines the floors of the Vermont State House and helps color the interior of Radio City Music Hall in New York, agreed to sell the quarry to the Isle La Motte Reef Preservation Trust, then a nascent nonprofit formed to allow for the quarry’s purchase.
While her book uses occasionally combative language, often describing the events as an “eco-battle” invoking environmental and historical interests and challenging a quarrying tradition that helped build Isle La Motte, Fitch is now far more diplomatic when recalling the quarry’s preservation.
The legal and political hatchets sharpened in the 1990s have, by 2021, largely been buried, she said, and the quarry owners who attempted to resume mining the fossil-rich limestone of the Fisk Quarry have become friends to today’s Isle La Motte Preservation Trust.
“We prevailed and, during the process, established a relationship with the owners of the quarry,” Fitch recalled from her front porch. “It turned out that, you know, we became friends.”
Eventually their organizing coalesced into today’s preservation trust, with Fitch, who had led much of the work to preserve the Fisk Quarry, at its head.
Their group would eventually purchase the nearby Goodsell Ridge Preserve from a family of local farmers who wanted to see the property’s fossil records preserved. The following years would see the farm’s farmhouse restored as an office and a dairy barn restored into a visitor’s center.
In the latter sits a grand piano Fitch repeatedly described as “beautiful,” used during annual concert seasons the preservation trust has since put on hold due to the uncertainties with public gatherings amid COVID-19 and Vermont’s potential emergence from the pandemic.
Wrapped around the Goodsell preserve is a trail marked with information about its 460-million-year-old fossil reef known more widely as the Chazy Fossil Reef, named for the New York town where the reef’s remains were first documented and studied.
Trail markers describe the Chazy’s snails and squids, and the millions of years of tectonics, the forces shifting continents and sparking earthquakes the world over, that dragged a diverse, fossilized reef from the tropics to an often far chillier home in the future Champlain Islands.
The histories transcribed on those markers continue to draw the interestof geologists and paleontologists, according to Fitch. They have also provided a new source of fame for Isle La Motte, winning headlines in publications like the Smithsonian Magazine and Los Angeles Times.
“I’m proud to have made my own contribution to something that has been a great interest to geologists for many years,” Fitch said to The Islander. “It’s the earliest biologically diverse reef in the history of life on Earth. How cool is that?”
Also perched along the trails are a series of placards detailing the formation of the Earth from loose gases formed at the start of the universe to the vibrant planet existing today, one of only a handful of such “Walk Through Time” presentations in the country.
“I want to see it thrive”
As she leaned back on her porch with her dog nearby, Fitch told The Islander her focus now is helping transition the preservation trust away from her leadership. Term limits for the trust’s presidentship mean Fitch will have to walk away from the preservation trust’s leadership sooner rather than later.
With that in mind, Fitch said her only priorities now, after helping protect two natural areas and guiding the preservation trust toward educational and cultural programs, like the Goodsell preserve’s concerts and its “Walk Through Time” presentation, is to set the nonprofit up to continue without her.
“I want to see it thrive,” Fitch said. “A huge priority for me is that it would be able to thrive, and be healthy and happy without me, with people that just care a lot about it and about the work.”
By MICHELLE MONROE
and MICHAEL FRETT
Islander Staff and Islander Correspondent
NORTH HERO/SOUTH HERO – Lt. Gov. Molly Gray was in the Islands today as part of an ongoing effort to reach out and learn more about what Vermonters, businesses and communities need coming out of the pandemic. In particular, she is interested in how the state should invest the $2.7 billion coming from the federal government.
Gray’s first stop was the office of state’s attorney Doug DiSabito, where she spoke with DiSabito about how Vermonters have and have not been able to access the justice system during the pandemic. Grand Isle’s courthouse remains closed because of concerns that the ventilation is not sufficient given that COVID-19 is transmitted via air droplets.
She then crossed Route 2 to talk with Walt Blasberg of the North Hero House about the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality industry, in particular the challenges with finding workers.
