Year In Review: 18 Things That Made Vermont Smile In 2018

Dec 7, 2018

The year is wrapping up, and throughout 2018 we heard a number of stories from our state that put a smile on the faces of Vermonters. Need a pick me up? Take a look through this list of 2018 highlights (in no particular order).

Tell us what stories you enjoyed in the comments below or tweet us @vprnet.

Ceres makes a comeback

The Vermont Statehouse had a noticeable absence for a bulk of 2018, as the Ceres statue was taken down to get replaced. But just last month, the new statue was hoisted up as a crowd gathered and cheered.


Vermonters go for gold

Amanda Pelkey shows off the gold medal she won as a member of the U.S. Women's Hockey team.
Credit Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Rooting for Team USA gets a little more exciting when you can trace some athletes' ties back to our state.

Even before things got started in Pyeongchang, we heard stories about those heading to their first Olympics and families with multiple generations of Olympic athletes. And as the games went on, there were a number of success stories — including a few gold medals!


Rhino horn recovered

Credit Brian Jenkins / University of Vermont, courtesy

You may recall that a rhino horn was reported stolen from UVM in the spring of 2017. Well, 2018 was the year it was found  — and placed "under increased security over what we had previously," according to Bill Kilpatrick, curator of the Zadock Thompson Zoological Collections.

FOR MORE — Black Rhino Horn Stolen From UVM Recovered [March 14]

A more accessible Long Trail

Wheelchairs and strollers can now more easily explore the Long Trail thanks to a new accessible boardwalk that opened before Memorial Day.

FOR MORE — Long Trail Relocation Brings New Accessible Boardwalk To Smugglers' Notch [May 24]

A visitor from 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'
Clemons stopped by the VPR studio this summer. He's featured in the 2018 documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"
Credit Jane Lindholm / VPR

François Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, visited the VPR neighborhood this year.

Clemmons took time during the conversation to reflect on racism and empathy, as well as talk about his relationship with Fred Rogers, his commitment to his "cosmic children" and even perform a couple songs.

Plus we heard heartwarming words from those who have been positively impacted by Clemmons over the years.

FOR MORE — François Clemmons On His 'Mister Rogers' Role, His Career And Identity [July 16]

A series of interesting Vermonters

Vermont Edition's Ric Cengeri has profiled a number of "interesting Vermonters" over the course of 2018. Through Ric's conversations with these individuals we've been treated to nuggets of life wisdom, a tale of gifting thousands of roses, and a memorable testament to the power of maple syrup.

Sonny Brown, aka the "unofficial mayor" of East Dover, Vt.
Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR


Out-of-this-world curiosity

"What's beyond space?" is a question posed by 5-year-old Amelia that we heard during a charming — and informative! — live episode of But Why that was all about the universe. Just try not to smile as kids excitedly put their questions to astronomer John O'Meara in the podcast version of the program.

FOR MORE — How Was The Universe Created? [July 20]

Snow sport opportunities
Eliza Nellis, 7, does a bit of July sledding in Craftsbury.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Whether it was learning about the perhaps unfamiliar winter sport of "jack jumping," or partaking in the tried-and-true favorite activity of sledding (in the middle of the summer), the thought of snowy possibilities throughout the year likely made a number of Vermonters smile.


Summer by the water

This summer the VPR newsroom took time to focus on the ways people work and recreate on bodies of water in the state during the summer.

From a kayak tour of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge to a trip aboard a working boat on Lake Champlain to the "zen" aspects of fly fishing, listeners tagged along to find out why local waterways hold personal significance to fellow Vermonters.

FOR MORE — Explore VPR's entire Summer By The Water series [2018]

Refuge manager Ken Sturm looks out with his binoculars at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.
Credit Lynne McCrea / VPR

Standing up to invasive plants
A poison parsnip plant, pictured in Monkton, Vt., in 2016.
Credit Jane Lindholm / VPR

Attacking an invasive species during the night may sound like a sci-fi movie plot, but in Monkton a group of residents banded together to try to lessen the amount of poison parsnip in their community.

VPR's Jane Lindholm tagged along to hear from the leader of the effort and those who have followed suit in an effort to make the community outdoors a little safer and more inviting.

There were even special shovels involved.

