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Wonderful News: 17 Things That Made Vermont Smile In 2017

From left, Love signs in Plainfield, Grace Potter, the Jog Bra, Fezzik Wertlieb and witch windows.
At times, this year has felt like 365 days of constant breaking news alerts, heavy conversations and conflict. As we reflect on the many important and timely topics that have taken hold in 2017, we wanted to remember a few stories that made us smile.

Inspired by the always-radiant Linda Holmes' list of "50 Wonderful Things From 2017" for NPR's Monkey See blog, we bring you "17 Wonderful Vermont Things From 2017" (because 50 is a lot, you guys.)

There's a bald eagle boom in Vermont

Nesting pairs of bald eagles produced 35 young in 2017. Just ten years ago, there were no nesting pairs in the state.
Credit John Buck / Vermont Fish & Wildlife
Vermont Fish & Wildlife

Sending our congratulations to all the new parents out there, especially the bald eagle ones.

FOR MORE — "There Are A Record Number Of Bald Eagle Nests In Vermont This Year" (Oct. 16)

Not all misspellings are mistakes: Montpelier edition

Montpellier's Ellyes Skhiri, right, vies for the ball against Lyon's Rafael Pereira Da Silva during a French League One game in Decines on Sept. 21, 2016. The Montpellier soccer team is sending a shipment of misspelled jerseys to Montpelier, Vermont.
Credit Laurent Cipriani / Associated Press
Associated Press

While normally we would say double checking spelling is a must, this story presents a flip-side to that directive. It turns out that, at least in this case, a misspelled word can result in an act of international goodwill.

FOR MORE — "Spelling Mistake In France Means Free Soccer Jerseys For Montpelier" (Sept. 14)

A workout-must-have's Vermont roots

 Hinda Miller stands by a bronze plaque at the University of Vermont that commemorates the Jogbra.
Credit Jane Lindholm / VPR

Did you know that the sports bra has a Vermont origin story? This piece of sports apparel celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017, and VPR's Jane Lindholm took a trip back in history — and to the costume shop at the University of Vermont — to learn about how decades ago the Jogbra came to be. (FYI, this year was also the 45th anniversary of Title IX)

FOR MORE — "40 Years Of Athletic Support: Happy Anniversary To The Sports Bra" (Oct. 1)

The true story of Vermont's most wicked windows

An angled upstairs window, or "witch window," on a house in Wolcott, Vermont.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

The Wizard of Oz may have introduced us to Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West, but didn’t do much to answer questions we had about witch windows. Luckily Brave Little State did a little digging this year learn more about those angled curiosities.

FOR MORE — "What's The History Of Vermont's Witch Windows?" (July 12)

Grace Potter on "Vermont Edition"

Credit Paul A. Hebert / Associated Press/Invision
Associated Press/Invision

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals can be heard regularly as the theme music on Vermont Edition, but it’s not every day that Grace Potter herself is on the show. The musician hung out in the Colchester studio this past summer ahead of this year’s Grand Point North.

Look who is here!! @graciepotter is in the studio with @janelindholm. Tune in to Vermont Edition now or subscribe to the Vermont Edition podcast to catch our conversation with Grace later today! @grandpointnorth @nprmusic #pubmedia #vermontbyvermonters #vermontlife #vermontmusic #localmusic #localartist A post shared by Vermont Public Radio (@vprnet) on Sep 13, 2017 at 9:09am PDT

FOR MORE — "Grace Potter Comes Home To Grand Point North" (Sept. 13)

A banner year for local flags

Montpelier's new city flag takes the place of one thrown together years ago to display in the Rose Parade.
Credit Courtesy: City of Montpelier

The citizens of Montpelier must no longer fly the city's old flag, which was included in a roundup of "bad flags" in a TED Talk by Roman Mars. Action was taken, and a new design was selected this year to wave in the wind of the capital city.

And just a stretch of I-89 away, Burlington also unfurled a new flag design this year.

FOR MORE — "Montpelier Unveils New Flag After Old Design Was Shamed In TED Talk" (July 14)

Little kid, big fish

Stokes with his record-breaking fish.
Credit Courtesy: Vt. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Seriously, the fish is huge.

FOR MORE — "Little Kid, Big Fish: 11-Year-Old Snags Record Carp" (July 24)

99-year-old woman becomes first-time author

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

If you need inspiration to finally go for your goals in 2018, look no further than the many accomplishments of Brattleboro resident Jane Ashworth. This past year, at age 99, she self-published a children’s book.

FOR MORE — "99-Year-Old Pioneering Brattleboro Woman Publishes Her First Children's Book"(Jan. 11)

Three people bike from South America... to Vermont

Eli Bennett, Cameron Russell and Noah McCarter with their bikes in Ushuaia, Argentina on Jan. 17.
Credit Cameron Russell, courtesy

12,000 miles. TWELVE THOUSAND MILES! That’s one whopper of a bike trip, but three cyclists from our region made it their mission this year to complete a ride across a couple continents — and they did it!

