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Extra Pizazz on Dr. Kevin Dann


Published May 29, 2009 at 10:32 a.m.

This week, Seven Days contributor Kevin J. Kelley interviewed Dr. Kevin Dann for an article about Dann's Quadricentennial-themed walk. I went along for the ride — literally. On May 21st, the warmest day of the year thus far, Kelley and I tookthe Grand Isle ferry from Vermont to New York and rode our bikes 18miles to Northeastern Clinton High School. Why ride our bikes? I think Kevin Kelley just doesn't like to drive.

We went to the school to hear Dr. Dannspeak about his walking tour — he is spending an anticipated 46 dayswalking from Montreal to Manhattan — to several ninth grade historyclasses. You can catch a glimpse of our New York excursion here.

Kelley and I arrived at the high school sweating through our shorts and t-shirts in search of Dr. Dann. We found him in the main office where he has seemed to have kept himself busy entertaining the assistant principal. 

With genuine hand gestures and swaying limbs, Dr. Dann spoke about the reason for his walk, occasionally interrupting himself by changing the subject to a less important matter such as the white flip flops he obtained from a current high school student, which he was wearing, along with a satin pink scarf, bright neon green t-shirt, and a turtle necklace. No kidding. Check out the video.

Dr. Dann is definitely  one of a kind. Erik Graham, the former SUNY Plattsburgh professor's companion for the day and his former student, told me one of his favorite stories about Dr. Dann.  "Once he told me that he and his first wife were lying peacefully in a field and when he closed his eyes, fairies transported him to another dimension."

I wanted to inquire about these fairies — are they stereotypically dainty or perhaps unexpectedly plump? Do they grant wishes? Can I order one? ...But when the whimsical doctor abruptly made eye contact with me (at least I think he did but high pollen induced blurred vision prevents me from confirming this) all I could think to utter was, "I like your necklace." 

In class, Dr. Dann captivated ninth graders with stories of his walking adventure thus far — "walking is freeing" — and with playful in class activities. But the historian in him is very apparent as well.  Aside from Champlain, Dr. Dann seems quite attached to several historical figures including Henry David Thoreau.  He also touched on other historical and supernatural concepts he has previously written about or taught. 

"What people don't understand, Kevin," Dr. Dann explains to Kelley, "is that magic is real."

Hmmm. Sure, I'm just the intern, so I listen instead of throwing in my two cents.

After a few classroom experiences with Dr. Dann, as well as this brief excursion within the town of Champlain, New York, it is obvious he has quite the agenda and to-do list. Although this historian and on-foot explorer will be making several speeches throughout his journey, there will simply not be enough time during these intermissions to listen to all of his theories and ideas. For the most authentic Dr. Dann insight, [and perhaps some fairy sitings], read his blog, Beyond Main Street. Or check out some of his books.