Mayo's Window Design Challenge for the Caledonia County Relay for Life

Sadly, cancer seems to affect everyone in the North Country - whether we’ve had a family member with it or been witness to a dear friend enduring a battle with it. It’s something that will unfortunately affect us, whether directly or indirectly, at some point in our lives...but luckily, there are groups of people right here in the North Country that are doing what they can to help fight the good fight.

North Country Local was able to sit with just one of these people: founder of the Caledonia County Relay for Life, Fred Laferriere, owner of Mayo’s Furniture and Flooring.

Mayo's Furniture and Flooring

Caledonia County Relay for Life

Fred shared how he became involved in the American Cancer Society’s efforts to combat this deadly disease. “My situation is I lost a brother to cancer in 2000 and a couple of years after that I had this great idea to jump in Willoughby Lake on January first to raise money for the American Cancer Society. After I did that for a couple of years, they asked if I could start the Caledonia County Relay for Life. The Relay has been going for about 12 years, I believe, and I think this is our 13th or 14th Relay for Life.


“The Relay for Life, when we first started it, used to run overnight. Now it runs from noon to midnight, which makes it a lot easier to be involved in. When it was overnight we had people camping out. Locally, we’re at the St. Johnsbury Academy football field, walking around the football field. The idea is to have someone walking on the track to help raise money for the American Cancer Society. Now we’re on the track from noon to midnight.


“What our Relay does is kind of unique...when we were an overnight event we had something called Midnight Madness, where from Midnight to 1 am we ran. Now we do our Midnight Madness from 2 to 3, and we keep track of how many laps you can do. There are teams of people who do it as a Relay, or you can just do it all by yourself.”


One of Mayo’s employees, Nancy Hartwell, came up with the idea to use their showroom as a way to further help raise money for the cause. Mayo’s is currently sponsoring a Window Design Challenge, where “teams will have access to any and all of the furniture and accessories in the store to design their space.”

Caledonia County Relay for Life

Caledonia County Relay for Life

Fred continues, “What we’re doing as a separate fundraiser for the Relay for Life, is we’re offering a $500 donation to the Relay for Life to the team, in the team’s name, to whoever wins this challenge. Bassett Furniture is also offering up a $250 prize to the second place team, so we have some real competition going on. We’ve got a window in the front corner of the store that we empty out every Friday, and on Saturday a different team comes in and sets up that room, however they want and we display it how they set it up for that week. Most of the teams are setting up living rooms in that space, but this week we have a bedroom set up, last week we had a dining room set up. We have a lot of different things here they can put in for accents. The teams have a lot of fun with this design challenge, and it’s a lot of fun for everyone involved. It’s exciting for everybody, we like to see the windows change, and customers get excited about it too.


“Our Relay for Life is a lot of fun, and this year we’re bringing back bands, which we had in the beginning. The Caledonia County Relay for Life is June 17th, which is a week later than we normally have it. We’re really excited to have this be a huge event, and we hope to see as many people as possible there. Let’s kick cancer’s butt!”

You can find all of the different room designs on Mayo’s Furniture and Flooring’s Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/mayos.furniture - get over there and check out the different rooms these Relay teams are designing!


If you’re interested in participating, donating, or learning more, find the Caledonia County Relay for Life on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CaledoniaCountyRelayForLife/ and online at www.relayforlife.org/caledoniavt!

Caledonia County Relay for Life
Caledonia County Relay for Life

Harris Energy - Eating and Heating in the North Country

If you’re a lover of food and live in the North Country, there’s a good chance you own a grill upon which you cook some of your meals. If you’re like most grill owners, you have a hard time finding them sold locally and most likely have to go to a big box store to purchase one. Surprisingly enough, there’s a locally-owned business right here in the North Country that offers a great option for those who would like to support a local business AND get away from conventional propane grills. North Country Local had the chance to catch up with the owner of Littleton’s Harris Energy, Carroll Lucas, about the grills his company sells.

Harris Energy - North Country Local

Harris Energy - North Country Local

Carroll stocks two different companies’ pellet grills and smokers - from both Camp Chef and Royall Grills. One of the biggest problems he says he has when selling these units is the education that goes behind them. “Most people have never heard of wood pellet grills or smokers. Most folks are used to the regular charcoal or propane grills, and when they do hear about these type of units, they think they’re hard to operate. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Stopping by Harris Energy on West Main Street in Littleton and you have the chance of catching the team smoking or grilling up some delicious concoction. “There are a lot of differences between these pellet grills and smokers and the conventional propane grills,” Carroll says. “You can cook your food on a low or a high smoke, depending on how smoky of a flavor you want, and grilling is super easy. The grills all come with controls where you can very accurately set your temperature to what you want. You definitely have more control over the temperature with these units then you do with propane grills.”


