Vermont is known as the Green Mountain State. But come autumn, whatever its mountain slope But green. As the leaves turn red and yellow and orange, the picturesque towns turn into tourist hotspots.
Loretta Cruz and Aaron Agnew aren’t your typical leaf-peepers—they’ve come to the city of Waterbury on their honeymoon… sort of. When these Vermonters got married back in 2020, the pandemic forced them to cancel the trip they had originally planned and instead stay closer to home.
“We had to think, well, what are we going to do for our honeymoon?” Cruz said.
Correspondent Conor Knighton asked, “Was the answer to visiting every town in Vermont?”
“Go to every town in Vermont, that’s right!” Agnew replied. “And that extends to the honeymoon. It’s more than just a trip.”
At this rate, the honeymoon period can last more than a decade. They’re taking trips whenever they can get away, and getting tips from several members of the 251 Club, a group dedicated to exploring all of Vermont’s towns and cities.
At the group’s annual meeting, they gather to talk about their journey.
One woman asked, “What are the rules? Tim is very competitive, so he thinks there should be rules.”
but there are not any rule.
Mike Leonard, who is on the board of the 251 club, laughed, “I’ve heard it been said that we are a lawless organization! But the only rule like this is that you have to love Vermont and explore it.”
251 clubs have retained their name, even though Vermont now technically has 252 cities. Like he said, the rules are loose.
When he was 20, Leonard traveled to cities with two of his friends: “I took it as a challenge to really figure out what it meant to be a Vermonter.”
Esther Farnsworth didn’t begin her search until she was 90: “There are a lot of places in Vermont that I haven’t seen, so I just decided I would go.”
Now 93, Farnsworth made the list in two and a half years. “In some cities, you know, there were only five or six people in them!” Now, she said, “I know the best places to get ice cream in Vermont. Ben & Jerry’s isn’t the only one, you know. There are others too!”
The 251 club was first proposed in a 1954 issue of Vermont Life magazine. The poet Arthur Peach wrote that “Vermont from the beginning has been a state of towns … and in them only the real Vermont can be found and seen.”
In the city of Thetford, you can see Vermontsaurus! In downtown Glover, you’ll find the unmissable museum of everyday life, dedicated to common items, such as to-do lists, paperclips, and house dust. When you leave, just turn off the lights.
In a single afternoon, you can travel from Peru to Jamaica, Athens. But as every traveler knows, it’s not always about the destination.
Shaina Casper traveled with her father, Keith. They visited the last cities on their list together on Father’s Day. “Driving around talking, yeah, has definitely been really cool, like father-daughter bonding times, especially after the pandemic,” she said.
There is no grand prize each time you complete your quest. The club doesn’t prove anything to you. But what happens, according to Vermont Congressman and proud 251er Peter Welch, “What happens when you finish opens your heart, because you get to see just how much commitment there is in each of those tiny little towns. But people love them!”
This deep sense of pride and sense of place is perhaps best summed up by the Vermont State Song, which Esther Farnsworth insists I can’t leave the state without listening:
Let us live to protect her beauty
and look proudly at the golden dome
It is said that home is where the heart is
These green mountains are my home
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Story produced by David Rothman. Editor: Remington Korper.