VT Untapped
Episode 22: Revisiting Irene - Mendon Remembers

Episode 22: Revisiting Irene - Mendon Remembers

October 7, 2021

This episode is the second in a pair of shows in which we reflect on the impact and legacy of Tropical Storm Irene. In Mendon Remembers, we hear from a group of Mendon, VT residents who gathered for a story circle in July, 2021 to share how their perspectives on Irene and its impacts have unfolded over the past ten years. Everyone who participated had also taken part in the story circles recorded by the Vermont Folklife Center immediately after the storm as part of the Irene Storytelling Project.

If you missed it, make sure to listen to the previous episode, Revisiting Irene: “Weathering the Storm.”

THE IRENE STORYTELLING PROJECT

Organizing Story Circles was one part of the Irene Storytelling Project. In addition to recording these events, our engagement was also an effort to support community-initiated documentation projects that explored the impact of Irene, and to maintain Irene Digital Memory, an online repository for media generated about Irene and the human response to the storm. 

VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. For more information visit www.vtfolklife.org/untapped

Episode 21: Revisiting Irene: ”Weathering the Storm”

Episode 21: Revisiting Irene: ”Weathering the Storm”

August 27, 2021

Nine years ago the Vermont Folklife Center released Weathering the Storm - an audio documentary created with Vermonters from towns across the state hard hit by tropical storm Irene. In this special episode of VT Untapped we are re-presenting “Weathering the Storm” in its entirety to mark the 10th anniversary of this historic event.

Tropical Storm Irene struck Vermont on August 28, 2011 causing widespread, catastrophic damage. At VFC we struggled with how to respond to the storm - how could we employ our skills in a way that might actually help people in the present?

Through our conversations we developed what we called the Irene Storytelling Project, at the heart of which resided a series of in person story-sharing events across the state we called “Story Circles.” Late VFC folklorist Greg Sharrow and staff member Aylie Baker developed and refined the idea of Story Circles - structured, community storytelling gatherings where people embroiled in the experience of storm recovery could come together and share.

The Folklife Center sponsored Story Circles in Mendon, Stockbridge, and Rochester, Vermont. In partnership with Starting Over Strong Vermont (an emergency response organization that provided free, short-term support communities impacted by flooding from Irene) we worked with residents of Athens, Brattleboro, Ludlow, Plymouth, Waterbury and Wilmington.

These events were as much about being heard as they were about listening to others. As we came to learn, the Story Circles provided people with a way to give collective voice to the shared trauma of natural disaster. A place to reflect, connect with one another and find strength to move through—and beyond—the storm and its impacts. We were honored to be witnesses to the process. In many ways the Irene Storytelling Project was some of the most significant work we have ever done.

VT Untapped is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. For more information visit www.vtfolklife.org/untapped

Episode 20: A Year of Listening in Place

Episode 20: A Year of Listening in Place

April 28, 2021

Over a year since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic we take a moment to look back on a year of the Listening in Place project, focusing on submissions to our Sound Archive.

This facet of Listening in Place began with a small collection of audio recordings submitted via a portal on our website in response to an invitation to sit down and interview someone in your household, or remotely, during our first weeks of lockdown. 

We received about 30 recordings from across the state. College students interviewing their classmates or their parents who they were suddenly living with again after campus shut down; a father talking to his two kids; people connecting remotely with friends who were far away or who were quarantining just across town. In this episode of VT Untapped™ we revisit and reflect on these records, which we now think of as the first seeds planted in what has become the Listening in Place collection in our archive, documenting people’s experiences in Vermont during the pandemic.

VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. Learn more on our website: www.vtfolklife.org/untapped 

 

Episode 19: Sweetest Joys Indeed

Episode 19: Sweetest Joys Indeed

March 18, 2021

Sugaring is a central part of life in Vermont. Anthropologist Marge Bruchac tells us that the Abenaki people, the indigenous group native to Vermont, called the fourth new moon of the year the “maple sugar-making moon.” The Abenaki were the first people in the place we now call Vermont to boil down sap and make syrup, and they taught European settlers this practice--one unique to North America.

Today in Vermont sugaring is an important economic activity and a seasonal milestone that marks the transition from winter to spring--not to mention it’s how we create our best known, homegrown, sweet treat. Along with syrup, candy and other maple products, the seasonal pastime of visiting the sugar house is often evoked as a classic ‘Vermont’ activity for tourists and locals alike. It’s no surprise then that there are songs about sugaring or even that the Vermont Folklife Center might make reference to the activity in the name of its own podcast, VT Untapped! In our case we’re not tapping trees, but our archive, which contains thousands of interviews with Vermonters talking about their everyday lives and experiences. This episode brings you a seasonal selection of audio excerpts from our collection that reflect the sugaring tradition and its prominence in Vermont life across generations. 

VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. Visit www.vtfolklife.org/untapped to learn more. 

Episode 18: Meet Cute 2021 - Everest and Marjo

Episode 18: Meet Cute 2021 - Everest and Marjo

February 12, 2021

It’s that time of year again! Although our annual “Meet Cute” episode is a bit different this year, isn’t everything?

We’re coming up on one year of living through the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a part of our Listening in Place project, we’ve focused on hearing from Vermonters about their experiences of this tumultuous time, in their own voices.

We know that Vermonters have continued to cultivate new romantic connections during this time but, to be honest, we paused a bit around asking people to tell us their touching stories of new flowering love in the midst of the pandemic. Would anyone really want to put a spotlight on a newly forged connection by sitting down for an interview with us?

So instead, our 2021 Meet Cute focuses on two themes that have consistently emerged through Listening in Place: resilience and human connections. Less of a “meet cute,” this year’s February episode of VT Untapped explores Covid as a catalyst for strengthening an existing relationship—a story about love across distance and across borders. We hope you enjoy!

 

VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. Learn more on our website: www.vtfolklife.org/untapped 

Episode 17: The Audio Diary of Pete Sutherland

Episode 17: The Audio Diary of Pete Sutherland

December 18, 2020

Back in March 2020, Pete Sutherland opened up the voice memo app on his phone, hit record and said “This is just day-one of one person's journal about isolation in the time of the Coronavirus outbreak worldwide.” In the following nine months, Pete continued to hit record and share his thoughts with what he calls “the vault” on his phone. Sometimes he discusses the COVID-19 Pandemic, other times he reflects on walks in the woods, his family, teaching, or the 2020 election. In this episode of VT Untapped™, we bring you excerpts of Pete’s COVID Diary.

Pete is a longtime friend of the VFC and a vastly influential contributor to traditional culture in Vermont. He is prolific as a musician, teacher, visual artist, composer, writer, and storyteller and his way with words comes through in this diary. Beyond the words, the sonic experience of the diary transports us right into Pete’s world; many of his entries are made “on site” as he goes about his daily life. So take a seat and join Pete on his journey through COVID times.

In addition to providing material for this podcast, Pete has donated his diary in its entirety to the VFC archive where it will add to our growing collection of materials documenting the COVID-19 pandemic and our Listening in Place project. We are profoundly grateful to Pete for agreeing to share this personal account with us.

 

VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. Visit our website for more information.

Episode 16: 2020 Thanksgiving Special!

Episode 16: 2020 Thanksgiving Special!

November 25, 2020

Driving turkeys

THANKSGIVING SPECIAL!

As we’re all gearing up for what is likely to be one of the most, shall we say “unusual,” Thanksgivings of our lifetimes (thanks again, 2020), here at VT Untapped™ we reached out VFC founder Jane Beck once more in search of suggestions for a seasonal story. Not surprisingly, once again Jane came through!

Jane directed us to a series of interviews she conducted with Earle Fuller of Warren, VT between 1979 and 1983. Jane interviewed Earle over 45 times during that period, discussing his family’s history in the area, and the Fuller family tradition of raising, training and trading horses during the era of horse power. Earle was born in Warren in 1888.

In two interviews, one from 1979 and one from 1981, Earle recounted to Jane the experience of driving turkeys from Vermont to market in Boston. To be clear, when we say “drive” we mean “herd”—literally marching a flock of (in Earle’s account) over 500 turkeys by road, through towns, over bridges on a journey that lasted 10 days round trip.

Turkey drives were a seasonal sight to behold in New England in the 18th and 19th centuries, with flocks as large as 2,000 birds traveling from farms to cities for slaughter and sale. As Earle shares, even railroads were unwilling to transport the live birds, so herding turkeys through the countryside persisted as the simplest way to transport them to urban markets.

Based on a number of clues embedded in the stories we’re honestly not sure if Earle is reporting from personal experience or if he is recounting someone else’s. For one, Earle begins his initial account in the third person—as if he is talking about someone else—then gradually shifts to telling it in the first person, setting himself in the tale. In addition, Earle states that he was 11 when the drive he describes occurred, which would set the date around 1899. As we understand it, the turn of the century would have been pretty late for a turkey drive like this to have taken place. This stated, we really just don’t know with any certainty and—truly—we don’t think it really matters all that much. Earle’s evocative account of trouping a bunch of red-headed, gobbling turkeys from VT to Boston rings true to other sources that describe similar trips, so what he shares is accurate based on comparison. Earle’s own story or not, it’s a trip well worth joining him on.

VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. For more information visit www.vtfolklife.org/untapped

Episode 15: The Apprentices

Episode 15: The Apprentices

November 20, 2020

Established in 1991, our Vermont Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (VTAAP) was created to support the vitality of Vermont's living cultural heritage. In this episode we explore VTAAP by talking with some of the program participants—master artists and their apprentices—to explore their perspectives on these time-honored art forms, and the experience of teaching and learning during a global pandemic.

Traditional arts are often perceived as primarily—or even exclusively—tied to the past, but we see them as living practices, constantly evolving and changing to meet the unfolding needs of the people who care about them. Traditional art draws on the past, but is continually refined and shaped by needs and perspectives of the present. 

Over the years the program has supported traditional forms ranging from Abenaki basketry and dance, Yankee and Franco-American fiddling, Somali Bantu instrument making, memorial stone carving in Barre, Japanese Ikebana, Congolese Dance, and Tibetan dranyan performance among hundreds of others. VTAAP is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and donors around the state.

Despite the current challenges of the pandemic, 13 collaborations between master artists and apprentices are being supported in the 2020-2021 VTAAP cycle (you can see the full list of projects here). In this episode you’ll come along with VFC staff on three "virtual site visits” to meet a few of this year’s cohort of artists and apprentices and hear about the art forms and projects they’ll be working on over the course of the next 10 months.

 

VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. Visit our website for more information. 

Episode 14: Spooky Halloween Special 2020

Episode 14: Spooky Halloween Special 2020

October 30, 2020

It’s Halloween! Which means it’s time for our annual SPOOKY HALLOWEEN SPECIAL! This year we reached out to VFC founder Jane Beck to see if she could think of any extra spooky stories in the archive—and boy did she come up with a corker!

Jane interviewed Floyd Cowdrey on November 14, 1994. It’s a wide ranging interview, with Floyd recounting events from the late 19th and early 20th century including family stories, grisly details of a few local murders, some off-color (and by today’s standards frankly offensive) jokes and, importantly, a pretty darn good haunted house story.

The events described by Floyd took place in the mid 1920s in Hartland, VT. We won’t go into the details here—we’ll leave those to Floyd—but we will say that you might find yourself thinking differently about that mysterious, late night knock on your bedroom door after hearing what Floyd has to say…

VT Untapped™ is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. Visit our website for more information.

Episode 13: Sounds of Camp

Episode 13: Sounds of Camp

October 23, 2020

What does a vibrant camp sound like without its campers? 

Camp Killooleet sits on the banks of the Hancock Branch, a tributary to the White River in Hancock, Vermont. Since 1927 it’s welcomed kids ages 9-14 for a classic summer camp experience. Hiking and swimming, arts and woodworking, sports, horse-back riding and a particularly strong music and song culture due in large part to the longtime connection of the Seeger family with Killooleet. John and Ellie Seeger bought the camp in 1949 and today their daughter, Kate Seeger and her husband Dean Spencer are the camp directors. John Seeger was the brother of the legendary folk singer, Pete Seeger.   

Back in August, Mary Wesley and assistant producer Abra Clawson drove down to Hancock to meet with Kate, Dean and Kate’s brother, Tony Seeger. Tony is an anthropologist and audio-visual archivist and he serves on the Board of Directors for the VFC. It was an unusual visit because for the first time in 93 years, Camp Killooleet was closed, due to Covid -19. Where you’d expect to hear splashing and shouting in the pond and music in the camp house there was only birdsong and a slight breeze.   

This episode explores the ways in which a summer camp community, an inherently ephemeral group, stays connected over time and distance. Camp Killoolleet in particular offers a unique site of observation and reflection thanks to two albums recorded in 1958 available from Smithsonian Folkways: Songs of Camp and Sounds of Camp. These historical recordings feature documentary soundscapes and sing-alongs that allow us to travel back in time to hear just what was missing from Killooleet during this “camper-less” summer of 2020.  

THE RECORDINGS
We thank Smithsonian Folkways for granting us permission to feature selections from Sounds of Camp and Songs of Camp in this episode. You can find both albums--as well as the entire Smithsonian Folkways catalog here on their website

The campers and counselors featured in this episode are Charlie, Kim, Smitty, Danny and Avi. You can sit in on one of the Killooleet Virtual Campfires here on YouTube

 

Vermont Untapped is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. For more information visit our website

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