Surprise, surprise!

MONTPELIER — The central Vermont ties here are loose, but the news release we received did come from Groton (Connecticut) and it did involve Montpelier (the USS Montpelier).

Still, some stories are worth telling and we think this one fits the bill.

Seems the USS Montpelier, a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, recently returned to the naval submarine base in New London, Connecticut, following a four-month deployment.

For those who are curious, the submarine traveled more than 40,000 nautical miles while at sea and visited ports in Greece and Spain before its homecoming on Sunday.

The homecoming is the interesting part, and while we wish Lt. Matt McIntyre and his wife, Rebecca, were from central Vermont, we suspect they probably aren’t.

Seems McIntyre (the lieutenant, not the woman holding the cardboard sign that said: “It’s a boy!”) was granted the ceremonial first kiss pier-side in keeping with the U.S. Navy homecoming tradition.

“We made signs and I was planning to do (a gender reveal) anyway, but this (first kiss) just makes it extra special,” said Rebecca McIntyre, whose sign broke the news the couple’s second child would be a son.

McIntyre (the lieutenant, not his pregnant wife) was “really, really excited” by the news she’d struggled to keep a secret since early September.

While the gender was a surprise, the baby wasn’t … at least not for Lt. Matt McIntyre. He knew his wife was pregnant.

Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Dolan, the submarine’s executive officer, didn’t know the same about his wife, Jabin. He does now.

“He knew we had been trying,” Jabin Dolan said. “We had been trying for a long time.”

When the Dolans embraced on the pier on Sunday, their two young sons broke the news to their dad who had been otherwise occupied for the last four months.

“There’s a baby sister in mommy’s tummy!” they said.

Dolan (the lieutenant commander, not his pregnant wife) was pretty pumped.

“We’re so used to boys, this will be an exciting change,” he said.

What are the odds?

There are 140 members of the Montpelier’s crews — 120 of them just deployed for the first time. One of them is waiting to welcome a baby boy and another just learned he has a baby girl on the way.

Beaver retriever?

BERLIN — We have a sinking feeling that the beaver being blamed for mucking up the “Friendship Park” at the corner of Route 12 and Muzzy Road might not be long for this world.

They may be gone already.

Sure, Town Administrator Vince Conti told Select Board members Monday night that relocating the beaver (it isn’t clear how many) was one option, but the other – “terminate the residency” — sounded more ominous.

Conti gets points for creativity and, based on Monday night’s conversation, whoever deals with the pesky beaver will be paid $60 per animal.

Waste opportunity

BARRE — When it comes to waste, size matters as anyone who has ever tried to stuff a mattress into a garbage bag can surely attest.

Seriously, it’s why things like couches, arm chairs and box springs can turn into lawn ornaments.

Sometimes cost is a consideration. So is transportation (what doesn’t fit in a garbage bag might not fit in your trunk, if, that is, you have a trunk). Barre officials can’t do a lot about the latter, but on Saturday they can, and will, be doing something about the former — offering city residents the opportunity to unload their bulky waste for free, no questions asked.

We’re told a dozen roll-off containers will be strategically placed in the parking lot in front of the Barre Municipal Auditorium waiting for residents to bring awkward items that are on their lawns or taking up space in garages and basements.

Think mattresses, sofas, box springs, bicycles and household appliances. Don’t think tires!

Sure, tires are bulky (perhaps bulkier than toys and other smaller items that can be tossed between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday), but the city hosted a tire collection in July and is hoping to host another one next year, so keeping tires out of the mix on Saturday would be appreciated.

Residents (we can’t stress enough this is only for Barre residents) need only load up their vehicles, drive to the auditorium, follow the directional signs, unload and drive off.

No charge. No fuss. No muss. No mess.

Church music?

BERLIN — The First Congregational Church will be hosting a free outdoor performance featuring West African drumming and dance to celebrate community and diversity this weekend.

Weather permitting, Shiddaa Projects Inc. will team up with the Akwaaba Ensemble for the two-hour performance that is set from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the church on Scott Hill Road.

If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, Sunday is the rain date, but the time and place will be the same.

They are expecting as many as 200 people might turn out for the performance. Folks planning to attend are encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy the cultural experience.


MIDDLESEX — Banjo Bob and Bread & Puppet?

If that sounds too good to be true (and to some it just might) that’s the double-header folks can expect at Camp Meade for three hours on Saturday.

The gates will open at 3 p.m. and Bob Wolk (he’s Banjo Bob) will be performing on the green while folks are perusing a pair of intriguing exhibits, checking out Bread & Puppet’s Cheap Art Sale and enjoying its signature bread and aioli along with drinks and refreshments available at Camp Meade Summer Shack, the Red Hen Bakery Cafe, and the Filling Station restaurant.

So, what will be on display?

For starters there’s the “Bread & Puppet Bad Bedsheet Philosophy & Existibility Show.”

The what? The exhibit that shows what Bread & Puppet founder Peter Schumann can do with discarded bedsheets and other landfill-bound textiles.

It’s a series of king-sized painted “Handouts & Mitigations” — “paradoxical and sometimes dream-like reflections on current global and political crises and their possible transcendence.”

Wait, there’s more! In addition to a performance of Schumann’s “Bedsheet Cantastoria,” the exhibit features his recent paintings in honor of the life of the late Elka Schumann, whose personal and artistic partnership with her husband was a guiding force of Bread & Puppet Theater for more than 60 years.

So what, besides his banjo, does Banjo Bob bring to the party? In a word: “mannequins.” Seriously.

Banjo Bob’s “New Migration Sideshow — American Success Story” features mannequins attired in the clothing abandoned by immigrants that he finds in Arizona where he lives 1.5 miles from the border, according to Russ Bennett, one of the partners in Planetary Matters, which owns Camp Meade.

“When (Wolk) was describing this show to me, he said he goes out and walks around in the desert and finds clothes that immigrants left behind,” Bennett says. “(Wolk) starts his show making a joke about immigrant fashions and style, and ends up somewhere else.”

Apparently it’s very moving and dovetails nicely with the social justice themes that have long been the inspiration of the Schumanns and Bread & Puppet.

Bennett and partners Alan Newman and Mike Pelchar, are eager for Saturday’s donation-only show — one they say is consistent with their vision for Camp Meade as a privately owned public space for gathering, theater, music, food fellowship and more.

“We’re about strengthening community and supporting businesses that are creating products in ways that respect the planet and each other,” Bennett says.

Folks willing to volunteer to be in Saturday’s show, or to help out with the exhibits can send an email to Alexis Smith at to express interest or request more information.

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