What it Means to be a Vermonter


Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hancock,_Vermont?scrlybrkr

Felicity Gregware, Contributor

During the long winter darkness, there is nothing better than circling around the wood stove and asking questions like, “Why is it so hot in here, or where did I put my barn boots?”  Sometimes the questions can get a little more serious, like, “What does it mean to be a Vermonter?” Some people think that, first of all, you have to be born in Vermont. Being born and living here is what makes up a Vermonter. However, it’s not just living here that makes one a Vermonter, it’s appreciating the finer things that Vermont has to offer.  Being a Vermonter is not just a matter of birth, it’s an attitude, and a spirit that sees and appreciates how special this state really is.  

Vermont is the land of four seasons. Five, if you count mud season. Every season has something different to offer. Every year in Vermont begins and ends with winter. One thing that lots of people like to do is enjoy the outside. Vermonters participate in activities like skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and so many other fun things to get outdoors. People come from all over the state, and from states surrounding Vermont, for these activities. I know this year we have not as many people from outside the state, but we have a lot of new people that have just started to get into those types of activities to get outside due to Covid limiting indoor activities. These are all great bonding times for family and friends. A true Vermonter is one that likes and enjoys nature outside and is not afraid of it either. 

After a tough winter, there’s nothing like a warm spring day to get the juices flowing.  This is the time when the snow melts, and the grass starts to grow. One of  Vermont’s biggest traditions is the sugaring season. It’s a sure sign that spring is coming. It is a  joy for lots of people to make it and for everyone else that eats it. Sugaring has grown from the small family operations to become a major part of Vermont’s economy.  According to Sugaring Season in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, “In Vermont, March means maple syrup season, or ‘sugaring,’ when thousands of maple farmers feverishly await the flow of precious maple sap from their sugar bushes. Usher in the sweetest time of the year with a tour of one of the many sugar houses scattered about the thawing landscape.”  When spring comes, I will go out for a drive down the back roads of Vermont, and I will go by countless sugar houses, and that is that glory of spring in Vermont. Not only is this a key part of Vermont as a state, but for the people in it. 

Finally, summer comes and hot weather and a need for cooling off and getting outside. Hiking and biking are two of the biggest recreation activities that happen on land. Vermonters head to the beach for fishing and boating. My family got our first boat two years ago, and we had so much fun enjoying the water and scenery. Earlier last summer we went tubing for the first time and had a blast. When we were out there, I could see countless others having fun, too. Also, I know that the fishing derbies are very popular as well, and lots of people participate in those all the time. On Father’s Day weekend on Lake Champlain, I saw one of the biggest fishing derbies I have seen. We were getting ready to launch our boat and all of a sudden 35 other boats came out of nowhere to get their boats out of the water. Summer is lots of fun, but like a lot of things in Vermont, you have to love it while it lasts.

When we think of Vermont, we think of the beautiful fall colors.  This is Vermont’s time to show off.  The golds, reds, and oranges seem like God’s paintbrush.  Leaf peepers come from all over to look at the natural beauty. With the fall leaves, you get the overloaded apple trees, bursting with all types of apples.  The trees seem to sag under the heavy load of ripe fruit.  Apple picking is a great time for families to get together. Just try to get a parking space at any orchard and you will see what I mean. However, as Robert Frost said, “Nothing gold can stay.” This most drop-dead gorgeous season is over all too soon.  One of the things Vermonters learn is that you can’t hold on to the seasons too tightly.  We have learned to let go of what we love. 

Vermont is a state that doesn’t follow the calendar; it has a mind of its own. The seasons seem to start and end when they want. Vermonters accept this and even embrace this unpredictableness.  Being a Vermonter is more than just being born and raised here. It’s more like a journey that you take. That journey teaches us that no matter what happens, good or bad, we learn to appreciate the smaller things in life that Vermont can offer.