Spamalot is full of medieval tomfoolery

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King Arthur and the Lady of Lake welcome the Knights of the Very Round Table to Camelot in the Vermont Family Theater production of Spamalot.  From left to right, in the back row, are Joan Racine, Donna Arnold, Lucas Roy, Jade Piette, Greg Tocci, and Rachel Carter.  Seated in the middle row are the knights:  Jake Blankenship, Brendan Hadash, Todd Jones, and Zeb McCoy.  In front are Alan Franklin, Deborah MacKay, and Cassie Tarbox.  Photos by Joseph Gresser

King Arthur and the Lady of Lake welcome the Knights of the Very Round Table to Camelot in the Vermont Family Theater production of Spamalot. From left to right, in the back row, are Joan Racine, Donna Arnold, Lucas Roy, Jade Piette, Greg Tocci, and Rachel Carter. Seated in the middle row are the knights: Jake Blankenship, Brendan Hadash, Todd Jones, and Zeb McCoy. In front are Alan Franklin, Deborah MacKay, and Cassie Tarbox. Photos by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle April 9, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

ORLEANS — In days of yore a band of bold men adventured across the green and pleasant land of England.  Their adventures have been repeated down through the generations and continue to inspire listeners to this day.

I’m speaking, of course, of Monty Python, the progenitors of the musical comedy now playing at the Orleans Municipal Building — Spamalot.

The show, written by Eric Idle, one of the Pythons, opened on Broadway in 2005, where it had a very successful four-year run.  It has now made its way to Orleans in the form of a very entertaining production by the Vermont Family Theater.

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Couture will give sugaring talk April 9

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mapletrees brianne

This art is by Brianne Nichols of Brownington.

Jacques Couture of Westfield will give a talk on maple sugaring at the Newport Natural Market and Café on Wednesday, April 9, at 6:30 p.m.  This talk is part of the third annual Northeast Kingdom Extension Master Gardener Lecture Series.

Since 1970, Mr. Couture and his family have been farming and making maple sugar.

Donations of $3 will be accepted.  — from University of Vermont Extension.

For more things to do, see our Events page.

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“Points of View” opens March 4; artists’ reception March 15

This painting, "Snowy Pastures," is a watercolor painted by Joan Harlowe.  Image courtesy of the NEK Artisans Guild

This painting, “Snowy Pastures,” is a watercolor painted by Joan Harlowe. Image courtesy of the NEK Artisans Guild

The show “Points of View” opens at the NEK Artisans Guild in St. Johnsbury on March 4, with an artists’ reception, which is open to the public, on Saturday, March 15, from 3 to 5 p.m.  The show includes, watercolors, oils and sketches by The Monday Painters.

The Monday Painters is an informal group drawn together by an interest in capturing the special qualities of the Northeast Kingdom’s beauty, as well as its changes and challenges.  “Points of View” includes group members Jenny Green, Barbara Grey, Joan Harlowe, Donna Marshall, Barbara Matsinger and Robin Rothman.  They have been painting together for more than ten years.  From their homes in Danville, Peacham, Passumpsic, and Burke, they seek out images that speak to them — local scenes as well as faraway places, animals wild and domestic, flowers and gardens, sunlight and snow, thriving or abandoned farms.  Ranging from representational to abstract, their approaches and techniques reflect the group’s individual personalities.

“Points of View” is on view at the NEK Artisans Guild through April 26.  — from the NEK Artisans Guild.

For more things to do, see our Events page.

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Vermont Vaudeville debuts in Barton to sold out crowd

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Brent McCoy (left) and Maya McCoy, the stars of The Secret Circus, don their action suits for a feat of skill and daring.  The couple will demonstrate their marksmanship and comedic talents Saturday evening at Barton’s Memorial Building.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Brent McCoy (left) and Maya McCoy, the stars of The Secret Circus, don their action suits for a feat of skill and daring. The couple will demonstrate their marksmanship and comedic talents Saturday evening at Barton’s Memorial Building. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle January 29, 2014
by Joseph Gresser

BARTON — Vermonters have always had a yen for local entertainment.  Most towns, including Barton, boast theaters that once hosted traveling shows that toured the country.

Barton’s Memorial Building will welcome a revival of that tradition Saturday night, when Vermont Vaudeville comes to town.

The group, made up of a four-person core and guest performers, has embarked on a nine-town tour of Vermont over the next six weeks as part of its campaign to revive locally produced and consumed entertainment.