Gray again trekked south through the islands, arriving at two South Hero businesses before closing out with a meeting with state legislators and the county’s economic development coordinator at a picnic table near Seb’s Snack Bar.
At Two Heroes Brewing, Gray heard from co-owner Daren Orr and taproom manager Danielle Orr about the brewery’s plans for a restaurant the pandemic had put on hold. The brewery had opened during the winter at the arguable height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Vermont.
According to Daren and Danielle Orr, plans were still underway to build a larger brewery and restaurant in South Hero. “There’s been a lot of positive feedback from people saying we need a space like this,” Danielle Orr told the lieutenant governor.
In South Hero’s village, Gray met with Michael McCarver-Reyes and Albert Reyes-McCarver, the co-owners of the Champlain Islands Candy Lab and its recent addition, Lola’s Latin Kitchen, a food truck with a pan-Latin palette that, judging by its removed wheels, will be a longtime addition to the café.
According to McCarver-Reyes and Reyes-McCarver, the loss of tourism traffic during the pandemic had been palpable for their candy shop and café. The two also shared concerns with the requirements for pandemic relief programs, which they said were at times too rigid, inadequate and complicated.
“We got the money to cover the mortgage,” McCarver-Reyes said, describing one such program to the lieutenant governor, “but that’s not enough for supplies.”
Nearby at Seb’s, Gray met with Reps. Michael Morgan and Leland Morgan, Milton Republicans who represent the Champlain Islands alongside the Town of Milton in the Vermont House of Representatives, as well as Andy Julow, the Lake Champlain Islands Economic Development Corporation’s new director.
While there may have been some disagreements, the Democratic lieutenant governor and Republican legislators seemed to share concerns around a number of issues affecting the islands, from the lack of affordable child care and housing, to the rollout of broadband and lagging workforce.
It was, in the words of Gray, a “rare bipartisan moment” worth celebrating.
By MICHAEL FRETT
ISLE LA MOTTE – Seven years after their first grapes took to the soil, Jamie and Steven Foley lined their shelves with bottles of red and white, and welcomed their first customers to their Isle La Motte abode.
As a sign near Shrine Road now declares, the Isle La Motte Vineyard is officially open.
“We’ve always tried new things,” Jamie Foley said as she welcomed The Islander into the vineyard’s tasting room during a recent afternoon, “but we were done traveling and wanted to settle down.”
The Isle La Motte Vineyard stretches over a prominent corner of their namesake island, blanketing much of the land behind the intersection of Shrine Road and Main Street with an array Vermont vineyard mainstays like La Crescent and Marquette grapes, fanned out around the vineyard’s centerpiece winery.
For the prospective Green Mountain wine enthusiast, the Isle La Motte Vineyard is one of the most recent additions to a budding wine scene, one tracing the length of the Champlain Valley from Franklin in the north toward Middlebury and Brandon further south.
For the Foleys, though, wine is a relatively new adventure, the latest chapter in a background stretching from the Alaskan southeast to their new home in a nascent wine region, where retirement had proven to be a sort of homecoming for the two former North Country natives and current full-time islanders.
Before the islands, the two made a living in Alaska. Steven, an electrician by trade, ran his own contracting business out of Alaska’s capital city. Jamie, meanwhile, leveraged her background as a paralegal and worked within the Alaskan statehouse.
In between, there were a few grand adventures. Their website references several voyages through the Panama Canal aboard a sloop, the Sentient, and, as Jamie said above, “trying new things” was a sort of mantra for the two, whether it was packing their lives into a used Volvo or sailing between two oceans.
Eventually, “trying new things” led the two to retire to a comparatively “hot and tropical” small island on the opposite end of the U.S., closer to family and closer to their original hometowns in New York’s North Country.
It was “trying new things” that also led the Foleys to a vineyard.