Harris Energy has served the North Country for over 40 years, and you’ll find they sell and deliver heating oil & kerosene, wood pellets, coal, Bio-bricks, and other alternative heating fuels. They’ve been counted on by countless residents of the North Country for their dependable service, whether it’s an emergency fill-up or a delivery of pellets. And you can expect that level of expertise and commitment to their customers when it comes to the pellets they sell.

Harris Energy - North Country Local

Harris Energy - North Country Local

“We want to make sure that every customer leaves here with one of these units and sings their praises to all of their friends and family. If they have a question or problem, we want to be the first people they turn to. We love cooking on ours and really want people to get pumped up about using this kind of grill,” Carroll continues. “There are misconceptions of how a pellet grill works, and that it’s difficult or cumbersome to use. Couldn’t be further from the truth. You literally plug it into the wall, dump pellets into the hopper, and turn on the unit to your desired temperature.”


The elements in the North Country can be hard on our property and possessions, especially those left out on a porch or patio. Carroll Lucas wants the North Country to start thinking differently about grilling food, and think about it as an investment in your health and easier on your bank account. You’ll purchase multiple grills over the lifespan of just one wood pellet grill. If you have any questions, you can visit Harris Energy at their new location on West Main Street, and online at www.harrisenergyinc.com. Make sure you follow them on their Facebook page also: www.facebook.com/harrisenergyinc

Your wallet - as well as your family and your health - will thank you!

Harris Energy - North Country Local

The Upstage Players - A Momentary Escape from the North Country

While the North Country is one of the best places in the world to live, with great people, geography, natural wonders, and excellent businesses, life can be tough for most of us. The daily grind of work, family, school, and other responsibilities can weigh on us, and when we have a chance to experience something that takes us away, even for a moment, we should celebrate that.


One of those magical experiences happen about twice a year, right here in the North Country, with the Upstage Players. The Upstage Players is a community nonprofit theater group drawing talent and pleasing audiences in the North Country for over 30 years. Their mission is to create exceptional theater in the community setting, and North Country Local was recently able to speak with an Upstage Player, Courtney Vashaw, about their most recent production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

Courtney Vashaw, North Country resident and current Upstage Player, gave us a brief history of the group, as best she could. “The group is decades old, and was really out of Lisbon for a number of years. Within the past 4 or 5 years, Littleton has become its home. Andrew Lidestri has taken over the artistic direction of it, really leading to a renaissance of the group. The group has really done some phenomenal things in terms of cultivating a following and being really top-caliber community theater. The goal is to make it as close to professional theater as possible while being as close to community theater and accessible as possible.”

The Upstage Players
The Upstage Players

The Upstage Players

Courtney’s first performance with the group was in January of 2016. Being a former Colonel Town Player, for years and years, she heard great things about what the Upstage Players was doing and wanted to try it out. The Drowsy Chaperone is her fourth performance with the group.


“One of the things about live theater is that it’s so different than seeing something on TV or film,” Courtney says. “There are so many variables at any given time. It’s fantastic to see people you know, like your dentist, or teacher, or student of yours doing something really remarkable, remembering all these lines and songs and performing it live on stage at a really high caliber. What we seek to do is make it accessible, so it’s affordable and it’s theater that people can relate to on some level.”


Courtney continues, “Not every show is something everyone knows really well. “The Drowsy Chaperone” was on Broadway but it doesn’t have a huge following so it’s great to get our hands on this wonderful play and introduce the North Country to something they’ve probably never seen before. The play is really special to Andrew for that reason. It’s one of those plays that has something for everyone.”


What’s wonderful about the performances from the Upstage Players is that they not only concentrate on the content of the play, from the lines to the songs to the choreography, but they really put everything they can into the sets, and they even have a professional-caliber pit orchestra to accompany the show.

Courtney gives us a description of the Upstage Players' current show, “‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ is a play within a play. You have an older gentleman, played by Dennis McKay, and he loves musical theater, and uses it as an escape for when he’s feeling blue. He narrates this play with a musical set in 1928 with these phenomenal actors, with all of these musical theater foibles like marriages, reunions, and everyone ends up with a ‘Happily Ever After.’”


And who doesn’t like a “Happily Ever After”?

The Upstage Players

The Upstage Players

The Upstage Players will be sharing “The Drowsy Chaperone” with the North Country this upcoming weekend, April 14th and 15th Friday and Saturday at 8 PM at the Littleton Opera House, and on Easter Sunday, April 16th at 2 PM. Please be sure to follow their Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/upstageplayersnh and find them online at www.upstageplayersnh.com!