Justin Lander, Rose Friedman and Brent and Maya McCoy started their troupe five years ago with an inaugural performance at the Orleans Municipal Building.  Since then they have presented several sold-out shows at the Hardwick Town House every year.

In a conversation on an icy January evening at the East Hardwick home of Ms. Friedman and Mr. Lander, the performers reflected on their journey so far and their plans for the future.

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Gold panning and bingo help a good cause

Joanne Warner of Green Mountain Prospectors demonstrates how to pan for gold.  Bryce Donahue, who said he's panned for gold dozens of times, looks on.  Photos by Tena Starr

Joanne Warner of Green Mountain Prospectors demonstrates how to pan for gold. Bryce Donahue, who said he’s panned for gold dozens of times, looks on. Photos by Tena Starr

by Tena Starr

WESTFIELD — Terrie Davis-Perry has long supported cancer research, maybe more than most people.  She’s regularly donated to the American Cancer Society and fund-raising events, and she sponsors a Relay for Life team member.  But when the disease hit home last winter with her brother-in-law’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, she was inspired to do a little more aggressive fund-raising than she’d done in the past.

So on Saturday, Ms. Davis-Perry and her husband, Mark Perry, put together a special day of events and camping at their Barrewood Campground in Westfield.  Proceeds from the $5 fee ($2 for children) for daytime activities went to Paul Perry for out-of-pocket costs for his treatment: camping fees throughout the weekend — three nights — will go to Relay for Life.

barrewood boy

Five-year-old Ryan Nathan Rice of North Troy was one of the few who decided to go swimming Saturday at Barrewood Campground’s cancer benefit.

Saturday turned out to be a rare sunny day, although the wind was brisk enough to knock over some of the tents that vendors had set up on the big green at the campground to sell jewelry, crafts, baked goods, books, clothing, and other items.  Inside the pavilion, a rousing game of bingo was in progress called by Debbie Lucas, who donated her time, and Mary Lee Daigle was serving a hot lunch.  Pauline Couture of Couture’s Maple was on hand with a variety of maple products, and several members of Green Mountain Prospectors demonstrated how to pan for gold.

There was plenty of interest in that activity — nearly as much as in the bingo game.

The first thing you learn about panning for gold is you’re not likely to get rich.  The second is that it isn’t nearly as easy as it looks when an expert is handling the pans.  My own efforts netted one tiny flake that I might not have recognized were it not for Joanne Warner’s careful eyes, although gold is quite striking and definitely stands out if you know what you’re looking for.

Ms. Warner and Donald and Tracie Cassady were on hand to demonstrate the skill of panning and had small vials of gold, as well as garnets, to show for their own efforts.  Mr. and Ms. Cassady are from New Hampshire and said the river near Littleton is “loaded with garnets,” a deep red, semi-precious gemstone that, like gold, is heavy and settles in the bottom of the pan.

Ms. Warner offered up a small vial of startlingly bright gold flecks that she’d gathered. They were worth about $30 or $40 — not a huge take for a tedious job.

“Most of the gold in Vermont is glacial, you won’t find big nuggets,” Ms. Warner said.  That means glaciers ground the gold down to fine particles, as opposed to out West where actual nuggets are more likely to be found,

These three Green Mountain Prospectors don’t sell the gold they find, although they know some who do.  Foundries will buy it, as well as jewelers and some collectors, they said. The garnets also have some value.

Mark Perry and Terrie Davis-Perry, owners of Barrewood Campground in Westfield, held a special day of activities Saturday to help their brother Paul Perry with out-of-pocket expenses for pancreatic cancer treatment.  Proceeds from camping for three nights went to Relay for Life.

Mark Perry and Terrie Davis-Perry, owners of Barrewood Campground in Westfield, held a special day of activities Saturday to help their brother Paul Perry with out-of-pocket expenses for pancreatic cancer treatment. Proceeds from camping for three nights went to Relay for Life.

At this point, I have to admit that my notes kind of vanished on me because I gave panning a shot under Ms. Warner’s able guidance.  I was decidedly inept and soaked myself and my notebook, ending up with a runny blue blur instead of careful notes.

So — winging it.  We started with a shovel full of material from the bottom of the nearby brook, and Mr. Cassady did a sift to filter out the biggest stones.  Those bigger stones are worth looking at, he said, because there’s lots of quartz among them, and that’s where gold comes from.  But keeping in mind that chunks of gold the size of white quartz aren’t likely to appear in Vermont, the next step is to get to the littler stuff that looks mostly like sand.  And that’s when it gets tricky.

