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St. Michael's Student's Discover Covered Bridges
St. Michael's Students Interviewed by Steve Miyamoto

January 25, 2003 - What do covered bridges, college students, music, and journalism have in common?
       On the surface, nothing. But in viewing the work of three Saint Michael's College students, I was presented with a fresh view and a new appreciation for Vermont's covered bridges. The project is a multimedia presentation that captures the covered bridges of Waitsfield, Warren, Northfield, and Tunbridge through the very creative and innovative eyes of three young adults.
       Michael O'Brien, Nate Formalarie, and Zach Cook are juniors studying Journalism and Communication at Saint Michael's College. They set out together on a Saturday morning in November to capture some of Vermont's covered bridges on video. In addition to the video they each wrote feature articles covering various aspects of covered bridges along with their personal reflections. The finished work was published in the November 20, 2002 issue of The ECHO, an on-line magazine for Saint Michael's College students, alumni and the surrounding community. I was able to sit down and talk to Michael and Zach in December just before the end of a busy semester.
       The project began as a class assignment to create a multimedia project. Being avid sports fans their first choice would have been something to do with sports, anything to do with sports! Unfortunately another group had taken that subject. So Michael, Nate, and Zach went searching for another topic.
       Their next thought was to try and find a "real Vermont story." Zach Cook said that as they searched the Internet the topic of "covered bridges kept coming up." As they began to explore the possibility of a covered bridge project, they started to discover the lure and appeal of not only covered bridges but of scenic Vermont as well. They were captured be the natural beauty of the state. The goal of the project became to present covered bridges to as wide an audience as possible. They wanted to present covered bridges as seen through their eyes and from their perspective. This is where the fun begins.
       In general people tend to view the world and events through the lens of their life experience. It's no different for college students. Michael, Nate, and Zach's world consists of journalism, technology, music and a host of other things. They are at home with digital video, computer graphics, and the Internet. When they began to look at covered bridges, the subject took on a new perspective. The project became a fusion of the old and the new--covered bridges and generation X.
       They began their travels as most would. They had a general idea of where the covered bridges would be. They set off on a mission to discover and record their findings. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jackson Browne, Arrested Development, the Beatles, and others would provide their musical background for the trip as they left Saint Michael's College headed first for Waitsfield.
       According to Zach in his article Taking the Road Less Traveled "We were not too excited to be spending what would turn out to be seven hours in a car." He went on to say that "...we feared we would come away empty handed and if we did find these bridges we hoped that we could understand the obsession with them." Their apprehension soon turned to pure excitement and joy when they first saw the Village Bridge in Waitsfield. Michael and Zach both said "they went crazy" when they first saw their first covered bridge. Three college students going crazy at the sight of a covered bridge? Maybe they began to "....understand the obsession with them."
       Michael, Nate and Zach"s journey led them from Waitsfield to Warren, Northfield and to Tunbridge. This journey is the subject of the two part video that they produced for The ECHO. Using video recording and editing techniques along with their music mix they were able to capture the Village Bridge, Pine Brook Bridge, Lincoln Gap Bridge, Slaughter House Bridge, Upper Bridge, and the Queen Post Bridge on Video #1.
       Video #1 opens at an intersection in Waitsfield with music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the background. The video camera captured first the Village Bridge and then the Pine Brook Bridge. Michael O'Brien said that the Village Bridge was his favorite covered bridge. He liked the appeal of a covered bridge "...located in the center of town in everyday use." The music of Jackson Brown's "Somebody's Baby" adds a personification to the bridges. After all, covered bridges belong to the towns they were built in as well as to all of us who share in their appreciation and work to preserve them.
       After passing through the Lincoln Gap Bridge in Warren we come to the Slaughter House Bridge in Northfield. Here's where innovation takes over. The video effect was to capture the car as it came through the bridge. Nate captured the car by walking in front of it as it came across ending with a close up shot of the wheels passing the camera. Michael said that this was his favorite part of the video. After passing through the Upper Bridge (Upper Cox Brook bridge) in Northfield we come to a fun ending of video 1. The combination of the variable video speed along with rap music gives the Queenpost Bridge (Newell bridge) and the Town Lattice (Station bridge) Bridge in Northfield a new feel. Who would have thought to put the rap music of Arrested Development with these bridges? Michael and Zach said they wanted to end video #1 in a catchy way that would make people want to continue on to see video #2. Brilliant!
       Video #2 takes us to the covered bridges of Tunbridge: the Flint Bridge, Mill Bridge, Cilley Bridge and the Howe Bridge. As the video begins we are led through the Flint Bridge by Nate as he runs ahead of the car imploring us to follow along. The excitement that they talked about at seeing their first covered bridge in Waitsfield carries over as they start part 2. Next is a very picturesque view of the Mill Bridge. These are the views of post cards and covered bridge calenders. Michael and Zach both thought of the Mill Bridge as the "stereotypical" covered bridge. The Cilley Bridge is presented with unique camera angles. By videotaping through the side window they were able to capture the form and repetition of a multiple kingpost bridge. The outside light comes through the windows and cracks giving an almost hypnotic effect. As they leave the bridge the camera angle changes to capture roof and the rafters. I think if you look close enough you may even see a bird up there somewhere. The video tour ends with the Howe Bridge. Once again a very scenic shot with the new snow cover. The ending lines of the Beatles tune "Two of Us" signal the end of a very original and creative look at some of Vermont's covered bridges as Michael, Nate and Zach head home.
       After watching these videos and reading the articles we can see that three college students have gained a new appreciation for covered bridges. Their appreciation has gone deep below the surface as they have taken the time to capture 11 covered bridges on video. They have spent time interviewing people as well as writing personal reflections. They have gotten positive feedback from people in the midst of academic pressures. People were able to sit back and relax while watching the videos. Michael and Zach related that it is very easy to be "trapped on the college campus" and not realize that there are "treasures everywhere" if we will look to find them. Zach Cook, in his article Taking the Road Less Traveled, says that "We traveled up mountainsides and over rivers on a treasure hunt with no material wealth at the end." In the end they, and all of us, are all the more wealthy for the journey.
       To access the ECHO go to

[Steve is a staff writer for the Bridger the Vermont Covered Bridge Society newsletter. - Ed.]

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267,
This file posted March 9, 2003