- Annelise Capossela | Rev. Diane Sullivan
Everyone has had one magical summer that exists in their memory above all the others. Mine was the summer when I was 22 and working on Block Island, a summer paradise 13 miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island. I had a crappy job renting bikes and mopeds to idiot tourists by day and a series of equally crappy restaurant jobs getting those same idiot tourists drunk by night. God, it was so awesome.
I've had other great summers, but the summer of 2000 stands out because of the context. I was young and dumb and had no responsibilities beyond dragging my hungover husk to the bike shop on time-ish in the morning and making it to a beach bar or after-hours beach bonfire at night. Wash, rinse, repeat, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and hope to work up the nerve to talk to the cute girl from the deli along the way.
For many of us, the summer of 2021 could vie for "Best Summer Ever" status. And, as in my case, it's all because of the context.
In the Summer Preview issue of almost exactly a year ago, Paula Routly set the stage in her weekly Publisher's Note. We were still in the relatively early days of the pandemic, and things were ... well, they weren't great. The news coming out of Gov. Phil Scott's press conferences was all about navigating the summer and which restrictions would be in place for locals and tourists alike. Referring to campground guidelines, Routly wrote, "Might 'disinfecting' be the hot new badge at Scout camps this summer?"
Kinda says it all, no?
Flash-forward 52 weeks, and things are looking up by a large order of magnitude. Vermont is consistently among the national leaders in coronavirus vaccination rates, and our COVID-19 infection rates are on a steady decline. State campgrounds are booked solid through leaf-peeping season. We're gonna have a Burlington Discover Jazz Festival that we can attend without an internet connection. And, these days, the big topic of Scott's pressers isn't quarantine protocols or limits on restaurant and hotel capacities or even whether pandemic restrictions will be lifted by the July 4 target date, but rather how much earlier that could happen.
You know what? We've earned it, dammit. After a year defined by death, disease, isolation, and economic, political, racial and social strife, we're overdue for a win. Which means that this could be the best summer ever simply by virtue of Earth not being overrun by zombies or flattened by an extinction-level asteroid in the next three months. If we've learned one thing in the past year, it's not to rule anything out. But the point is: As we eye Vermont's sweetest, shortest season, there's reason for excitement.
To wit, in last year's Summer Preview, I wrote about the uncertainty then surrounding baseball in Vermont, from Little League to the Lake Monsters. This year, we've got a cheeky preview of the brand-new Vermont Lake Monsters franchise; they're set to take the field in just a few weeks.
Also in the 2020 Summer Preview, we had no live-events preview because, well, there were no live events. This year, Kristen Ravin details seven can't-miss summer happenings, from live theater to Renaissance fairs to tractor pulls. Summer music festivals are a little slower to return, but Jordan Adams has early details on a few in his Soundbites column.
One positive development during the pandemic: More Vermonters have been getting active outside. Many have taken up hiking or paddleboarding or learned a new sport, such as disc golf. Chris Farnsworth was already an avid disc duffer, but he learned some new tricks playing a round with 11-year-old disc golf prodigy Finn Etter. Skateboarding has also seen a pandemic-era boost in popularity. Ken Picard checked in with local skateboarder and author Clint Carrick, who toured skateparks around the country in 2018 for his new book.
Meanwhile, in Cornwall, Steve Goldstein has the story of RAD-Innovations, a recumbent bike company that helps riders of all abilities get out on the road.
Speaking of biking, Burke has lately become a mountain-biking mecca, leading some to wonder whether the Northeast Kingdom resort town might be the next Stowe, Anne Wallace Allen writes.
In food, Melissa Pasanen has the latest on the plans of a slew of notable Vermont restaurants to reopen for indoor dining this summer. And Jordan Barry highlights a trio of local products to pack in your picnic basket for wherever this summer takes you .