According to Jamie, the decision to open a vineyard on Isle La Motte was a “natural” decision, stemming from a shared interest in the vineyard experience seen elsewhere in the world and hopes to develop their corner of Isle La Motte with some form of agriculture.
“We’ve always enjoyed vineyards,” Jamie said. “It seemed like a natural fit to just commit ourselves to this project.”
Despite an interest in vineyards, winemaking was entirely new to the two Foleys.
While he said Jamie had no problem adapting to the organizational side of the vineyard, Steven was fairly quick with his answer when he told The Islander there were few overlaps between work as an electrician and tending to grapes, a fruit with a learning curve despite an innate hardiness.
When the two settled on a vineyard for their slice of Isle La Motte, Steven enrolled in a Vermont Technical College program based out of Randolph Center, learning an entirely new trade that would come to stock a tasting room shelf with official, home grown Isle La Motte wines.
“It’s a totally different line of work than I’m used to,” Steven said.
“We’re having a good time”
The vineyard officially opened for business this spring, roughly a year after COVID-19 delayed the Foleys’ original plan for a 2020 grand opening. “In a way, it was sort of a blessing,” Steven said as an aside. “It gave our red wine another year to sit in oak, so it actually came out quite nice, you know?”
The vineyard currently advertises four wines, two reds made from Marquette grapes and a pair of blended white wines made from La Crescent and Frontenac grapes. According to Steven, there were hopes to round out the vineyard’s offerings with a rosé for the next season.
In a lot of ways, life on the vineyard seems like a family affair.
Among the vineyard’s customers during The Islander’s visit was a cousin from nearby in New York, and while the day-to-day work is managed by Jamie and Steven, one of their daughters is expected to join the two for the summer season in the coming weeks.
Even the vineyard’s location is intimately tied to family, as it straddles a home previously belonging to Steven’s late mother.
(That home, according to the two, might soon become the actual tasting room for the Isle La Motte Vineyard, a role currently assigned to a downstairs kitchen in the Foleys’ family home. “Steven would like his kitchen back,” Jamie joked as an aside.)
Future plans for the vineyard also include an artists’ market this August and a possible concert in September, both of which, according to the vineyard’s website, are still “taking shape.”
“Stay tuned,” the vineyard’s website teases.
Since its opening, life on the vineyard had been gradually picking up steam. For the most part, it has been locals trickling through the Isle La Motte Vineyard, though Independence Day brought a comparably large audience for the Foleys’ vineyard.
An unexpectedly busy Friday afternoon met the Foleys during The Islander’s visit. Throughout the afternoon, the two balanced their interviews with entertaining guests to their vineyard.
“The nicest part is we’re meeting more people from the island,” Steven said. “We’re having a good time.”
By MICHELLE MONROE
SOUTH HERO – The South Hero Bicentennial Museum may have been closed during the pandemic, but its volunteers still kept busy. The museum reopened this week with a number of new exhibits.
“It looks completely different,” said Cathy Merrihew, a member of the museum board and one of the volunteers who put together the new exhibits.
One of those exhibits focuses on the history of agriculture in South Hero, with farm implements, photos, and maps showing the farm locations.
There is also a quilt from the Fifield family which dates from 1939 or 1940 with the name of every resident in the town embroidered on it.
Another new exhibit is dedicated to what life is like on an island, including boating, fishing and hunting, with a section dedicated to the steamboats which traveled Lake Champlain in the 1800s.
One of those ships, the Phoenix, caught fire on Sept. 15, 1819. Rescuers went out from South Hero to retrieve the passengers. A map shows the Phoenix’s planned route and where it traveled that day. Merrihew was able to secure a print of a painting of the Phoenix burning from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
The display includes dishes used on some of the ships and stateroom keys. “We’ve had more fun learning about these,” said Merrihew.
The basement was opened as a display space in 2018. It contains equipment from businesses which operated in South Hero, and items from South Hero households. A sewing machine powered by the feet of the sewer sits in one corner. Another clever item allowed the family dog to run on a treadmill which could then be used to operate some basic types of equipment, such as a butter churn.
