Year in Review, Part 3: Red Sox, Flu, Phish and more

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(Host) In almost every year there are events that don’t fit into any one category. They’re unique; so different that if a year had fingerprints they’d be part of the identifying pattern.As we continue our series on “2004,” VPR’s Steve Delaney takes a look into that mixed bag.

For starters, he finds that many Vermonters had a once in a lifetime, “moment,” at the end of October.

(Mitch Wertlieb) “Well if you’re a fan of the Boston Red Sox this morning you might just be pinching yourself, asking, Am I dreaming? Did I really see it happen? You did. The Boston Red Sox are the World Series champions for the first time in 86 years…”

(Delaney) VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb talked with sportscaster Jack Healey of Rutland’s WSYB, the morning after.

(Healey) “Listening to you talk about that game last night gives me chills. I can’t sand it any longer.”
(Wertlieb) “It’s amazing and I think that’s the reaction from people who have been watching this team for so long.”
(Healey) “It really is unbelievable that it came out our way last night.”
(Wertlieb) “It really is unbelievable.”

(Delaney) In early October we learned that there would be a shortage of flu vaccine this year. That sparked a somewhat panicky scramble for flu shots and Dr. Paul Jarris, the state health commissioner, stepped in.

(Jarris) “We are concerned that we don’t currently have enough vaccine and we suspect we won’t ultimately have all the vaccine we need or want. But calm is important here.”

(Delaney) Dr. Jarris tried to calm the jitters by setting up a series of flu clinics around the state for patients at the highest risk for the flu virus.

It wasn’t a good year for the Vermont Corrections Department. A report on suicide deaths among inmates parceled out blame for negligence among department employees. And in September, Vermonters housed at a privately run prison in Kentucky were involved in a riot. At the end of November a Kentucky grand jury indicted 21 inmates on charges that included first degree rioting. Sixteen of them were Vermonters.

Some famous roads had their moments. A very bumpy section of Interstate 89 north of Montpelier got paved. A very curvy section of Route 9 in southern Vermont got straightened. A section of the Bennington Bypass opened, though funding for the next leg is up in the air. And the extension of the Circumferential Highway near Burlington was stopped in a dispute over environmental permits.

On Town Meeting Day in March, the residents of Killington voted to secede from Vermont, and become part of New Hampshire. It was an angry reaction to the level of state taxes paid by the property-rich resort town. Diane Rosenbloom was among the advocates of secession.

(Rosenbloom) “This is not just something that can be left alone to the three select board members. We are all going to have to take a part. Otherwise it’s going to look like something we voted on just because we were mad.”

(Delaney) In fact that’s what most Vermonters did think. Although the New Hampshire Legislature will consider a bill to welcome Killington, the Vermont Legislature would also have to approve the secession and will not do it.

Something that’s obviously out of place is called a fish out of water. Phish in water became part of the legend of Vermont’s homegrown jam band in its last concert, in August. It rained for days and almost 70,000 people showed up in Coventry anyway, leaving cars on the roadsides and people walking into the very muddy concert site.

VPR’s Patti Daniels was right in the middle of that crowd.

(Daniels) “I remember at one point I was trying to walk up this hillside in the campground and the tractors had churned up the mud so much that it was just, you took one step and you would sink down a foot deep into this mud. And everyone around you is in the same boat, they’re just trying to keep their balance as they fight their way up this muddy, slick hillside.”

(Delaney) It was the music that made Coventry the most populated town in Vermont for a few wet days in August – the music and the end of the band that made it. As always, Trey Anastasio spoke for Phish.

(Anastasio, from stage) “One of the things we were talking about backstage, just thinking of when we were 18, twenty years ago, we thought we knew so much. And when I think back now about it, I think how little I knew, you know what I mean? About music and about friendship. (Voice breaks up.) To go through all this stuff – as the four of us went through a lot of difficult times at certain times, as everybody does – to always have those three people there with you…” (Gasps, begins crying.) (Sound of crowd cheering.)

(Delaney) Working another part of the state’s musical spectrum, the Vermont Youth Orchestra made a trek of its own under less primitive conditions, to a less primitive place

(Musician) “I’m so excited, just being able to tell all my friends that I’m going to Carnegie Hall. The idea that my parents have got a box and I’m playing in a place with boxes! (Laughs) It’s going to be really cool!”

(Delaney) Seventy-plus teenaged musicians from Vermont played music by Vermonters in one of New York City’s temples of the arts.

In the late summer work on the new Lowe’s home improvement store site in South Burlington was abruptly stopped by the state in a dispute over storm-water permit policy that is now in the State Supreme Court.

In late June the remote community of Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain was shocked by the arson murder of a respected local couple. Two local teens who knew the victims were quickly arrested and charged. Their trials are not likely for at least another six months.

An important fiftieth anniversary went by this year. In 1954 the late Vermont Senator Ralph Flanders was openly critical of the powerful Senator Joseph McCarthy, in a Senate speech.

There were cheers in Brattleboro when Kenya’s Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize. She has ties to the School for International Training.

The Lois McClure set sail in July, putting a freight schooner on Lake Champlain for the first time in almost a hundred years.

And the eagles flew in Addison County, young ones raised in boxes. It will take a few years before we learn whether they’ll settle here as adults.

For VPR News, I’m Steve Delaney.

Next in the Series: a report on the politics of 2004.

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