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RICHARD LAFONTAINE CELEBRATED his 106th birthday earlier this month. He resides at The Residence at Otter Creek in Middlebury, where he recently spoke with the Independent about a fascinating life during which he’s seen the end of two World Wars, the industrialization of America, and the moon landing, to mention a few watershed events. Independent photo/Alexa Lapiner
08/27/2020
MIDDLEBURY — Centenarians deservedly receive a lot of fanfare. Hitting triple digits is a rare feat, and it’s rarer still when those endowed with such longevity are still vital, inquisitive and delightfully conversant. Richard LaFontaine is indeed a prime example of such a person. And heck, he left the number-100 road marker in the rearview mirror six years ago. Child’s play. The only person in these parts that can call him “Junior” is Bristol’s Bob James, who turned 109 earlier this summer. And let’s quickly dispense with the question everyone wants to ask Mr. LaFontaine, who recently sat...
08/27/2020
MIDDLEBURY — New entertainment options for those spending a lot of time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic are arriving on Thursday, Aug. 27: A panoply of films — both short and feature length — will be accessible online as part of the first-ever virtual edition of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival (MNFF). Under normal circumstances, filmmakers and movie enthusiasts from throughout the world would be converging on Middlebury this week for the sixth annual MNFF, which customarily offers more than 100 film screenings at five venues in Addison County’s shire town. The festival is also...
08/27/2020
Here’s an extra excuse to come to downtown Middlebury these days: Bundle in the Park, which takes place every Thursday between 10 a.m. and noon in Riverfront Park in the Marble Works, near the giant yellow chair. All ages are welcome and it’s totally free. Bundle will also host a “Pop-Up Artist Market” on Saturday, Aug. 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Riverfront Park that will be outside in the fresh air to meet all COVID-related safety guidelines. You can keep up to date on Bundle’s future activities at its Facebook page. The colder months will soon be upon us, and area food shelves are...

NATIONAL BANK OF MIDDLEBURY President Caroline Carpenter chats with Middlebury Bridge and Rail Project workers at a hot dog lunch the bank hosted behind its main office on Aug. 25. Photo courtesy of National Bank of Middlebury
08/27/2020
MIDDLEBURY — National Bank of Middlebury thanked and celebrated the Middlebury Bridge and Rail Project crew with a hot dog lunch on Tuesday, Aug. 25. More than 60 downtown workers on the “big dig” were treated to a hot dog lunch, potato salad, beverage and homemade cookies. NBM wanted to say thank you for the extraordinary work the crews all do in all kinds of weather. It has been a hot summer, and they are out there long days and through the night working to keep the downtown project on its aggressive schedule, which looks to wrap up Sept. 21. Joel Bouvier of the bank’s Facilities group and...
08/27/2020
ADDISON COUNTY — The nationally known Big Brothers Big Sisters program is looking to expand its Vermont effort into Addison County starting in September, and a veteran worker with local youths and students will be leading the way. Jill Strube, the former Addison Northwest Supervisory Union afterschool and summer programming coordinator and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes executive director, is now serving Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermont as its Northwestern Vermont Program and Outreach Coordinator. Strube, a Vergennes resident, signed on with the Vermont branch of the national...
08/27/2020
VERGENNES — After lengthy and at times stalled negotiations, the Addison Northwest School District Board has struck one-year contract deals with its teachers and support staff unions.  According to a Tuesday press release from ANWSD Superintendent Sheila Soule, the one-year teachers’ contract will include a 2.5% salary increase. Support staff workers will receive an increase of pay of 55 cents an hour, according to Soule. Both contracts incorporate a statewide health insurance agreement that was reached in December. The ANWSD board approved both contracts after a private online session held...

THE BRANDON INN is up for sale and owners Sarah and Louis Pattis have announced their plans to formally retire when a buyer can be found. The inn had provided the backdrop for many a Brandon parade, whether it’s July 4, the Memorial Day Flower Girls or Veterans Day.
08/27/2020
BRANDON — The fact that the Brandon Inn is for sale is not news. The venerable and historic Park Street Inn, the anchor of downtown Brandon since it was built in 1786, has been for sale for several years.  What is news is that owners Sarah and Louis Pattis really mean it this time. They have announced their plans to retire. A Facebook link to Vermont Country Inns for Sale contained the announcement created last month. “While running this unique country Inn, we raised our four children and saw them through college and military service,” the Pattises wrote. “In an early interview, Louis called...

MANY LOCAL FIRE departments cut back or eliminated training during the height of the pandemic, but they still, of course, responded to emergencies. Photo by Mark Bouvier
08/27/2020
BRISTOL — Many area fire departments are getting back into their regular training and meeting regimens after having been temporarily sidelined by state-mandated restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. And recognizing that departments have had to curtail operations since mid-March, the Vermont Fire Academy will allow firefighters until June of 2021 to accumulate the 24 hours of annual training needed for recertification, according to New Haven Assistant Fire Chief Dean Gilmore. Firefighters are customarily required to fit that 24 hours into the calendar year. “This is mainly because at...

FIREFIGHTERS PEER IN through a window at Tourterelle in New Haven after a fire devastated the Route 7 restaurant and inn. Independent photo/John S. McCright
08/27/2020
ADDISON COUNTY — After a slow late winter and early spring, fire departments in four of Addison County’s most populous communities — Middlebury, Bristol, Ferrisburgh and Vergennes — are reporting above-average summer call volumes. Many of those calls, department chiefs said, are at least indirectly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. County residents are choosing not to travel and are thus more active locally, particularly when enjoying their free time, and fire departments are responding to recreation-related incidents. For example, Vergennes and Ferrisburgh fire chiefs said their departments...

BRETT LAROSE, WHO has been chief of the Bristol Fire Department for seven years, is the force pushing for continuous education, training and testing that ensures the fire company is prepared for all emergencies. Photo courtesy of Mark Bouvier
08/27/2020
BRISTOL — The Bristol Fire Department that Brett LaRose leads today is quite a bit different from the one he joined 25 years ago. “Back then it was a unique culture here, more of a club mentality,” LaRose told the Independent during a recent Zoom interview. “There was a waiting list to get in, and members did the voting on who could and could not become a member. If you weren’t well-liked by someone you weren’t going to get into the organization. It was a popularity vote.” Fire departments used to perform hazing activities, he said. “I’m not saying it happened regularly but those processes...

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100