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March Madness, Vermont Style

All over the country, avid basketball fans and casual observers alike are getting ready to fill out
the annual NCAA College Basketball playoff bracket. The goal is to choose the winner of the
national championship from 64 teams that make the playoffs. Serious basketball aficionados
immerse themselves in research on teams and individual players, trying to give themselves an
edge as they call the games. The more casual among us choose the winners in mere minutes,
with no knowledge of the teams, or even basketball, just for fun and hoping for good fortune. In
my own family, one family member in particular has chosen the winners in the past based on
the team mascots, the team songs and the college cafeteria ratings. Basketball brackets are
found at workplaces, with friend groups and in family circles. Some folks compete with the
brackets that their local watering hole provides. Central Vermont’s daily newspaper, the Barre
Montpelier Times Argus, prints a bracket every March that anybody can complete and send in
and try for the $100 prize money. It’s a bit of a national obsession.

Here in Central Vermont, we have our version of March Madness at the Barre Auditorium, or the
Barre Aud as most people call it. The Division II, III and IV girls and boys high school playoffs
are held here every year and it’s a magical time. The bigger high schools, the Division I teams,
have their playoffs in Burlington. But the smaller schools have the opportunity to play in this
older, historic building that feels like it will combust with excitement when a good game is being
played. For many small communities in Vermont, it’s a really big deal if their local high school
team makes it to the championships at the Aud. A town of 500 people may see close to half
their population make the drive to Barre to see their local kids make a run for the state
championship. Homemade banners and signs are everywhere in the stands, and team colors
abound in the clothing choices, painted faces and even hair color of the fans! Lots of hoarse
fans spill out of the building at the end of the games, some more ebullient than others,
depending of course on the outcome. But win or lose, players will always remember their
experience going for the championship at the Aud, where so many have tried before them. If
you can get a ticket, take in a game at the Barre Aud during this championship run, and soak in
the atmosphere of locals going wild for their team. The venue may not be as grand as the
NCAA College stadiums, but the scale of enthusiasm and pride in Vermont basketball in the
month of March will make your heart swell.

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