Saturday evening the 24th of March proved a bit blustery and chilly outside, but inside the crowd wa...

Saturday evening the 24th of March proved a bit blustery and chilly outside, but inside the crowd warmed up to delicious hors d’oeuvres, good company, and a monumental chocolate fountain. 150 donors and supporters joined Senator and Mrs. Leahy to dedicate the Revision Lakeside Pavilion, Terrace, and the Omni Room. The highly anticipated expansion lived up to everyone’s expectations with music, multi-media slide shows, an impactful short film, and stunning views of the Adirondacks over the steel-grey, crashing waves of a stormy Lake Champlain.

Heartfelt remarks honored the vision of George Little, the philanthropy of Louis McClure, and the leadership of Senator Patrick Leahy. ECHO’s outgoing board member and Burlington’s incoming mayor, Miro Weinberger spoke to his role as co-chair of the campaign and his vision for a vital waterfront and strong partnership between ECHO and the city. ECHO’s closest friends gained insight into the vision that created ECHO and the love that Senator Leahy has for this lake and this institution. Lois McClure rounded out the remarks with a heartfelt account of her and her late husband’s passion for Lake Champlain and why ECHO is a vital institution for all residents and visitors to the Lake Champlain basin.

Now that the campaign has reached its $4.1 million goal, and the Revision Lakeside Pavilion and Terrace are a reality, ECHO looks ahead to developing programs, experiences, and resources that touch and impact our entire community. Next year we celebrate our 10th anniversary. Ten years of educating and delighting friends and neighbors with the Ecology, Culture, History, and Opportunity that our unique place in the world offers.

All it takes is one drop to change our world, to make a difference, to create a ripple that moves and rolls and merges with other ripples a perpetual motion of change and evolution. One building on the other, one dependent upon the other. All starting with one drop… to change an action, change direction, change a mind.

We usually associate piracy with the high seas, oceans like the Atlantic and Pacific.  However, thi...

We usually associate piracy with the high seas, oceans like the Atlantic and Pacific.  However, this week, I learned that Lake Champlain has its own history of men in leather boots and pantaloons carrying illegal goods across its waters.

Picture by Benjamin Cole in the second edition
of Charles Johnson's 
General Historie;
Available through the Library of Congress
While building a geocaching activity (a recreational activity that involves using GPS devices to find hidden stashes) for our new Overnights and Summer Science Camps, I wondered if I could add an air of excitement by integrating a pirate theme.  Following this whim, I approached Emily at the Lake Champlain Basin Program's (LCBP) Resource Room (located only a short jaunt across ECHO's top floor) with the question, "Is there any history of piracy on Lake Champlain?"

With the help of Jim & Cynthia from LCBP and Richard from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, this is what we learned: During the Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France, in an attempt to prevent America citizens and goods from being seized by British and French forces, President Jefferson enacted a ban on foreign trade.  Vermont, because of its shared border with Canada, was heavily reliant on foreign trade and risked economic devastation due to this ban.  Vermont's local governments and newspapers were outspoken in their outrage.  However, the ban stood, and as a consequence, several Vermont merchants chose to defy the ban and began smuggling their goods into Canada.

Many smugglers chose to move their products (mostly potash, butter, cheese, leather, and meats) via ship across Lake Champlain.  It was easier to move large amounts of cargo via ship and easier to evade the authorities.  There are even documented cases of more imaginative merchants hiring boats to act as pirate ships.  These faux pirate ships would pretend to steal the merchant's goods, sell them in Canada, and then return the profits to the supposed victim.  So there were pirates on Lake Champlain but not true pirates.

In one famous clash between smugglers and custom officials, called the Black Snake Affair, custom officials aboard the oar boat Fly intercepted a smuggling vessel called the Black Snake.  Two government officers were killed during the skirmish and the Black Snake crew captured and imprisoned.  Four members of the Snake's crew were convicted and one sentenced to death.  A reported 10,000 people gathered in Burlington to watch the condemned man hang.

Cynthia emailed me this incredible song that recounts the story of the Black Snake Affair (  I can't wait to sing it at camp this summer while jigging in my new pantaloons!

To find out more about this year's summer camps, visit
To find out more about overnights at ECHO, visit

A few weeks ago, while crossing the parking lot to get into ECHO, it felt a lot like spring. Instead...

A few weeks ago, while crossing the parking lot to get into ECHO, it felt a lot like spring. Instead of cold winds whipping across the lake and snow crunching under my feet I trudged through muddy puddles with my parka, mostly unzipped. To be frank, there hasn't been quite as much frosty weather or powdery snow as I had hoped there would be for my first winter in Vermont.

But not to worry! This week I've found my winter inside ECHO Lake Aquarium, instead of outside on the mountainsides. Children and adults are getting into the winter spirit, cutting out intricately designed paper snowflakes and piling them up as high as a moose on the windows in the Adirondack Alcove, overlooking Lake Champlain. I have especially loved the "zooflakes" which use animal shapes as the basic shape for a snowflake. Guests are also sharing their favorite snow stories. It's great to hear about peoples' first memories of snow or their favorite experience of rocketing down a mountain with friends. I've also heard dozens of stories about snow, winter, sledding and skiing and some of these are up on the wall for everyone to enjoy.

And then there are daily snowball fights. That's right! Every day we gather together to fling cotton balls at each other, pretending that those fluffy white puffs are the real thing. Even though they don't freeze our hands some participants refuse to take their gloves off. The excitement is increased because we use catapults to fling the snowballs across the room. Just today I was blasted from all sides by giggling, enthusiastic, young, snowball-flingers eager to continue their epic cross-classroom battle until I told them it was time to clean up.

One of these days it really will be Spring (or Mud-Season as I've been told), but until then the snow will be flying in ECHO. Come join us through Tuesday, March 6th for our daily snow (cotton) ball fights. And for now, at least, I remain content that my first winter in Vermont provided more snow inside, than out.

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