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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Londonderry Plans A Public Sculpture To Honor Its Burton Snowboard History

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Mimi Wright worked with Jake Burton Carpenter in Londonderry during the first winter he made snowboards. Wright is now with the Londonderry Arts and Historical Society and the group wants to install a sculpture to honor that history.

Jake Burton Carpenter's first snowboard factory was in the southern Vermont resort town of Londonderry, near the Stratton and Bromley ski areas, and now the town wants to install a sculpture to let everyone know.

Cars bearing skis and snowboards fly right by the site where Burton made his boards that first winter. 

Mimi Wright lives in Londonderry, and she worked with Carpenter in 1977, silk screening the graphics on to the boards.

"This was the site," she says, walking towards where the factory was along Route 11. "It was a little building."

The building burnt down a few years ago, and now it's a tiny, little lot, along a road with ski and snowboard traffic whizzing by.

The Londonderry Arts and Historical Society says it wants to raise $1.3 million to install a 30-foot-long cast-bronze sculpture that honors Carpenter's legacy.

Wright is a vice president of the arts and historical society, and when the artist Jason Dreweck tracked someone down to talk about the project, he reached Wright.

"He didn't know any of my connection," she says. "He just left a number asking me to call back, and I didn't for a couple of calls. Then we talked and we talked for an hour, at least, anyway. And it just seemed as though everything was aligning, meant to be."

Credit Jason Dreweck
A rendering of the sculpture Jason Dreweck hopes to install in Londonderry

Dreweck grew up in Colorado. He snowboards, and he says the sport's growth, from a tiny barn in Vermont to the Olympics, is something worth commemorating.

"We're really making a statement saying, 'Hey look, this happened here. Not only in the United States, but in Londonderry, Vermont.' So, to install this piece here would be pretty spectacular," he says.

Dreweck considered putting the sculpture in Burlington, or at Stratton Mountain, where Burton was first officially allowed to ride on his invention.

When Carpenter was first coming up with those early models, he had to sell the sport, and convince people to try it.

So Dreweck's decided to pin his hopes on Londonderry, where he says Carpenter and that first small group built the first 300 or so boards.

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Sculptor Jason Dreweck points to a site in Londonderry where he wants to install his sculpture.

"The innovation of snowboarding, and the progression of snowboarding, is something that's pretty special, and we just want  to acknowledge that," Dreweck says. "You know, it's a snowboarding story, but also a pretty special entrepreneurial story for the successes Burton has achieved. And the perseverance that it took to get to this point is pretty special."

Carpenter only made snowboards in Londonderry for one year. He moved on to Manchester the next year, and then snowboarding took off.

The Londonderry Arts and Historical Society says the town backs the idea of installing the sculpture, just a few hundred yards down the road from the original site.

They want to put it up near the farmers market, on a piece of land that flooded in Tropical Storm Irene and which can't be used for new buildings.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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