(HOST) June is Cultural Heritage Month in Vermont, and commentator Tom Slayton thinks that’s a great idea.
(SLAYTON) What do the cows at Billings Farm in Woodstock, the annual Lake Champlain International Fishing Derby, Danville’s 45th annual Dowsers’ Convention, and a townful of rocking chairs in Brandon have in common?
Answer: They’re all part of Vermont Cultural Heritage Month, now in progress until the end of June. It’s a month-long celebration that encompasses nearly 1,000 special events and ongoing attrac- tions. And if I had to choose just one, it might be the Vermont History Expo, June 25 and 26th at the Tunbridge fairgrounds. That’s where local historical societies from around the state put on a huge show of their best things, and the fairground is filled with music, parades and performances, all overseen by the Vermont Historical Society.
Vermont Cultural Heritage Month is a great idea. It encourages Vermonters and visitors to appreciate and celebrate the best of what makes our state unique: its history, arts, crafts and natural beauty.
Vermont is lucky; it still has character. That is, it has what people nowadays call a sense of place – that feeling that sets this small state apart from the rest of the world. Gertrude Stein once famous- ly said of Oakland, California, “There’s no there there.” Fortun- ately, Vermont still has plenty of “there.” Some parts of the state have been lost to suburbia and sprawl, but for the most part, it looks different and feels different from the rest of the country. Vermont still feels like itself – a genuine and distinctive place. Be- lieve me, that’s a precious attribute that many other places have lost.
I think Vermont remains distinctive because we’ve been pretty good about remembering our past without enshrining it in moth- balls. We have basically put those memories to work; they’re a working part of our present reality.
For example, we’ve managed to nurture a reasonably healthy business economy while maintaining an open landscape and small cities with historic downtowns that work. Villages estab- lished more than 100 years ago still bring people together for business and social activities. Likewise, we still have country stores that are vital, working businesses and function as com- munity meeting places, the nerve centers for their communities.
Not surprisingly, our historic downtowns and the Vermont Country Store Alliance are both part of Vermont Cultural heritage Month. And there are literally hundreds of other events and attractions, ranging from free admission to Vermont State Parks (it’s called Vermont Days and it’s this weekend) to the historic Lake Champ- lain sailing Canal Schooner, the Lois B. McClure, which will begin its historic journey to New York City with a big party at Basin Harbor in Ferrisburgh on June 18 and 19.
Anyone who loves Vermont should enjoy this inspired month of activities celebrating Vermont’s past and its present. It’s as big as Mount Mansfield and as down home as strawberry rhubarb pie!
Tom Slayton is the editor of Vermont Life magazine. He spoke from our studio in Montpelier.