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19 VPR Stories From 2019 To Put A Smile On Your Face

6 square panels, clockwise from top left: woman with sign outside a library, person parading a boar's head, group of football players, two people in snowy woods with dog, Star Pudding Farm Road sign, a person wearing wings.
VPR
In what has become somewhat of an annual tradition, here's a look back on some stories that made Vermont smile in 2019.

The bulk of 2019 is in the rearview mirror, and on this yearlong journey we've heard a number of stories that brought a smile to the face of Vermonters. Some were heartfelt, some were quirky, and if you're looking for an end-of-year reminder of those moments, here's a round-up of 19 such stories (brought to you in no particular order).

This list was curated by digital producer Meg Malone — and if she missed something from 2019 that really brightened your day, tell us in the comments below or tweet @vprnet.

Recalling Toni Morrison's time in Vermont
Author Toni Morrison reads at a podium to people gathered
Credit Eric Borg / Special Collections, Middlebury College (courtesy)
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Special Collections, Middlebury College (courtesy)
Toni Morrison speaks at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 1976. Morrison served on the Bread Loaf faculty in the 1970s.

This is a bittersweet entry to the list, because acclaimed author Toni Morrison died this year. But looking back on her time spent in the 1970s at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference — complete with archival audio — was a treat for fans of her work.

For more — 'A True Literary Citizen': Remembering Toni Morrison's Time At Bread Loaf [Aug. 14]

Eyes on the prize(s)...

Two Vermont-based authors who write for young people had lifetime achievement awards bestowed upon them this year.

M.T. Anderson received the Margaret A. Edwards Award, given by the American Library Association for a body of young adult literature work. Katherine Paterson was this year's recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' E.B. White Award, for her contributions to children's literature.

Both Anderson and Paterson spoke with VPR about their respective honors.

For more — 

...But also eyes on the pies (and bread)

A person removing a pan of pies from an oven.
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
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VPR
Shana Goldberger, who runs Sweet Babu in Winooski, removes pear, ginger and bourbon pies from the oven ahead of Thanksgiving.

Checking in on Vermonters prepping pies ahead of Thanksgiving made for a delicious experience as a reader and listener (with less cleanup and smoke alarms going off than my pie-making attempts).

Less of a pie person, and instead go for bread? Recently VPR visited a bakery in Barre to learn about the techniques used there.

In both cases, unfortunately, fresh-from-the-oven scents are not included.

For more: 

Boar head on parade

A woman carries an umbrella and wheels a cart with a mounted boar's head on it.
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
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VPR
Retiring Vermont Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Skoglund parades her mounted boar's head, Emmett, to his new home with her former law clerk and Montpelier attorney, Michael Donofrio, back in July.

On a totally normal July day, a mounted boar's head named Emmett was feted in the streets of Montpelier.

If you really need the context, it was because retiring Vermont Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Skoglund was moving Emmett to his new home. Alas, this unique event has been documented for posterity.

For more — A Visual Journey: Retiring Justice's Boar Head Gets A Parade In Montpelier [July 4]

Surprise! It's a mural

The painting of Lone Rock Point by Burlington artist Raymond Pease, created in the 1930s and sealed behind a wall in the 1990s, was re-discovered during renovations at UVM in May.
Credit Sally McCay / UVM, courtesy
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UVM, courtesy
The painting of Lone Rock Point by Burlington artist Raymond Pease, created in the 1930s and sealed behind a wall in the 1990s, was re-discovered during renovations at UVM in May.

You know that feeling when you remove a wall and there's a decades-old mural behind it? Well, UVM does.

The story of its discovery provides a mix of geology, American history and art conservation. There's something there for everybody (even if surprises aren't really your thing).

For more — Art In The Walls: New Deal-Era Mural Rediscovered At UVM [June 19]

Time traveling to the 18th century

Revolutionary War reenactors exchange fire on a hillside.
Credit Ray Parker, Courtesy
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Reenactors dressed as Redcoats and Green Mountain Boys exchange musket fire at the Hubbardton Battlefield.

Only one battle in the American Revolution was fought entirely in Vermont, and that event — the Battle of Hubbardton — was brought to modern life over the summer thanks to dedicated re-enactors.

People doing something they genuinely enjoy, which also helps the rest of us learn a little something about history? A solid combination.

For more — 'Hanging Out, Camping Out — With Muskets!': Reenacting The Hubbardton Battle Of 1777 [July 11]

Vermont to Broadway

Anais Mitchell accepts the Tony Award for Best Original Score for 'Hadestown' at this year's ceremony.
Credit Charles Sykes / Invision/Associated Press
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Invision/Associated Press
Anais Mitchell accepts the Tony Award for Best Original Score for 'Hadestown' at this year's ceremony.

Hadestown took Broadway by storm this year, winning eight Tony Awards. The show may be playing in New York now, but its roots trace back here to Vermont where creator Anais Mitchell grew up.

Whether the musical is fairly new to you, or you remember seeing an early iteration in Barre years ago, it's fascinating to see the path that the show and Mitchell have taken.

For more —

A bachelor party tale

A case of mistaken email identity made Vermont the subject of a viral online campaign early in the year.

Arizona resident Will Novak received an invitation to a stranger's bachelor party and he harnessed the positive power of the internet to actually attend the festivities.

For more — Man Crowdfunds Trip To Vermont For A Stranger's Bachelor Party, Goes Viral [Jan. 15]

Baring it for books

A woman stands by a sandwich board.
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
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VPR
Varnum Memorial Library trustee Karen Smith stands for a portrait outside the library, which is selling calendars with photographs of local authors "in various states of tasteful and artistically rendered implied nudity."

