Best annual event — Stowe
1. Stoweflake Hot Air Balloon Festival
2. British Invasion
3. Stowe Brewers Festival
Nominees: Art on Park, B3 Festival, Craft Brew Races, Hyde Cup, Stowe Fourth of July Parade, Stowe Oktoberfest, Stowe Winter Carnival.
Whoosh. Whooooosh. Up, up and away. Stowe has super events throughout the summer and fall, and the annual balloon fest falls just about in the middle of it all. (Events that will never make the list: “pre-Vail Stowe closing day”; “when there are no events and people stay the f--- at home”; and “POW days, obviously.” Well, that last one just might.)
Best annual event — Lamoille County
1. LACiNg Up For Cancer
2. Oxbow Music Festival
3. Lamoille County Field Days
Nominees: Belvidere Bluegrass Festival, Cambridge Arts Festival, Cambridge Fourth of July Parade, Rocktoberfest, Tuesday Night Live in Johnson.
Best annual event — Waterbury
1. Waterbury Arts Festival
2. Vermont Antique & Classic Car Show
3. River of Light Parade
Nominees: Gravel Grinder, Not Quite Independence Day, Waterbury Winterfest.
Where but Waterbury can you find a two-day street fair, with 100+ artists and craftspeople, plus live music, performers, a beer garden, dancing, swag, a raffle and, oh, food, food and more food? Plus, all of your neighbors and friends will be there.
Best local tour
1. Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour
2. Umiak Outfitters tours
3. Cold Hollow Cider Mill
Nominees: Eden Dog Sledding, Fly Rod Shop, Four Points VT Mountain Bike School & Guide Service, Lamoille garden tours, Mud City Adventures, Stowe At Night Lantern Tours.
How in the heck do you compete with free ice cream? Regardless, that’s a list of some mighty fun tours.
Best nonprofit/community organization — Stowe
1. Stowe Land Trust
2. Helen Day Arts Center
3. Stowe Trails Partnership
Nominees: Stowe Free Library, Stowe Rescue Squad, Stowe Vibrancy, Stowe Weekend of Hope.
Apropos that Stowe Land Trust tops our list, coming off the recent acquisition of Brownsville, a 750-acre parcel bordered by thousands of acres of state forest and which is part of the foothills of the 45,000-acre Worcester Range. The land will eventually become part of C.C. Putnam State Forest for non-motorized recreation. That’s a lot of hunting, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, hiking and walking, and more. Well done.
Best nonprofit/community organization — Lamoille County
1. North Country Animal League
2. River Arts
3. Lamoille Community Food Share
Nominees: Capstone Community Action, Clarina Howard Nichols Center, Green Mountain Support Services, Justice for Dogs, Lamoille Area Cancer Network, Lamoille Family Center, Lamoille Home Health & Hospice, Meals on Wheels of Lamoille County, Salvation Farms, United Way of Lamoille County.
Like Stowe above and Waterbury below, this area has a wealth of fine nonprofit and community organizations. Groups to help the elderly, the dying, the battered and bruised, the mentally ill, the hungry and, of course, our four-legged friends. NCAL, as it’s known, has saved 14,000 furry critters since its inception in 1994. That’s a lot of love. ncal.com.
Best nonprofit/community organization — Waterbury
1. Waterbury Area Trails Alliance
2. Waterbury Area Food Shelf
3. Revitalizing Waterbury
3. A River Runs Through It Garden Club
Nominees: Children’s Literacy Foundation, The Children’s Room, Duxbury Elf’s Shelf, Friends of Waterbury Public Library, Himalayan Cataract Project, Waterbury Area Senior Center, Waterbury Historical Society, Waterbury Rotary.
Someone remarked that we shouldn’t pit nonprofits against each other. “Why are you making them compete? They’re all great.” We can’t argue with that, but everyone likes to win, right? Plus, our top vote getter for 2019 features a killer acronym, WATA, and is kicking ass fulfilling its mission “to build and maintain rec trails for a healthy, vibrant and sustainable future.” Go WATA! waterburytrails.com.