A bean sorter from the South Hero Bean Company was also powered by the operator who pushed a foot press to cause beans to fall onto the sorter. The worker then removed the chaff before sending the beans down a shoot and into a pail.
Corn was also canned in South Hero under then name Maine’s Finest Corn from 1915 to 1930 when earwigs began destroying the local corn crop.
The most successful South Hero business from the period, according to museum president Terry Robinson, was a creamery that made butter.
The manufacturing businesses were all located near South Hero’s train station where trains stopped regularly from 1900 to 1960.
The museum itself was built in 1925 as a library by Susan Landon in honor of her son who survived World War I only to die of pneumonia in France before he could return home.
In 1974, Folsom School added a library and the town library was moved there to join the school library.
Two years later a group of town residents decided to convert the library building to a museum as a part of the bicentennial celebrations.
Twenty years later, another group of town residents took over the operation of the museum, explained Robinson. When they were on longer able to open it one summer, Robinson, a former social studies teacher at Folsom, volunteered.
“I just loved the history” of South Hero, she said.
“You don’t do too bad for someone from New Jersey,” commented Ron Phelps, another member of the board.
The latest crop of volunteers took over in 2017. They started making changes on the main floor, adding a research area for visitors to use, as well as some new displays.
They then opened the downstairs for the first time, allowing them to display more of the items which had been donated to the museum.
The current board isn’t inclined to rest on their laurels. A cabin from the South Hero Inn has been moved to a location across the street. It’s the next restoration project for the board. It’s one of three cabins added to the inn by Lillian Robinson Axtell. John Roy suggested the museum save it, and Phelps figured out how to move it from a local farm where it had been used as a child’s playhouse.
The museum is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or by appointment. Email email@example.com to schedule an appointment.
By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
NORTH HERO -- A Grand Isle businessman, with both federal and state drug convictions, has been ordered to appear in Vermont Superior Court on new drug trafficking charges following a raid at his home and company last week.
Michael Larrow Sr., 63, has been a focus in an ongoing investigation into heroin trafficking in Grand Isle County since last October, according to the Vermont Drug Task Force.
State, county, municipal and federal law enforcement officials raided Larrow’s fishing bait business and home on Hyde Road in Grand Isle on Thursday.
Eight firearms, drugs and an undisclosed amount of cash were all seized by investigators, a task force spokesman said. Larrow is due in state court Sept. 16, police said.
Larrow has a felony drug conviction in federal court in 2012 as part of a major conspiracy to distribute oxycodone in the area, records show. He received a 57 month prison sentence and forfeited more than $11,000 in drug proceeds in July 2012. The sentence was later reduced to 46 months in February 2015.
He also was sentenced in state court in July 2019 to 60 days to one year in prison after Williston Police and the Grand Isle County Sheriff’s Department said they found more than 400 pills in his apartment. Police said they were mostly Diazepam, a painkiller.
A $1,500 fine also was imposed by Judge Robert Mello.
Larrow’s shop had become so notorious as a local source for diverted prescription pills that it was well known in the community as “Island Bait and Bean,” Grand Isle County State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito noted in his sentencing memo.
DiSabito confirmed Friday he had been consulting with the Vermont Drug Task Force since early in the investigation. He said he helped secure the court-ordered search warrant, but is still waiting to receive police reports before determining the final charges.
The raid was conducted by task force members, including state police detectives, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and South Burlington Police, along with the Grand Isle County Sheriff’s Department, state police from Franklin County and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
BY MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
NORTH HERO -- The annual Independence Day fireworks celebration sponsored by Island Center for Arts and Recreation (ICAR) will be at dusk on Saturday, July 3 this year.
The evening spectacle will return to Knight Point State Park in North Hero this year, ICAR spokesman Bill Champagne said. The fireworks were held on Lovers Lane last year due to COVID-19 complications.
