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‘Maple Fest” brings community together


By Josh Ogorman, Times Argus:

CABOT — What a sweet way to foster a tighter community.

Several hundred people turned out at Cabot School on Saturday for Maple Fest, an annual fundraiser for the community’s monthly newspaper, “The Cabot Chronicle.”

First published in 1920 and revived in 2008, the paper reaches approximately 1,900 people in Cabot, as well the nearby communities of Marshfield and West Danville, and provides a forum for residents and officials to discuss what is happening in the town and at school.

“A well-connected community is going to be in a better position to deal with drugs and other challenges,” said Jeanne Johnson, coordinator of Maple Fest and one half of the duo responsible for producing the paper.

According to Johnson, in 2012, the Vermont Council on Rural Development outlined three initiatives for the town: greater support for the arts, more support for agriculture and expanded opportunities for communication among residents and town and school officials.

In addition to the online service “Front Porch Forum,” “The Cabot Chronicle” was identified as a means to facilitate communication.

Saturday — the first full day of spring — was certainly apropos for Maple Fest, with above-freezing temperatures during the day and colder temperatures in the evening, an ideal scenario to keep the sap running. The combination of sun and warmth brought out visitors to both sample some sweet treats and test their internal fortitude.

The Vermont Army National Guard brought a portable climbing wall to the event, which drove climbers of all ages to challenges themselves to reach the 35-foot summit.

“It builds confidence as people overcome their challenges or fear of heights,” said Sgt. 1st Class Casey Bell. “We use it to develop interest in mountaineering skills.”

Cedric MacKenzie, 11, of Walden, ascended the wall, by his own estimate, five or six times.

“I like to do it but it’s kind of scary, because when you look down everyone is really tiny,” MacKenzie said.

While community members showed their support for the newspaper Saturday when they purchased sugar on snow or a host of other tasty maple products — or bid on an array of donated items during a silent auction — they also did so earlier in the month when, at town meeting, they approved an $8,000 appropriation to fund the Chronicle’s operations.

“One of the goals is to keep the paper free,” said Todd Jones, the other half of the team that puts out the Chronicle. “I think it helps build a sense of community and it’s a good way to get information to the local people.”

On the community’s support for the newspaper — both Saturday and in general — Jones said, “We know it’s wanted and appreciated, and that makes it worth it when we’re up until four in the morning working to get the paper out.”