FOR MORE — "Trio Of Cyclists Makes Epic Journey From South America To Vermont" (April 6)

The Kratt brothers come to town

Chris and Martin Kratt performing their live 'Wild Kratts' show on stage.
Credit Courtesy of Wild Kratts Live

If you were a child in the ‘90s, you likely fondly remember Zoboomafoo. If you were a parent to a child in the ‘90s you likely fondly remember the show’s creators and stars, the Kratt Brothers. 

The duo stopped by Vermont Edition this fall to share stories from their decades of adventures.

FOR MORE — "The Kratt Brothers' Vermont Roots And Their Animal Adventures" (Apr. 20)

Mitch Wertlieb gets a puppy

Fezzik the puppy on the day he met his new family in Vermont. He began his life in Alabama before making his way to a foster family in Pennsylvania and then finally to his permanent Vermont home.
Credit Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR
Fezzik the puppy on the day he met his new family in Vermont. He began his life in Alabama before making his way to a foster family in Pennsylvania and then finally to his permanent Vermont home.

Puppies in general are a wonderful thing, but (in my humble opinion) Fezzik is special: In May, Morning Edition host, Mitch Wertlieb, shared a memorial to his best friend Grendelwho passed away. It was hard. For all of us who work with Mitch, and for all of you that sent messages of love and support.

Then, a few months later, Fezzik showed up. And, with a little encouragement, Mitchshared his story.

Mitch doesn't believe us when we tell him this photo of him with his puppy Fezzik could be our most liked Instagram post of all time. So let's prove him wrong, eh? #VPR40 @mwertlieb A post shared by Vermont Public Radio (@vprnet) on Sep 9, 2017 at 11:18am PDT

During pledge drives, and in emails from listeners, we often hear how Mitch is a part of their daily lives. — with them on their way to work, talking them through their morning routine. It was wonderful to see listeners reach out with compassion after Grendel passed away, and enthusiasm when Fezzik arrived.


FOR MORE — "After Being Rescued In Alabama, A Puppy's Journey To His New Home In Vermont" (Sept. 4)

The "best food" in Vermont

Frequent VPR Cafe contributor Melissa Masnik Pasanen wrote a list of the best places to eat in Vermont earlier this year for The Food Network. With so many wonderful places to eat across the state, a list full of Melissa-approved suggestions feels well worth re-sharing!

FOR MORE — via Food Network — "Green Mountain Grub: The Best Things To Eat In Vermont" (April 15)

Wearable Abenaki art

In case you missed this stunning exhibit, you can still enjoy the beautiful pieces featured.

FOR MORE — "'Wearing Our Heritage': Abenaki Artist Curates Exhibit Of Wearable Art" (April 14)

St. Mike's students honored for activism

St. Michael's College graduates Danny Divis, left, and Justin McKenzie, right, throw out first pitches at the Boston Red Sox's "Vermont Night" at Fenway Park on Aug. 5. The two hockey players were awarded the Hockey Humanitarian Award last spring.
Credit Dan Brown / Kapitol Photography
Kapitol Photography

Danny Divis and Justin McKenzie played on the hockey team at Saint Michael’s College, but took a moment in the baseball spotlight this summer when they were selected to throw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game. Earlier in 2017, the duo had won the Hockey Humanitarian Award for their work with Hope Happens Here, a mental health awareness campaign.

FOR MORE — "St. Mike's Hockey Players Earn Fenway First Pitch Honors For Their On-Campus Activism" (Aug. 16)

Promiscuous pets

Credit konradlew / iStock

Full disclosure: This story was the talk of the newsroom for days after Awesome Etiquette released the episode. We love our pets, and love to imagine they love us right back. But many of you shared similar stories of finding out your furry friends were… seeing other people when you were away.

Hopefully this will at least bring you a hearty laugh to end the year.

FOR MORE — "Awesome Etiquette: What To Do If Your Cat Is Cheating" (April 14)

Working together on a show for young people with autism

The state’s arts scene made another inclusive move with the collaborative project Red Kite - Green Mountain, a theater performance geared toward young people on the autism spectrum. The workshop took place in 2017, but there is a plan to have an official premiere later in 2018.

FOR MORE — "Flynn Center Collaborates With Chicago Children's Theater On A New Show For Young People With Autism" (Oct. 26)

Mysterious "love" signs

Jacquelyn Ripley gives her son Landen a smooch under the Plainfield 'love' signs. The anonymous signs have drawn strong reactions from some townspeople.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

A mystery. A bit of kismet and a lot of love. Reporter Amy Noyes always features wonderful explorations of local issues around the state each week, but the story of the mysterious “love” signs in Plainfield is in a league all its own.

Plus, Amy uncovered the anonymous artist.

FOR MORE — "Signs Of Love: How An Anonymous Artist Sparked A Town-Wide Debate In Plainfield" (Sept. 29)

Credit asbe / iStock

Here's to a new year of news!


Emily Alfin Johnson was a senior producer for Vermont Public Radio.
Meg Malone was a producer for Vermont Public Radio until January 2020. She joined VPR in May 2016 as digital producer for Vermont Edition.
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