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Vermont Green opens training ahead of USL2 campaign

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Vermont Green opens training ahead of USL2 campaign


BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Following their US Open Cup run, Vermont Green FC is back at training this week, preparing for the start of the USL2 season this weekend.

The boys in green had their first full session Tuesday morning, with a number of the guys still filtering over the next couple days ahead of their season opener this coming Sunday at Boston City. It’s a mix of newbies and familiar faces: some of the returners at training today included Dani Pacella and Zach Zengue.

With less than a week turnaround between the first training session and the first game, that veteran presence will be key, but the guys say they’re spending a ton of time together and already bulding chemistry with their new teammates.

“There’s a lot of old faces, a lot of new faces,” Pacella said. “So just getting familiar with each other and building relationships on the pitch and off the pitch is super important, especially in such a short season. It’s a sprint marathon, so getting to know each other and building relationships is key. So especially this first few days, just getting our legs under us, building some fitness and getting ready for this first game on Sunday.”

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“Off the field is really where that connection builds and how we get to know each other,” Zengue added. “But also on the field as well. I mean, it’s a first day of training and I feel like I know these guys already and I’m getting to know everybody. We’re together all day, because we we’re at the hotel and then we go to training together, We go out to eat together. So I think that really helps the team stay close together and, you know, really get to know each other in a short amount of time.



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Vermont

Vermont City Marathon kicks off on Sunday

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Vermont City Marathon kicks off on Sunday


BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – With the Vermont City Marathon just days away, set up for the annual event is just beginning at the Waterfront Center in Burlington.

This is the 35th Vermont City Marathon and there are a small handful of runners who have ran the 26.2 every year since the marathon began in 1989. Running it 35 times is a next-level achievement.

South Burlington native Rob O’Brien now lives in Ohio but makes returning to Vermont a priority every Memorial Day weekend to crank out 26.2 miles.

“It’s a good excuse to come home and see everybody,” said O’Brien.

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He reflects on when the marathon was a small race with a much different route. In the first event in 1989, he says runners blocked people from boating on Mallet’s Bay.

“Everything’s changed over time, but it’s still fun to do it though,” he said.

He’s been joined by his niece and nephew and has seen his fair share of wacky weather like pouring rain, extreme heat, and even snow.

“One year early on where it was 93 on Saturday and then on Sunday, it was like 38 and there was sleet two times. That was crazy,” said O’Brien.

RunVermont Executive Director Joe Connelly says the first race had over 1,000 runners, now it’s increased to roughly 5,000.

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“It’s been it’s been a long run. And the growth over the years has been fantastic,” said Connelly.

He says it’s all about tradition and embracing the change, including the start and finish line being at Battery Park before the Waterfront was developed.

“The support of the Burlington community has been just phenomenal over the years,” he said.

And as the marathon legacy continues, O’Brien says he isn’t stopping anytime soon, athough he has heard you can keep your status as a yearly marathoner even if you run just one leg of the race.

“At some point maybe I’ll just do the half, but for now I’m still enjoying it,” he said.

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You can see live team coverage of the Vermont City Marathon on Channel 3 on Sunday morning.

The race begins around 7 a.m. but several roads will be closed in Burlington before that.

You can find more information here.



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Does Burlington have too many cannabis shops?

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Does Burlington have too many cannabis shops?


BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – After nearly two years with a regulated cannabis market, Vermont now has 81 licensed dispensaries statewide — 12 of them alone are located in Burlington, with another two set to open soon. Many are concentrated downtown, in some cases just feet away from each other. It’s something city and state officials recognize may leave some shops in the weeds.

The Bern Gallery, a glass-blowing and smoke shop on Main Street in Burlington, has been a downtown staple for several decades.

“It’s been a very long journey,” said Tito Bern, the shop’s owner. They added the dispensary when retail cannabis became legal, something Bern thought would be a slow burn. “I thought I would be an old man before I saw this.”

Bern says the dispensary offers a unique customer experience — and a location — that can’t be beat. “Having our footprint here in downtown Burlington was incredibly helpful,” he said.

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Just a short walk over to Church Street is the Float On Cannabis Company. “We try to have a real nice vibe,” said the shop’s Mathew Hogg. “We do a lot of tourist activity. We have a lot of regular customers.”

The shop is tucked next to several other dispensaries within eyeshot. “If you want good cannabis, south end of Church Street in Burlington is the place to go and you got several to choose from,” Hogg said.

“I think it’s a totally over-saturated market here, especially downtown,” said Chloe Kunzelman, a University of Vermont student from New Jersey.

“I think there is a lot,” said Ryan Smith, another UVM student from Connecticut.

City officials agree, saying the soon-to-be 14 dispensaries are too many, too soon. “In my opinion, that’s a little bit of a saturation of the market,” said Kara Alnasrawi, the city’s director of business and workforce development.

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Even the state’s Cannabis Control Board says it’s problematic. “We do have this unnatural distribution of where they are located,” said board chair James Pepper.

So how did we get to this point of pot proliferation? When retail cannabis became legal, the Legislature gave cities and towns local control. Some municipalities like Burlington voted to allow the new market while others, like nearby South Burlington and Williston, have never voted. “We have an uncapped licensing system which allows greater access to the market, which also does have this downside where we can hit this saturation and the board doesn’t have a lot of control to temper that,” Pepper said.

It’s not just a Burlington pot problem. Over saturation is happening in other Vermont towns, too. “We are seeing pockets of density around the state where other parts of the state have cannabis deserts,” Pepper said. for comparison, he says Burlington has only three liquor stores. “The department of liquor control does an economic analysis before they hand out a new license, whether this store is going to cannibalize this other store. We don’t have that authority.”

Without a cap on the number of dispensaries in the state, Pepper says some will undoubtedly fail. He predicts more towns will take action to limit growth. “We are going to see some more local control take place and some more shifts in the market that are going to result in that,” he said.

But city leaders like Alnasrawi argue they are hamstrung on how many dispensaries are approved, saying it’s not the city’s place. “It would be unprecedented for a municipality to control what types of establishments. As long as an establishment conforms to zoning and ordinance regulations, they are allowed to be open for business,” she said.

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Elaine Young, the director of Champlain College’s marketing and communication program, says the prevalence of any one type of business — whether intended or not — sends a message to visitors.” If every other store is a cannabis shop, that starts to change the tone and tenor of what people expect from downtown. while any business is preferable to vacant storefronts, she says it’s the market that will eventually decide which will stay open.

Dispensary owners say they are aware of the competition but remain focused. “I think competition is the best. Competition is what spurs innovation, and I think innovation is the coolest,” Bern said.

“Our numbers are going up every month. So, we are getting more of the pie or the pie is getting bigger. I don’t know which is which,” Hogg said.

And those numbers could be even bigger without state laws restricting how dispensaries run ads and promotions. The rules are intended to protect underage Vermonters, but industry officials have so far been unsuccessful in getting lawmakers to modify them.

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Rodgers to run for Vermont lieutenant governor

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Rodgers to run for Vermont lieutenant governor


MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) – Former Vermont senator John Rodgers says he plans to run for lieutenant governor.

Rodgers represented the Essex-Orleans district from 2013 until he stepped away from the Statehouse in 2021.

He served for years as a Democrat but now says he plans to run on the Republican ticket.

Rodgers was part of a coalition of protesters who took over the Statehouse last month arguing that urban communities are trampling over the interest of rural Vermonters.

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So far, Rodgers would face a primary challenge from Rutland’s Gregory Thayer.



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