announced September 27, 2022
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and, judging by the droves of people who came out to the Burke Fall Festival on Saturday, that seems to be the case. After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the festival made a triumphant return to East Burke Village under sunny skies to welcome everyone back. The Burke Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event which started off with a parade to celebrate our local schools. Attendance is estimated at about 1,500 people, both locals and visitors, who enjoyed a day of shopping at the craft fair, cruising the village via wagon ride, enjoying the BBQ lunch, placing bets on cow plop bingo and just being out and about catching up with old friends on the green.
Chamber Administrator, Laura Malieswski, said the event went very smoothly thanks to the help of many volunteers and sponsors plus an overwhelming amount of community support. “The festi
val is always a huge undertaking, but this year's event was a little more daunting than usual. For one thing, we haven't had a festival since 2019 and we also had some of our long-time volunteers decide to take a well-deserved retirement from the event which meant we had new volunteers taking on big tasks like the craft fair and BBQ, but we did it!”
A highlight of the event is the announcement of the Burke Citizen of the Year award. The award is presented each year to an ‘unsung hero’ who quietly gives back to the community without expecting recognition or reward. It’s always a surprise for the winner and this year, there were two winners caught off guard. Todd Vendituoli, Chamber President, presented Chris Emmons with the 2021 award and Tracie Surridge with t
he 2022 award. Last year, the Chamber planned to give Emmons the award at the 2021 Fall Festival, but when the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, the Chamber decided to hold off the presentation until this year’s festival.
Emmons is well known in Burke as a member of the Town of Burke Selectboard where she has proven a great source of knowledge as well as a thoughtful voice for the community and its residents. She also volunteers her time and resources with One Burke and for the last several years, has been the volunteer vendor coordinator for the Burke Fall Festival craft fair. Emmons gives a lot of her time and resources to help make the community a better place for folks to live and visit.
“I sincerely appreciate being recognized with this award,” said Emmons. “We live in such an amazing town and like they say- it takes a village! And in Burke we are lucky enough to have 3 beautiful and unique villages! It takes the people that make up our community, working together and participating, to maintain this special place that we all call home and I'm happy to do my part. Many thanks.”
Tracie Surridge has been a teacher at Burke Town School for over 20 years and her name came up often when the Chamber was searching for a 2022 recipient of the Burke Citizen of the Year award. She is known as someone who often goes above and beyond for her students and their families, serving as a positive role model through the example of her dedication, patience and kindness. As an educator, Surridge is known for inspiring curiosity in her students to make learning a fun experience. As a community member, she volunteers at many local events and was a Chapter Leader of Modern Woodmen for 25 years where she facilitated Easter Egg Hunting at The St. Johnsbury House, the making of Valentine's Day cards for residents at the Pines and many other events.
“Yesterday was one of the biggest surprises of my life,” said Surridge. “Never would I have thought I would be Burke's Citizen of the Year. Born and raised in "the Kingdom" with community service in my DNA - it's the way I was raised. Parents who always went above and beyond to serve their community were my role models. As for teaching, well my motto has always been stolen from Ben & Jerry - "If it's not fun, why do it"! I want to be that teacher that when kids look back as adults, they remember I cared (and hopefully a bit of what I taught)! So, thank you to everyone for making my day so much better!! I appreciate the title and will continue to serve my community and school with JOY!! It was really an unexpected honor! Thank you for choosing me!”
Following the award presentation, the festival continued with kids and adults gathered around the gazebo for the Wildlife Encounters show that included a hedgehog, opossum and cockatoo After that, Chickweed performed at the gazebo while Lyndon Rescue kept the excitement going for the kids with rubber ducky races.
Many local groups including Lyndon Rescue, Burke Town School, East Burke School, Burke Mountain Club and several local churches participate in the festival to fundraise for their organizations. Some had raffles while others had tables loaded with homemade baked goods. East Burke School offered schoolhouse and food forest tours as well as wood-fired pizza in an outdoor oven designed by students and staff.
Said Malieswski, “we had a great day and it was a successful event for all involved. Everyone seemed to enjoy the festival and was grateful to have it back. We look forward to the next one on September 30th, 2023.”
The Festival is also a fundraiser for the Burke Chamber. Proceeds are used to provide services to members, support economic development in the area, promote area businesses and market the Burke Area as a great place to live and visit. Festival proceeds also allow the Chamber to host other non-income producing community events including the Christmas Tree contest in East Burke and the Strawberry Festival in West Burke.