History Month at Jericho Town Library
By Phyl Newbeck
For The Essex Reporter
October is History Month at the Jericho Town Library. On Oct. 17, Bob Schermer will lead a walking tour of Jericho Center, on Oct. 19, Robert Grandchamp will recreate the life and times of a Vermont Civil War soldier, and on Oct. 24, Stuart Alexander will lead a tour of the oldest cemetery in Jericho, giving residents and others three opportunities to learn more about the history of the town and the state.
Librarian Colleen Korniak got the idea of putting together a series of historical presentations after talking to a number of Jericho residents with interest and expertise in the field, including Alexander and Grandchamp. Recognizing that both would be great speakers, Korniak also reached out to Schermer who had led a Jericho Center History Walk during the town’s 150th anniversary celebration, and Local History Month was born.
The month kicks off with Bob Schermer’s Saturday morning walking tour of Jericho Center that
will start in front of the library. Schermer, who has lived in the neighborhood for almost four decades, will lead a walk past many of the historic buildings in the village including one home that
used to be a tavern and an inn. Two of the iconic buildings — the Congregational Church and the Community Center — have rich histories, as does the library itself, which was moved twice. Schermer will point out the locations of the three general stores that supplied goods to residents and talk about the history of the Jericho Center Green, which used to have three baseball diamonds.
Robert Grandchamp moved to Jericho Center in April and immediately became a staunch supporter of the Jericho Town Library. He is part of the living history group, the Vermont Civil War Hemlocks, which does historical recreations. For his presentation, Grandchamp will take on the persona of an 1861 member of the Green Mountain Boys and discuss the clothing, food, equipment and weapons of that era. Grandchamp collects Civil War artifacts and will bring some original pieces as well as some reproductions to his presentation. The cool October air should make it easier for him to don the coarse wool uniform worn by soldiers of that era.
Grandchamp is the author of nine books on American military history. A 10th book will be released this month, “A Connecticut Yankee at War,” is about an erudite African-American farmer from Connecticut who survived bloody battles during the Civil War, visited Africa and went on to become a politician in Louisiana. Grandchamp worked for many years as a Park Ranger in Virginia, where he had the opportunity to educate visitors about the past and he has travelled across the county giving lectures and presentations on the military history. He is looking forward to sharing his insights within walking distance of his home.
Stuart Alexander, a 50-year resident of Jericho, will lead a Saturday morning tour of the Jericho Center Cemetery, which has tombstones dating back to the late 18th century. This is not a “ghost walk” and the information presented will be designed to educate, not frighten, participants. Alexander will focus part of his presentation on specific people who are buried in the cemetery, some of whom might be discussed in the two earlier presentations. Other names may be familiar to those with an interest in Jericho history including the plot for Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, the first person to photograph a snowflake.
Alexander will provide what he describes as “cemetery lore,” such as the fact that plots were generally oriented to face east and wives were usually buried to the left of their husbands. For a time, plots nearest to the road were the ones most in demand. Alexander noted that visitors to the cemetery will find some terms that might surprise them. The word “consort,” for instance, was used in the late 18th and early 19th century to describe a wife, and, for a period of time, the word “relict” was used to describe a widow. Alexander will also discuss the progression of stone types from slate to marble and then granite, although one monument at the cemetery is made of zinc.
Korniak is excited to be able to present the three events to residents of Jericho and beyond. “This is a way to join different groups together to explore our local culture and history,” she said. “I’m hoping people will enjoy learning from our three presenters.”
Local stars shine at the Green Mountain Stage Race
By Phyl Newbeck
For the Essex Reporter
Andre Sturm is modest about his racing. “I’m genetically pre-disposed to be a sprinter,” he said, “because I have fast-twitch muscles.” It was more than genetics, however, that put the 54-year-old Essex Junction engineer atop the podium in the Masters Category 4/5 at the Burlington Criterium this year; it took training and tactical racing.
Sturm started bicycle racing as a teenager in Germany but quit after graduating high school. After moving to Vermont he began racing again in 2001. Since he had always excelled in sprints, his first foray was the now-defunct citizen’s division at the Burlington Criterium. Criteriums — or crits as they are more commonly called — are timed races on a short course with multiple turns. The Burlington Criterium is unusual in that there are six corners with both right and left turns; typically crits turn in only one direction. Sturm raced the Burlington Criterium from 2002 to 2005, winning in 2004 and 2005, but in 2006 race directors eliminated the citizen’s race, requiring participants to take part in the full, four-day Green Mountain Stage Race (GMSR). Sturm entered the event which is held annually over Labor Day weekend, winning the Masters Category 4/5 division of the Crit in 2013 and again this year. GMSR also awards a green sprint jersey to the rider who wins the most designated sprint points over the course of the four days and 2015 was the fourth year that Sturm took home that jersey in his division.
For the last four years, Sturm has been in charge of the practice crits run by the Green Mountain Bicycle Club. Practice crits typically take place in industrial parks and the GMBC crits have been held at Gauthier Park in Essex Junction and Water Tower Hill in Colchester. This year, they had to abandon the Essex Junction site because of construction and deteriorating pavement. Sturm notes that technique for a crit is very different from traditional racing that often involves a pace line. In crits, riders have to be comfortable traveling in a pack; a technique which has served him well in the Burlington Crit, where speeds can reach 35 mph coming down Pine Street. “You have to be technically good in the turns and have proper bike handling skills and cornering technique,” he said. “You have to take risks to be successful.”
Sturm divides the thrill of the sprint into two parts. The first is getting into the correct position during the last five minutes of the race. With the help of his 1K2GO teammates, Sturm stays near the front of the pack but conserves energy for the final sprint, which is roughly 200 meters long. “You ride close to the top of the field and then decide when to jump,” he said. “You unleash everything you’ve got in ten seconds and that feels good. That’s my strength. There’s an increase in inner energy that you release when you make the jump and that’s a big thrill.”
One town over, Colchester resident David Seissen was also making a name for himself at the GMSR. Seissen, a Category 3 racer, finished fifth in the third stage, a 64-mile road race which includes both the App and Middlebury Gaps, and seventh overall. The 34-year-old Seissen is a master mechanic who spends as much time on the bike as he can. A former junior racer, he rejoined the road racing scene when he got tired of beating himself up on his mountain bike. Seissen started riding with the GMBC and three years ago he joined the 1K2GO team, which was started by Essex Junction cyclist Bobby Bailey in 2011.
This was Seissen’s third year racing the GMSR. He started as a Category 5 racer, finishing fourth in the combined Category 4/5 division. He moved up to Category 4 last year and had enough points to upgrade to Category 3 but wanted to stay in the same division as his friends so he could help them move up, as well. This year he did move up and there is a chance that by next year he will have earned sufficient points to move to Category 2.
Although bicycle racing looks like an individual sport it is really a team effort. Sturm credits his teammates on the 1K2GO team for helping him get into position to win the crit in 2013 and 2015. “Winning the jersey was definitely a team effort,” he said. Seissen enjoys having the opportunity to help others achieve their goals. “Truthfully,” he said “the reason I race is more for team dynamics and tactics than anything else.”
Seissen said his strongest skill set is climbing. “My sweet spot is that 4-5 percent gradient,” he said. “For any road race that ends in a climb, I’m going to be a player in the race, for sure.” Although Seissen loves to go fast, he insists that he races for the camaraderie. He enjoys training rides with other cycling friends, noting that there are options virtually every day of the week. “The GMSR is a great race for Vermonters,” Seissen said. “We’re familiar with the territory and it allows teammates to race together and set goals together. The team camaraderie really comes out and shines.”