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Nadworny: Summervale

09/21/11 7:55AM By Rich Nadworny
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(HOST) Commentator Rich Nadworny is chewing on a Nirvana sandwich of two disasters wrapped around a glorious experience..

(NADWORNY) While Hurricane Irene devastated parts of Vermont, we here in Burlington were relatively unscathed. A few trees were down on my street, but it was hard to see the effects of the weather, otherwise. That is, for almost every place except in the Intervale Gardens.

Irene caused the Winooski to completely flood the fields of the local Intervale farmers. The overflow has forced the farmers to plow under 55 tons of food, since FDA rules don't allow crops that have been in floodwaters to be sold to the public. The total might amount to as much as $1 million in lost income.

And as if this weren't enough, those poor Intervalers started the season in the exact same way! When Lake Champlain rose to record levels in the spring, guess who got hit hard? The Intervale farms. A number of crops never recovered, wiping out a complete season of growing.

Oddly enough, in between these two bookends of doom, I discovered what turned out to be one of my favorite events of the year: Summervale. Each Thursday evening, the Intervale Center in Burlington held a celebration of local farmers and restaurants under the summer sky, by the Winooski River. There, people could eat some delicious food, listen to good music, and chat with friends and neighbors.

Apparently, this has been going on for eight years! Yet this was the first year I'd gone. And when I'd run into some old friends there, they all said the same thing: This is great. I wish I had known about this sooner.

Local restaurants set up their booths and served their goodies. There were samosas, crepes, mac and cheese, salads, burgers, flatbreads, pies, ice cream and even a specially brewed Summervale ale. I could always count on Thursday's for the best meal of the week. Not only that, the weather was consistently great.

The best part, though, was the people. It was an interesting mix of Burlingtonians, with people from the Hill to the alternative scene crowd. And little kids everywhere. I don't think I've ever seen so many happy kids at an event.

I was struck by how the Burlington community could come together to support our local farmers and merchants. It was a Buy Local fest, by local people. All of the proceeds of the event went to support the Intervale Center and all the good things they're doing to keep local produce growing in town.

After these dual disasters, it's more important than ever to keep supporting the farmers so they can stay in business. And even though Summervale is over, the Intervale Center Farmer's Recovery Fund is still up and running, in addition to numerous fundraising events planned for throughout the fall.

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