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.
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.”
Innovation is definitely in evidence at the Yestermorrow Design-Build School, a center of “hands-on education” that “integrates design and craft.” There are intro courses for beginners, as well as continuing-ed opportunities for seasoned architects, builders, landscapers and engineers. Stop by and tour the campus. You’ll see student-built cabins, solar-powered showers and other shapes of the future.
The Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm in Waitsfield guides treks — for up to five days — on a breed renowned for its smooth ride and stamina. The Vikings reportedly brought the animals to Iceland, where they were isolated to preserve their purity, good temperament and unique bone density. They’re small, but can easily carry an adult employing one of five gaits. A two-hour ride is 70 bucks, and the five-day deal runs around $1500.
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