Tickets are $16 dollars at the door or $14 in advance at Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce or through Catamount Arts ( https://tickets.catamountarts.org/public/shows/the%20drowsy%20chaperone/info ).

The Upstage Players

My Farmers Market - Serving the North Country from the Ground Up

If you’ve lived in the  North Country for any period of time, you definitely can see how farming is part of the rich tapestry of history and culture in the North Country. Whether they’re producing dairy products, vegetables, timber, maple syrup, or wool, the farmers of the North Country have helped to create and sustain a life where we can all survive in the rugged landscape we call home.


Situated in a rustic corner of the North Country, My Farmers Market is found on Creamery Road in South Ryegate and offers a unique shopping experience for residents of the North Country. Jennifer Bone, owner and operator of My Farmers Market, gave North Country Local a few moments of her time in order to help people in the area understand what they offer.

My Farmers Market

My Farmers Market

My Farmers Market is a privately owned and cooperatively vendor-operated farmers market that works with small family farms, local artisans and non-GMO and organic foods. It’s a Farmers Market where the vendors pool their time to offer storefront hours, allowing their customers more time to shop. “It treats our vendors to less exposure to the elements and our converted storage container serves as a walk-in sales cooler to keep our veggies and flowers at peak freshness,” Jennifer says. When you walk around the small space they take up, you can see that they definitely believe in quality over quantity. While it’s not a giant space by any means, it’s a space that allows for enough produce, meats, honey, crafts and more to sustain a small community in the North Country.


With a combined 35 years of farming experience, Jennifer and David Bone operate a 115 year old family farm in South Ryegate, with a small, sustainable, community-based mindset. Jennifer is a produce farmer with farmers market management experience, while David is a 4th generation dairyman. The “Bone Farm” was awarded the “Century Farms” award for over a century of continued family, traditional operation. They continue to diversify the family homestead into a “Bio-dynamic” family farm, with the goal of sharing their vision for agriculture and enhancing the local and farming movement. And you can see how they bring those same philosophies to My Farmers Market.

“We hold regular events to celebrate the season's bounty as well as our community with a chance to meet all of our vendors and sample what we have to offer. We have this amazing collaboration of chefs, farmers, craftspeople that enables us to offer the finest in local goods,” Jennifer says. It’s an amazing feeling to see local produce, meats, crafts, seasonings, and other offerings,  all brought together into one space, from many different farmers and producers. “Our market is the solution to the small town markets that don't bring in enough people in a 4 hour window to make it worth a farmers time. We purchase in bulk items like rice,cheese, flour, sugar, milk and other items that fill in gaps in what our vendors offer. This gives us a great selection of items and the sales of these items support market costs. We are going into our second season and found this concept successful. Many of our vendors deliver a few times a week to ensure that everything is fresh.”

My Farmers Market

My Farmers Market

My Farmers Market also offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program with vegetable, meat, bread, eggs, and coffee share options. They have pick-up points at their South Ryegate store front, at the Peacham Cafe, and Little Rivers Health Care. This year they’ll also be offering a “Cut-Your-Own” Flower Garden starting around June 1st, and weddings are welcome!

This Saturday, April 1st, they’re hosting their “Opening Day Open House” from 9 AM to 6 PM! My Farmers Market invites you to visit and celebrate their season’s opening, where many of their new and returning vendors will be on hand with free samples and conversation! You can enjoy a sampling of what they offer and meet the people that produce it! Here’s a link with more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/427568770920601/


Make sure you follow them on Facebook here:  www.facebook.com/MyFarmersMarket/ and find them online at www.myfarmersmkt.com!

My Farmers Market

Little Villages and Big Dreams in the North Country

For most people the American Dream is one of coming to a land of opportunity, hoping to work and create something more than what you had to begin with. A quick online search gives us a definition that the American Dream is: “...the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” Whether you’re a first-generation immigrant or the descendant of one, the American Dream is an idea that’s ingrained into our cultural fabric.

And the North Country - that tiny little nugget of New England, situated right on the Connecticut River around Littleton and St. Johnsbury - is a part of America where you can truly see the result of the dreams of people who call the North Country home. It’s part of the oldest section of America, so many dreams have been laid down around us.

 


Clare Brooks

One dream in particular is quickly becoming an integral part of our North Country fabric: the dream of Clare Brooks, owner of the Little Village Toy & Book Shop.