There will be free admission after 5 p.m. at the state park on Lake Champlain. People also can arrive in the area by boat, he said.
Families, groups and individuals are welcome to bring a meal to enjoy, use one of the barbecue grills or take advantage of some mobile vendors that will be selling delicious food items, he said.
The rain date will be Monday July 5.
“But we aren’t going to have any rain this time,” said Champagne, who said the event has been held for at least 15 years.
Champagne said ICAR is not planning to have any concerts or other live events this summer due to COVID-19. The status of gatherings during the summer was unknown during the winter when most of the planning and booking of groups and entertainers occurs.
“ICAR plans to come back in 2022 in a big way with music in the park. There will be plenty of planning and top entertainment for lovers of the arts and recreation,” he said.
By MICHAEL FRETT
NORTH HERO – The lights do not dim and there is no curtain to call, but as the first performers took to the mic Friday evening, it was clear theater had returned to Grand Isle County.
The Full Circle Theater Collaborative held its first fundraiser of the season on Friday, welcoming students and alumni to the stage for “An Evening Under the Stars” and what was, for many, the first live show since vaccinations cued the end of COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year.
Given the looming threat of rain, around 100 people crowded inside Island Arts’ Homer Knight Barn for what was advertised as a cabaret, a style of nighttime entertainment sitting audiences at tables and ensembles on stage.
While the definition of cabaret can incorporate a number of different performances, Friday’s event was strictly a musical affair, punctuated only by the occasional spikes of comedy and commentary from the evening’s three designated emcees.
“It’s an art form about singers having a conversation with an audience,” Gina Fearn, one of Full Circle Theater’s organizers, told The Islander from the sidelines of Friday’s concert. “It’s an opportunity to give a lot of our students a chance to perform.”
Perform they did.
Throughout the night, around a dozen singers took to the stage, offering takes on audience- and theater-friendly cuts that ranged from the spry to the serious and everywhere in between.
One singer took on a standout track from The Prom, a recent Broadway favorite and even more recent recipient of the Netflix treatment. Another offered lyrical warnings against romancing “navel-contemplating, floppy haired actors originally from Baltimore,” despite their city’s apparently cool aquarium.
All of the above won smiles and applause from their Friday evening audience.
There also seemed to be a sense of relief among members of the audience as they filed into Island Arts’ barn for what was, presumably, their first show since the COVID-19 pandemic closed theaters and forced live performances onto Zoom.
The minutes before Friday’s show came with a steady stream of “welcome backs” and seemingly warm embraces. “Happy theater,” wished one visitor to another.
“We’re here in this barn and it’s lovely and beautiful, and we’re watching live music and theater,” Ryan Addario, one of Friday’s hosts, said in between songs to whoops of agreement from the audience. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve been watching Top Chef for fifteen months and this is objectively better.”
According to Fearn, Friday’s show was intended as a fundraiser to help support the Full Circle Theater Collaborative, a theater group created during the height of the pandemic to support local children and teens interested in the theater arts COVID-19 effectively put on hold.
“We started our companies to meet the needs of the kids during the pandemic,” Fearn said, “and now we’re just running with it.”
Throughout last year’s season, the group had managed to stage practices and performances through Zoom before returning to the stage in October for a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night.
That show, performed for only a modest audience in Island Arts’ North Hero barn, was warmly welcomed by performers, according to Fearn. “When we got into this space, they were so thrilled to get together,” Fearn said. “[Theater] is so much more than just their art – it’s their community.”
The theater group is planning another pair of performances – one for preteens and middle-schoolers and another for high school and young adults – for the Homer Knight Barn later this summer, as well as setting aside scholarship funds for prospective theater students.
While Friday seemed to bring some nervousness from its performers, many who had graduated into professional careers likewise stymied by the pandemic, Fearn said there was also an excitement around returning to the stage.
“Theater is alive and well in Vermont,” she said. “We’re just getting going. We’re making it happen.”
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