FOR MORE — Monkton Residents Take Up Arms (Shovels) Against 'Poison Parsnip' Invasion [Aug. 29]

Finding long-lost love letters

They are dusty and yellowed, but the ink and pencil lettering was still legible: 90-year-old letters written by Laura Johnson to the love of her life, Harold White.
Credit Jennifer Carter, courtesy

A romantic correspondence of nearly nine years was discovered during a home renovation project just over the New Hampshire border. Thanks to VPR reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman's story, listeners here in the Green Mountain State got a chance to learn how the current resident discovered the letters and was able to get in touch with the descendants of the letter-writing couple — who yes, ended up together and married for 40 years!

FOR MORE — After 90 Years Hidden In The Floor, Couple's Love Letters Resurface In West Lebanon [March 27]

A building's birthday bash

When a building turns 100 in our state, it's apparently no ordinary celebration. This year the Vermont Supreme Court Building hit that century mark. Sure, there were the expected tours and speeches, but there was also a re-enactment of historical arguments from Dodge Brothers v. Central Vermont Railway Company. Now that's just a host going above and beyond.

FOR MORE — Vt. Supreme Court Building's 100th Birthday Party Features Historical Re-Enactment [May 17]

Raising a bunch of butterflies
Two hanging chrysalises, including one where the butterfly is about to eclose and you can see its wings through the walls of the chrysalis.
Credit KT Thalin / Courtesy

Dozens and dozens of monarch butterflies now in the wild can trace their early days back to KT Thalin's home. Thalin shared her story of caring for the creatures with Vermont Edition — and also updated us to the real-time emerging of one of the butterflies from its chrysalis during the interview!

FOR MORE — 'Butterfly Whisperer' Nurtures Monarchs From Milkweed To First Flight [Sept. 10]

Education in the great outdoors

There were a few instances of Vermonters shaking up the traditional classroom setting and heading outside for learning opportunities.

For preschoolers in the Northeast Kingdom, it meant letting their imaginations run wild, building fairy houses and playing in a "mud kitchen." And for a group of New York high school students, the work they are doing in the Sandgate, Vermont, woods could one day impact what future students learn about American Revolution militiaman Daniel Shays.

A preschooler plays in a mud kitchen in the Northeast Kingdom, while high school student Alice Roosevelt collects dirt to sift for artifacts related to Daniel Shays.
Credit Left: Amy Kolb Noyes; Right: Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

And who says learning outdoors cannot be a lifelong pursuit? Just listen to how some of the Long Trail hikers we heard from on Brave Little State framed their adventure as a learning opportunity.


Lampreys are down, sturgeon are up

A long-running program to control the parasitic sea lamprey population in the area has been deemed a success — which OK, not great news for the lampreys, but a welcome development for a number of other species. For example: the lake sturgeon.

We also heard this year about how the endangered sturgeon population seems to be growing, and wildlife officials told VPR the lamprey control efforts are part of that improvement. Here's hoping those sturgeon live for 100+ years (because literally, they can).

Fish and Wildlife technician Taylor Booth, left, and biologist Chet Mackenzie measure a male sturgeon caught in the Winooski River.
Credit John Dillon / VPR


Strong local communities
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

There were Vermont communities who had to endure destructive fires, but the strength they channeled in the wake of that devastation was inspiring to the state.

People from all over the world gathered to help rebuild a Morristown barn that burned down over the winter, and a weekly newspaper in Woodstock still managed to put out its latest edition for the public just days after a fire destroyed their offices.


Young people rock on
Vermont Jazz Center Director Eugene Uman, center, leads a class on promoting music and gigs during BrattRock. Classes on songwriting, live sound and collaboration were also held.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Music often can prompt a smile, and a few Vermont stories had the bonus of young people being the music makers.

Teen rock bands descended on Brattleboro for a non-competitive festival to showcase their original musical chops, plus receive mentorship to take their skills and industry knowledge up a (metaphorical) octave.  

And in an episode of Dorothy's List, we were treated to Guilford students providing their musical interpretations of whimsical poems featured in Chris Harris' book I'm Just No Good At Rhyming. Who knows, maybe one day in the future they may grace a BrattRock stage!


Dogs, dogs, dogs
Penny the dog, author Kate DiCamillo and the crowd look on as Harry Bliss turns an audience member's scribble into a cartoon at an event in Burlington.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Whether they were stealing the show at an event for young readers or strutting their stuff at the Westminster Dog Show, puppers popped up in the headlines.

Also related to our four-legged friends, there was the story of dogcatcher Zeb Towne, who looks out for the Duxbury canines.

And we'd be remiss to not mention that our own reporter Peter Hirschfeld served briefly as an unofficial dogcatcher when he used the power of social media to track down the owner of a lost dog.