Happy Birthday, NEK! | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Happy Birthday, NEK!


Published November 13, 2009 at 4:34 p.m.

Did you know 60 years have passed since the late former Vermont Governor and U.S. Senator George Aiken first uttered the phrase, "the Northeast Kingdom"? How time flies.

Word has it (in the form of a press release) that two other fellows, Wallace Gilpin of Newport and W. Arthur Simpson of Lyndonville, actually thought up the colorful name, though how they did this in unison I could not say. Word does not have it that the pair were high on Vermont maple-flavored moonshine at the time, or perhaps were just misplaced Loyalists pining for a king. Whatever. Aiken was more famous and so he will forever be credited for the quaint, if baffling, moniker.

That's why Aiken's widow, Lola, will be among the dignitaries showing up for the NEK's birthday party this Saturday, November 14, at the Goodrich Memorial Library in Newport. And that, if you don't know your VT geography, is on the edge of Kingdomland near Canada, which has a queen, sort of. Burr Morse, billed as a "beloved comedian/political satirist and goodwill ambassador to the Northeast Kingdom," will undoubtedly keep things jolly. Stephen Terry, who co-authored a book about Aiken, is expected as well.

The hoopla, which starts at 2 p.m., is hosted by Scott and Penny Wheeler, publishers of Vermont's Northland Journal and, of course, the library.

The release adds, in beautifully noncommittal prose, "Hopes are that members of the Gilpin and Simpson families will also be in attendance."

Hopes? Heck, if I was a descendant of old Wally or Art, I'd still be simmering with resentment, not to mention moonshine. Not that the real folks are, necessarily, mind you.

Anyway, from Chittenden County, happy birthday to the Northeast Kingdom! We don't have a charming name, but at least we can brag about a lake that just turned 400. Sort of.

Speaking of Blurt