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From the Deputy Publisher: Hope for Democracy


Published July 3, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

Truman Talbot, 7, at Waterbury's Not Quite Independence Day celebration - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Truman Talbot, 7, at Waterbury's Not Quite Independence Day celebration

An afternoon downpour on Saturday forced the Town of Waterbury to postpone its annual Not Quite Independence Day fireworks show. But the rain didn't stop all the other festivities.

Volunteers from the Waterbury Rotary Club donned raincoats to host the celebration, which included kids' activities, food vendors and live music in Rusty Parker Memorial Park — and, of course, a parade down Main Street. Hours before kickoff, spectators toting umbrellas and American flags began snagging prime viewing spots along the parade route.

Local businesses, rescue squads and arts organizations showed up, too, with floats — many of them on theme! This year's was "Celebration of Sports," a nod to the 2024 Summer Olympics, which start later this month.

The group from Waterbury's MakerSphere won "Best Use of Theme" in the parade competition. They mounted a giant gold trophy cup on the back of a pickup truck and topped it with a cutout of a surfer riding a wave. The truck also pulled a trailer carrying a metal frame festooned with circles representing a bowling ball, soccer ball, football and kickball. A message appeared along the side of the trailer: "Sportsmanship is #1." That struck me as a fitting reminder for all the politicians marching in this election-year parade.

Local legislative office seekers waved to the crowd, joined by incumbent Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (P/D) and his Democratic primary opponent Thomas Renner along with U.S. Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), who's running for reelection. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Esther Charlestin was there, too. So were supporters of Republican Lt. Gov. candidate John Rodgers and Gerald "Deploy" Malloy, the Republican who hopes to unseat U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt). They're all competing in Vermont's August 13 primary election.

Lisa Scagliotti, editor of the online-only Waterbury Roundabout, was also out there getting drenched, gathering intel for her post-parade story, while Roundabout photographer Gordon Miller snapped photos.

The whole patriotic spectacle, persisting despite the weather, made me hopeful for American democracy — no small feat after the dispiriting presidential debate last Thursday. I was glad I was there to see it. Seven Days intern Ben Conway and I had come to recruit participants for the Good Citizen Challenge, our nonpartisan youth civics project.

The Challenge encourages students in grades K through 8 to learn about and get involved in their communities. Participants choose from 25 activities, including picking up trash in public places, raising money for charity and keeping up with local news.

For every activity kids complete and submit, they're entered into a drawing for the grand prize — a free trip to Washington, D.C. They can win other things, too, including free tickets to see the Vermont Lake Monsters, a 2025 Vermont State Parks vehicle pass and $50 gift cards to Phoenix Books. We're giving away some of those items weekly between now and Labor Day, September 2, the Challenge deadline; we'll distribute the rest at a September 19 Statehouse reception.

Seven Days launched this summer's Challenge in June, and we've already received hundreds of entries, including some at and as a result of our wet afternoon in Waterbury.

One of my favorite Good Citizen activities invites kids to submit artwork showing what Vermont's motto, "Freedom and Unity," means to them. We recently received a great one from Alaina Willette, 11, of Ferrisburgh. "I drew a picture of people in front of the Green Mountains holding hands representing unity," she wrote. In the sky above them, she added a padlock that has been unlocked. It represents freedom, she said.

In other words, working together is what makes freedom possible.

Kids such as Alaina — and the ones Ben and I met in Waterbury — can breathe new life into our civic traditions. But don't assume the next generation will automatically inherit our community spirit, no matter how strong: We have to encourage them. Find 25 ways to start at the Good Citizen website,

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