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  • Stephen D'Agostino

There’s Still Time To Respond to the 2020 Census

With COVID-19, we’ve all been barraged with a lot of numbers lately, and most of them have not been good. In this week’s column, I’m going to throw a few numbers at you, and for the most part, they are good.

As I've mentioned a couple of times, one thing that has kept me sane(ish) for the last month has been watching the progress of the season. Even on those days, like last Saturday, when snow had covered the grass, my flower beds, and parts of my road, there are signs of spring.

After the snow had melted, I toured my yard to see how the tender plants had fared (well, thankfully). I saw that nine of the lilies I had planted last year had broken ground. Add to that one that is growing in a place where I had not planted lilies. Welcome to the family! All six of the dianthus I planted last year have come back. As have six poppy plants and three globe thistle. My three helenium, or sneezeweed, are getting bigger and bigger. These signs of spring would make me happy in any April, but in this strange April, those signs overjoy me.

Driving around Reading last Saturday, I saw lots of signs of spring behind the snowflakes. You can probably guess why I was touring our town: To take part in the Reading Safari. From the number of people who put safari animals out—35 officially, but there were several more who weren’t on my list—to the nearly 20 people who requested Safari Sheets and the others who pulled them from Facebook—it is safe to say that this was a popular event!

There were plenty of clever presentations out there. Some of my favorites included the Sluka’s Africa-themed display, Mary and Arden Peplau’s menagerie crowding their decorative well, the Lord’s animals lined up on a toboggan, and the Kaija’s penguin on a sled cautiously wishing everyone a happy spring. Also, hats off to the Macris for the deer head and the bottle of Corona beer on the porch. The humor was much appreciated.

The Allens. One of over 35 participants in the Reading Safari.

Reading Town Hall. One of over 35 participants in the Reading Safari.

The Kaijas. One of over 35 participants in the Reading Safari.

Rowlee Farm. One of over 35 participants in the Reading Safari.

It wasn’t just kids who participated, either. As I was on my way to Stone Chimney Road, I was behind a pair of cars that were slowly making their way up the road, checking out each house for animals, and snapping pictures along the way. After a short distance, the two cars in front of me pulled off. I drove by them and waved them forward, hoping they understood my message to follow me. I got to my destination, the home of Adam and Liesbeth Kozlowski, admired their happy pink pig, and turned around.

On my return trip, I spotted the cars again, coming my way. I pulled over to give them room to pass, rolled down my window, and from an appropriate distance, I told them to keep going. The woman in the second car rolled down her window and said to me, "Happy Safari!" Through some Facebook communications, I learned it was Pam Crosby, who was doing the tour with her grandchildren (who were in the first car). Even if I hadn’t been enjoying myself, her comment would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I have one final number relating to the safari: 39. That is the number of miles Esther Allen reported that she and Bob drove while on safari. I didn’t think to check while I drove the route, but I am glad they did!

The Reading Safari drew a lot of attention on Facebook ( Thanks for all of you who posted comments and photos, and thanks to all who participated. When I look back at life in the time of COVID-19, I will fondly remember this day.

The final figures I want to talk to you about is the U.S. Census, which is, of course, all about numbers. The number I want to focus on is 23.3%. That is the percentage of Reading residents who have completed the census as of April 17. Reading lags behind the Vermont average of 39.7% and the U.S. average of 49.4%, but most of the towns around Reading are also below these numbers.

Residents who have not received a mailed or door-delivered invitation to respond can respond online at When asked for the 12-digit code, you can skip it and enter your address. You can complete the census over the phone by calling 844-330-2020. It is a toll-free call.

Responses can be made until July 31, although the Census Bureau has asked Congress to extend the date to October 31.

Because of the pandemic, census workers who were to knock on the doors of non-responders are waiting until at least June 13. You can wait for the knock, or you can respond online or by phone, as noted above.

Remember, the census is used to determine how federal money is distributed to states. An accurate count is important.

Finally, I have stopped noting birthdays in my column, but I am going to wish Happy Birthday to William Shakespeare and leave you with this quote from the bard. “The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief.”

Stay health. Stay safe. And find happiness and joy in these strange times! It is there in waves from cars, selfless gestures, phone calls, cards, emails, and stuffed animals on the lawn on a snowy morning.

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on March 26, 2020.

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