Vermont is known for being home to notable literary luminaries, but a Jeffersonville library used that as a jumping off point for a creative fundraising effort.

Yes, "nude library calendar" is the kind of phrase that catches one's attention, but the story also provides a look at the naked truth that fundraising is a part of life for libraries around the state.

For more — Going Coverless: Library Fundraises With 'Tastefully' Nude Local Authors [Oct. 11]

Outings with Erica

An aerial view of corn designed to look like two pigs.
Credit Erica Heilman / VPR
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VPR
An aerial photo of the 2019 Great Vermont Corn Maze, in Danville.

You may know Erica Heilman from her podcast Rumblestrip, but she also produced a number of additional stories for VPR this year. Erica is able to just melt right into a community and really highlight the personalities of the people she meets and the events she encounters.

Honestly, I couldn't just pick one, so I'm cheating a little and grouping a few smile-inducing entries together.

For more —

'Young At Art' series

A woman wears wings.
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
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VPR
Artist Katie Runde wears the pair of Icarus' wings she created for a longterm conceptual project about man ascending.

All summer long, VPR shared profiles of Vermont artists under the age of 40. From dancers to painters, poets to composers, there's a trove of talent to learn more about in this series.

Plus there's also stunning portraits to peruse thanks to digital producer and ace photographer Elodie Reed, who joined the newsroom this year.

For more — Explore all the stories from VPR's 'Young At Art' summer series.

Even more artists

A colorful art display made of various objects, like old musical instruments and chimney brushes.
Credit Nina Keck / VPR
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VPR
Brandon artist Gene Childers creates art out of "found objects" like old musical instruments and chimney brushes.

Obviously it isn't just people under 40 creating art in Vermont, and we heard this year too about a display of work in Rutland from artists age 70 and up.

For more — Rutland Exhibit Showcases Artists Over Age 70 [April 29]

Classic high school sports story
Fairfax-Lamoille football practice.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR
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VPR
The 31 members on the Fairfax-Lamoille team are students at four different high schools.

The Fairfax-Lamoille Bullets is a football team made up of students from four Vermont high schools. Hearing a group of teenagers from different schools talk about how their teammates are like family? I'm not crying, you're crying (we're all crying).

For more — Packing The Power Of Four High Schools, Bullets Hope To Fire Into Postseason Football [Oct. 17] 

Sugaring siblings

Troy and Jon Osborne stand before their sugarhouse in Ferdinand. Troy is holding Jon's dog, Bodie.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR
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VPR
Troy and Jon Osborne stand before their sugarhouse in Ferdinand. Troy is holding Jon's dog, Bodie.

When producing maple syrup is a family affair, like it is for the Osbornes, it is sweet to hear — and I don't even care if that's sappy to say.

For more — Born To Boil: Sugaring Ferdinand's Woods Is A Labor Of Love For The Osborne Brothers [April 3]

Another helping of Star Pudding
A road sign.
Credit Anna Van Dine / VPR
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VPR
Star Pudding Farm Road, in Marshfield.

Brave Little State took another go at figuring out the stories behind different road names in Vermont, and one that sparked curiosity was Star Pudding Farm Road, in Marshfield.

It turns out the name can be traced to a poem, a charming answer on its own. But then, in the weeks following the episode release, the podcast also had a lovely follow-up conversation with former farm resident Laura Johnson. It ties up this investigation nicely.

For more —

So many proverbs

A man sits in front of a bookshelves
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
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VPR
UVM professor Wolfgang Mieder is one of the world's leading proverb scholars, and his collection of books on the subject is now housed at a university library.

Did you know one of the world's proverb scholars is a professor at UVM? Not only that, but Wolfgang Mieder has given his massive collection of proverbs literature from around the world to the Billings Library (he admits the large number of books was becoming unwieldy in his home). He even shared some of his personal favorite proverbs with us.

For more — Professor's Collection Of 9,000 Works Of Proverbs Has New Home At UVM Library [Nov. 22]

Global animals

A man stands in the woods.
Credit Elodie Reed / VPR
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VPR
Matt Aeberhard, who lives in the Northeast Kingdom, was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Netflix's 'Our Planet.'

Wildlife cinematographer Matt Aeberhard lives in the Northeast Kingdom, but he introduces viewers to places all over the world through his work, which has streamed on Netflix.

Aeberhard brought up some heavier topics in this interview, like how he's been witness to "planetary diminishment," but his passion for documenting Earth's creatures shines through.

For more — 'Our Planet' Cinematographer Matt Aeberhard On Documenting Wildlife [Nov. 6]

A magical interview

Jeremy Mikaelson performed at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles last month and is planning to work as a professional magician after his graduation from St. Michael's College.
Credit Taylor Wong
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Jeremy Mikaelson performed at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles earlier this year.

Calling this a magical interview isn't even really a pun because recent Saint Michael's College graduate Jeremy Mikaelson is actually a magician. Earlier this year he performed at the high-profile Magic Castle in Los Angeles, and talked about the experience on Vermont Edition.

For more — Award-Winning St. Mike's Magician On Path To Professional Prestidigitation [May 6]

Unicorns. (Enough said.)

A unicorn in a clearing
Credit MadKruben / istock
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istock
Unicorn!

Kids provide so many great questions for the But Why podcast to dive into, but there's something particularly magical (this time pun is intended) about this episode contemplating the existence of unicorns.

For more — Are Unicorns Real? [Oct. 25] 

Goodbye, 2019 ...

Stay classy, Vermont. See you in 2020.

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