Found on Main Street in Littleton, the Little Village Toy & Book Shop has been an incredible resource for our area communities since opening in 2014. North Country Local had the opportunity to sit down with Clare to learn about her American Dream and the part she plays as small-business owner in the North Country.

If you’ve ever personally met Clare, you are immediately taken in by her sincerity and warmth. Her personality shines through to friend and customer alike with a worldly glow, and for good reason: she’s traipsed the globe more extensively than most, before eventually calling the North Country home. Born in South Africa, she and her family began the process of emigrating to America in the Nineties, when she was “12 or 13.” Clare’s father, a plastics engineer, was head-hunted by a company in California, so he was able to come to America and work on a special Visa. At that point they had been in Ireland for about a year. Clare, her mother, and her brother waited for about a year and won, as Clare put it, the Irish immigration lottery. They moved to California, where she went to high school, and after which she moved to Hawaii, where she spent time as a woodworker and housekeeper “for quite some time.”


Clare met a man in Hawaii, became a mother, and soon after moved back to where her husband was from originally: the North Country. Clare’s husband suggested a local business for Clare to apply at, one he remembered fondly from his childhood: the Village Book Store. Clare remembers that she actually moved here “to get a job there...and after applying about 80 times” finally got a job at the Village Book Store as their bookkeeper. The Village Book Store, for those who may not remember it, sat for decades right on Main Street where the Little Village Toy & Book Shop sits (mostly) now...a recessed brick entrance on Main Street many people can fondly remember using.

North Country Local - Little Village Toy & Book Shop

LVTBS

Clare worked there “5 or 6 years” and sadly, in 2014, received news that her mother was passing away, so Clare went to her in Ireland, for about 6 to 8 weeks, from Clare’s memory. Clare recalls that her mother was “very passionate about reading. She didn’t have a high school education but she was able to hold conversations with people who had PhD's in physics and you would never tell that she wasn’t college educated, she was so well-read.” Clare’s mom used to buy gift certificates for her family members and neighborhood children from the little village book shop that was in her village in Ireland, and as Clare’s mom was in the hospital, according to Clare, “all she cared about was me finishing up these last 6 gift certificates she had...which I did. She just wanted them to get to the kids.

“When I came back from Ireland, after my mom had died, I could see that Jeff, the previous owner of the Village Book Store, was planning on closing. Soon after I had a dream that my mother came to me and told me to open up another shop. So, I talked to my then-husband, the book buyer Stacey, and the old owner Jeff, and asked if it was okay if I opened up another shop once he closed down. A lot of people told me that was a bad idea, but as the bookkeeper, I knew where the store had potential. I negotiated rent space, and then about 3 months later we were open. We  opened on June 13th, Friday the 13th, 2014.”


Clare's good news and American Dream takes a somber turn, though: “And that night, the night of my opening, was the night my husband decided he was divorcing me. He didn’t come home that night and within a few months he was out of the house, so pretty much since the beginning I’ve been a single woman with two kids, owning this business.”


The Little Village Toy & Book Shop has since undergone two expansions and when you visit, you’ll be really impressed at the variety of toys and games, for all ages, that are available right here in the North Country. Clare explains: “Our mission is to keep everyone reading. The best way for me to sustain a book store model in this area is to create a multi-use kind of business. I’m really big on our motto ‘Play. Laugh.  Learn.’ Children learn through playing, the research is so obvious, and it’s our job as adults, in my opinion, to make sure kids are playing with things that are going to benefit them in learning, and they’ll still have fun. We try to supply quality toys and games that will keep them off-screen more, and keep them engaged, and keep families interacting around the dinner table and every other place. The idea is the toys will get them in the door and they’ll walk out with a book.”

North Country Local - Little Village Toy & Book Shop

North Country Local - Little Village Toy & Book Shop

Part of the North Country Local mission is to support our area by getting the word out to as many people as possible about locally-owned businesses in the North Country. There are no franchises, corporations, or businesses owned by people from afar...really, the mission of North Country Local is supporting the American Dream right here in the North Country - helping hard-working Americans in their pursuit of success and prosperity, folks with heart and determination and initiative.

“We're an immigrant-owned business. We're a woman-owned business. Living the American Dream. My parents moved me to America to have an opportunity to work hard and actually get somewhere with that. Where I was from, you could work hard and get nowhere. There you're working hard just to be able to drink water...whereas here, if you work hard, you can actually do something. I won't ever be rich owning a bookstore, but if you work hard, you can support yourself. I can support myself and my two kids without my husband, without any financial assistance from anyone. There's a lot more opportunity here than I would have had in other countries, so I'm grateful.”

 

And the North Country is grateful for you, Clare, and your dream.