The prospectors used green pans with ridged openings on one side.  The idea is that you mix the sand and its potentially valuable contents with water, then slur it around, constantly dumping off the top layer through the pan’s openings.  You trust that the heavier stuff, the valuable stuff, will stay at the bottom, and what you’re sloughing off is just sand and tiny worthless pebbles.

The equipment is neither complicated nor expensive.  Most any kind of filter works up to a point.  Mr. Cassady said his wife is always telling him to leave her flour sifter alone.

If you’re not too overzealous, or just sloppy, it works.  The heavy stuff does stay in the bottom of the pan, and after a while the dirt changes color.  It darkens as the lighter, and lighter colored, sand goes out the pan’s slots, and what remains is what’s of possible value.  “Tap it, and the gold goes to the bottom,” Ms. Warner advised me.

Pauline Couture of Couture’s Maple in Westfield was on hand at the fund-raiser with a variety of maple products.

Pauline Couture of Couture’s Maple in Westfield was on hand at the fund-raiser with a variety of maple products.

Gold is 19 times heavier than water, someone said as I slopped muddy water all over myself. Trust it.

I sloshed the pan around in the water, then sifted out the sand and did see the color eventually darkening, but it wasn’t easy, and I was clumsy, and I soon appreciated Ms. Warner’s skill.  She said she’d won an award in a panning contest, which didn’t surprise me once I’d tried it myself.  She makes panning look easy.  It isn’t.

At the end, I had one flake of gold.  It didn’t look real, and, nope, I wasn’t going home rich.  Ms. Warner had planted it, and it went back into her vial via a special little bottle that sucked it up and returned it to where it came from.

But there are entirely worse things to do with one’s time than wade around in a brook in the hope of finding gold.

“It’s like fishing,” Ms. Warner said. “You can be out all day and you may not get a fish.  But you enjoy being out there.”

barrewood don

Don Cassady of Green Mountain Prospectors sets up some of the gear used to pan for gold.

Green Mountain Prospectors has members from all over New England, as well as New York State, and many of them are members of a national prospecting club, as well.

Meanwhile, back in the pavilion, my 13-year-old son had settled in with a couple of his great-aunts and was avidly playing bingo.

Bingo used to be a game I understood, but apparently no longer.  There’s still the traditional way of playing, where you win if you get straight hits in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line, but there are “specials” I’ve never heard of, like a check mark.  Colton and his great-aunts were each playing eight cards.

The last game was something I’d never heard of, a coverall.  My aunts, being the experienced bingo players they are, knew just what that meant — the winner would be the first person to fill up an entire card.

Prizes for the bingo winners were donated by local businesses and others and included gift certificates, homemade pies, and jewelry.

Later in the day, there was a potluck dinner at the campground, as well as live music, and a bonfire.

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital  editions.

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Circus Smirkus season opens July 1

Circus Smirkus opens its season at the headquarters in Greensboro on July 1, with two shows, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

This year’s theme is “Topsy Turvy Time Travel:  A Blast from the Past & Fun from the Future.”  The troop is taking a trip though the ages, as performers — ages 11 to 18 — work intensely with coaches to bring the theme to life on trapeze, wire, fabric, trampoline and cradle, and with clowning, acrobatics, juggling, unicycling and more. Circus Smirkus has two directors (creative and artistic), a costume designer, a choreographer, a composer, counselors, tent crew, cooks, sound and lighting technicians, equipment riggers, concessionaires and more.

Circus Smirkus is celebrating its silver anniversary with a new book, “Circus Smirkus:  25 Years of Running Home to the Circus,” by founder Rob Mermin and journalist Rob Gurwitt.  Solar panels have been added at the Greensboro headquarters, along with improvements to lighting, concessions and recycling. The circus is launching a Capital CAMPaign to match a $1-million donation for us to build its ownb Smirkus Camp facility (details soon).

After the first shows in Greensboro, the circus packs it all up and takes it on the road.  It takes eight hours to set up the 750-seat big top, backstage and concession tents, and organize 200 costume pieces, 100 props, 70 spotlights and a mile of electrical cable.  Then the troop is ready to welcome its summer audience of 50,000 fans!

Over on the campus of Lyndon Institute in Lyndon Center, Circus Smirkus Camp already welcomed its first campers last week, with a new, one-day Intro to Smirkus session.  Smirkling Camp is starting as six-to-nine year-olds arrive for their first overnight circus adventure.

For more information or to order tickets, see: http://www.smirkus.org/

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