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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Looking Back at a Strange Year

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

At the end of the year, I like to look back on the 51 columns that preceded the ultimate entry to come up with a list of 10 favorites. Some years I make it to 10. Other years, I max out at eight.

I am writing this part of this column before I dig through my archive, fearful of what I will find—or won’t find in those 51 files documenting 2020. This year was a tough one for, among other things, writing this column.

OldBoys kicked off the Winter Concert Series on January 11.

Turnip Truck kept the music playing at the second show in the Winter Concert Series, on February 8.

I’m starting with an event that happened in January. Back then, news reports about the coronavirus were limited to happenings in faraway places. Many of us in town and many out-of-towners gathered together on the 11th in Robinson Hall for the first of four shows in the Reading Recreation Commission's Winter Concert Series. The house was packed for OldBoys, whose members include Reading's Niles Franc. The second concert in the series featured Turnip Truck, a bluegrass-inspired band. By the time of that concert, the coronavirus was in this country and probably already in New England. The subsequent shows in the series, which would have featured two local groups, were canceled.

The pandemic gave me the opportunity to interview Mary Springer, the Town Health Officer. We chatted over the phone for my April 2 column. I remember hanging up feeling brighter about things. Mary’s outlook and advice on dealing with the pandemic have always been sober and responsible, heartfelt, and hopeful. Thank you, Mary, for guiding us through COVID-19 with your knowledge and humanity.

The Reading Safari, sponsored by the Reading Recreation Commission, was also a bright point in the dark part of the spring phase of the pandemic. It happened on April 18, and I wrote about it on April 23. I was impressed by the number of folks who participated—at least 35 who put out animals and displays to be spotted, and at least 20 folks who drove the roads of Reading on safari.

The Reading Safari on April 18 provided pandemic fun for people who decorated their lawns and people who went searching.

As spring warmed, the virus receded, and some sense of normalcy returned. Town events began to pop up, and life began to resemble what we expect of that time of the year. Green Up Day happened a month later than usual, but it happened.

People tried new hobbies or rededicated themselves to old ones, including baking and gardening. I found myself at the Reading Greenhouse more frequently than usual. While there, I was heartened by the inspirational art produced by Reading's students, as I noted in my June 4 column.

By summer, I think we all took things in stride. The Reading Recreation Commission held some socially distanced events, including the Ice Cream Social, Art in the Park, and three Movie Nights. The movie nights would have been a nice memory of 2020, even without the pandemic. What a treat it was to sit out under the stars and watch Hook, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Shrek in Puddledock Park.

The third annual Art in the Park Puddledock Park Party was a fun late-summer event.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was the second outdoor movie hosted by the Reading Recreation Commission.

Speaking of Puddledock Park, the work to beautify it continued throughout the year. On May 14, I noted that the weather had finally allowed Gordy Eastman to get into the park to level it out and bury the concrete slab, something I will not miss. Over the summer, the Reading Green Spaces Committee set to work planting a perennial garden and a shrub. Ben and Oliver Kaija created seating from some of the slabs that had once been the foundation of the house that sat on the park.

In my October 15 column, I related the park's dedication, complete with a tree planting and a sign. It was also a chance to meet some new folks in town. In that column, I also noted that the town signs had been installed. Just last week, I finally saw the sign on Tyson Road. I grow to like them more every time I see them.

A stripped-down Halloween celebration saw 8 folks in town decorate their trunks and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. And dinosaurs.

As the pandemic took a turn for the worse in the fall, the town managed to hold an abbreviated, safe, and successful Halloween celebration, including trick-or-treating in the village and trunk-or-treating in the Town Hall parking lot.

The first Saturday in December events were trimmed down to just the wreath sale, which generated $300 for the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf. The town tree went up, minus the fanfare. It was a welcome reminder that even in the dark times, there is light and hope.

Oh, and we got three feet of snow in a storm that meteorologists predicted would drop less than one-third that amount.

Now, as I near the end of my column, I see that maybe there was more to write about than I gave 2020 credit for. Our little town adapted and made the most of the situation.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, more normal 2021.

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

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on December 30, 2020.

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