How do the people of modern-day Barre blow off steam? If it’s summer, they go to the Thunder Road Speed Bowl, atop Quarry Hill. Every Thursday night and Sunday afternoon, thousands make the trek to “the nation’s site of excitement” to watch mostly local drivers compete in street-stock and late-model races. There’s even a state senator — Phil Scott — tearing around the track.
If there were railroad tracks between Barre and Montpelier, Barre would be “on the other side” of them. It’s a working-class city that sprang up around the region’s remarkable granite quarries, which are still producing world-class stone. The original laborers were immigrants from Italy and Scotland. This museum documents the history, geology and technology of the dangerous trade that cut many Vermont lives short.
Contemporary quarriers are still at work at the Rock of Ages Quarry, where you can observe artisans cutting massive blocks of stone as well as sculpting the memorials. Take a guided tour (May 23 - October 17, 2008) or check out the do-it-yourself Cut-In-Stone Center.
Located in the Pavillion Office building, this museum offers a great primer on the forces that have shaped Vermont. The permanent 5000-square-foot exhibit “tells the story of Vermont’s people from 1600 to the present,” according to the website. “Using Vermont’s motto, ‘Freedom and Unity,’ as its thematic cornerstone, the exhibition shows visitors how Vermonters have always balanced individual freedoms and community.”
Stowe’s hills are definitely alive, and no more so than at the Trapp Family Lodge. The Sound of Music association has worked well for the 2400-acre Austrian-style resort, which is a cross-country ski center in the winter. In summer, it offers hiking, horse-drawn wagon rides, bird-watching tours and Sunday evening “Music in the Meadow” concerts. The “Real Maria” documentary film shows twice a day.
Midway through August, authors arrive at Middlebury College's Bread Loaf campus in Ripton for the annual, two-week Writers Conference. The “instructors” — published poets, novelists and memoirists — give nightly readings. It’s intimate, cultured and camp-like. And free, to listen.
People have been fighting over Lake Champlain as long as there have been personal flotation devices. The waterway’s strategic value is evidenced by the dozens of shipwrecks on the bottom. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has been discovering, researching and protecting those rusty relics, and the result is the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve, a gallery of sunken ships accessible to divers. But there’s plenty to look at on land, too. The dry museum chronicles the maritime history of the area through exhibits, boat-building demonstrations, lectures and festivals.
The sturdy, studly Morgan horse is unique to Vermont. That’s because Justin Morgan — originally of Springfield, Massachusetts — was living in Randolph when he bred the animal to perfection back in the 1700s. Strong and versatile, the animals worked on farms, pulled stagecoaches, competed in early harness racing and carried the First Vermont Cavalry to the Civil War. The National Museum of the Morgan Horse recounts this uniquely American equine story.
The crack of the bat, the call of the hot-dog vendor — it wouldn’t be summer without minor-league baseball. In Burlington, the Vermont Lake Monsters — formerly the “Reds,” then the “Expos” — play through Labor Day at UVM Centennial Field. The 103-year-old ballpark is a jewel in the middle of a city neighborhood that once hosted the likes of Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey, Jr., Orlando Cabrera and Jason Bay.
Nonprofit Preservation Burlington leads guided tours — upon request — with an eye toward architecture of historic and stylistic interest. Learn about how the Queen City was developed, and find out who built it. Look for contact information on the Preservation Burlington website.
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