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Woodstock 2016: A Year in Review

Dec 14, 2016 08:46AM ● By Victoria Pipas
Despite changes and an intense tragedy that shook this Vermont community to its core, 2016 was a year that saw Woodstock revitalized. Renovations to the The Woodstock Inn and literary success for a resident brought recognition to the beloved town, while many experienced intense emotions ranging from elation to shock in the wake of the presidential election. With the premature deaths of five local teens, Vermont was reminded of the strength of the bonds that hold its communities together, even in the darkest of times.

February: Woodstock resident Mimi Baird’s book was released on the 16th of this month to critical acclaim and celebrity praise. He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him is Mimi Baird’s memoir encompassing the life of her late father, who suffered from manic depression and institutional treatment in the 1930s and ’40s. 

Baird published the hidden story of her father, a doctor who wished he could have done so during his own lifetime. The book has been highly received, garnering Baird acclaim and invitations to speak from the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, the American Psychiatric Association, and other renowned organizations. Actor Brad Pitt declared that he found the book to be a “gorgeous story.” 

March: Back in 2014, the Sustainable Woodstock Energy Group paired with the town of Pomfret to embark upon the Solarize Upper Valley program. This program aims to make solarizing more affordable for residents of the Upper Valley by collectively purchasing solar equipment to drive down costs. 

Within 14 months, 25 households in Woodstock and Pomfret had signed onto the program, installing solar panels on their homes. In March 2016, Sustainable Woodstock launched a second round of Solarize, encouraging residents of not only Woodstock and Pomfret but also Barnard, Bridgewater, Hartland, and Reading to consider solar. From March through June, the organization offered free homesite visits for appraisals and recommendations on the value of going solar for any given location. Solarize 2016 also hosted local events to promote alternative energy for all members of the community. Efforts like those of Sustainable Woodstock ensure that the town’s natural beauty will be preserved for generations to come.

May: The Woodstock Inn unveiled its fantastic new renovations, which began in November of 2015. They were officially completed this month with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The $2.6 million upgrade was the first large-scale renovation since the spa was installed on-site in 2010. Renovations occurred in two stages. The first was restructuring the hotel’s arrival experience in the front entryway. The second, larger stage was a remodeling of the lobby and library on the first floor. The main goal of the renovation was to create more spaces within these rooms for intimate conversations and small-group chats. The oversized fireplace, large round pouffes, and sprawling sofa space do just that. Yet the more community-oriented living room spaces still maintain the celebrated Federalist style that makes the Woodstock Inn so memorable.


August: On the 25th of this month, the US National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. Woodstock’s very own national historic park, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller, hosted a centennial party on Saturday, August 27th to commemorate this important anniversary. From 10–4, community members and visitors to the park enjoyed lawn games out on the open grass, tours of the mansion, and delicious homemade ice cream. Special events included painting with the 2016 artist-in-residence Joan Hoffman, guided science walks on the vast trail system, and even a chance for visitors to sit down with a park staff member and make an audio recording of their experience on this momentous occasion.

October: Vermont, New Hampshire, and the Upper Valley community were devastated by a tragic car accident on the 8th of this month that resulted in the deaths of five local teenagers. A Williston man drove onto Interstate 89 traveling the wrong way and causing a string of crashes, one of which involved a car carrying five Vermont high school juniors. The five teens were Eli Brookens, Liam Hale, Mary Harris, and Cyrus Zschau, all 16 years old and students at Harwood Union High School in Moretown, and Janie Cozzi, 15 years old and a student at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire. On October 24th, a Celebration of Life ceremony was held at Harwood Union for the many families, friends, and community members suffering in the wake of this terrible tragedy. Governor Peter Shumlin, who called the accident a “senseless tragedy,” attended the vigil in solidarity with the community.

November: From the home state of Senator Bernie Sanders, Vermont sent its three electoral votes to Democratic candidate Clinton this month. Overall, the state voted 56.7% blue and 30.3% red, with the majority of townships voting blue. In Woodstock, 74.2% voted for Hilary Clinton, 20.9% for Donald Trump, and 2.7% for Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate.

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