Kevin O’Connor / Staff Photo
Gov. Peter Shumlin presents Brattleboro Town Manager Barbara Sondag with a “Vermont Strong” license plate Saturday during a visit to the newly restored Whetstone Studio for the Arts.
Newfane will parade a seven-months-pregnant “Queen Irene” on its newly rebuilt road. Brattleboro will screen “Singin’ in the Rain” in its formerly flooded theater. Pittsfield will host a potluck picnic on the green where all 546 townspeople huddled after their lone highway washed away.
How do you mark the first anniversary of the most destructive force to hit Vermont in decades? For dozens of communities, by showing how residents are bouncing back.
Vermonters from Wilmington to Waterbury will remember Tropical Storm Irene with a variety of events on and around Aug. 28, when leaders are requesting the ringing of bells at 7 p.m.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, who crisscrossed the severed state by National Guard helicopter a year ago, kicked off a four-day return trip Saturday by driving to the site of the Bartonsville Covered Bridge, whose collapse into the raging Williams River was captured and replayed on YouTube more than a half-million times.
Why trade the whirlybird for wheels?
“Because the state rebuilt more than 500 miles of damaged road and 34 bridges and we want to use them,” Shumlin said.
The governor demonstrated by moving on to Brattleboro, Wilmington, Stratton and Jamaica during a tour that will bring him today to Granville, Hancock, Rochester, Stockbridge, Pittsfield and Bethel; Monday to Mendon, Rutland, Killington, Quechee, West Hartford and Woodstock; and Tuesday to Waterbury, Moretown, Waitsfield, Northfield and Randolph.
Shumlin’s travels Saturday revealed both progress and lingering problems. In Brattleboro, he visited the once-ripped-open and now-restored Whetstone Studio for the Arts where the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore — a Vermont native — broadcast live a year ago. But in the next three southern Vermont towns, he encountered many still-ravaged buildings and missing bridges.
“We have so much to be proud of — and so much more work to do,” the governor said. “This is an opportunity not only to commemorate the extraordinary response of Vermonters but also to rededicate ourselves to those who are still struggling.”
Shumlin noted the need to remember the six Green Mountain residents who died as a result of Irene, as well as to continue to contribute to local and state recovery funds.
Cities and towns are set to mark the anniversary in a multitude of ways.
Today the villages of South Newfane and Williamsville will host a noon parade along the newly rebuilt Dover Road to raise money for their combined local fire department. The march will feature seven-months-pregnant “Queen Irene” Quinn Cartelli, who moved to town two days before the storm and returned from a weekend wedding to find her house intact but the next-door neighbor’s washed away.
“We think she’s the perfect symbol of new life after all that devastation,” parade organizer Chris Triebert says.
In Pittsfield, residents will gather today from 12:30 to 7 p.m. for a potluck picnic set to welcome Shumlin, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch.
In Brattleboro, downtown’s Latchis Theatre — whose 18,000-square-foot cellar filled with floodwater, forcing an almost two-month closing and $500,000 cleanup — will offer a free screening of the classic movie musical “Singin’ in the Rain” Tuesday at 7 p.m.
And in Randolph, the Chandler Center for the Arts will host “We Are Vermont Strong: A Commemorative Gathering” Tuesday at 7 p.m. The free program will feature the Vermont Youth Orchestra and Choir, singers Jon Gailmor and Shyla Nelson, Vermont State Song composer Diane Martin and remarks by Shumlin, Welch and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy.
A full list of community commemorations is available at www.vermontdisasterrecovery.com/events.
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