In 1995, the peanut industry in Georgia was under siege. Tomato spotted wilt virus, a plant-crippling disease, had cut yields over much of the state.That same year, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences released a weapon to help farmers combat the disease. Georgia Green, a TSWV-resistant variety, became available to farmers on a small scale.Now, only five years later, more than 90 percent of the peanut acreage in the Southeast is planted in Georgia Green.Strong Resistance, High YieldsBetween the mid-’70s and mid-’90s, Florunner was the dominant peanut variety grown in Georgia. But Florunner was very susceptible to spotted wilt, which by the early ’80s had become an economic problem.The industry also needed higher yields, said Bill Branch, the UGA peanut breeder who developed Georgia Green at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton.”Georgia Green combines high yields and high grade with strong TSWV resistance,” Branch said. “Georgia Green results in greater dollar value return per acre for growers.”Over the past three years, Georgia Green has averaged the highest yield, grade and dollar return of all runner-type varieties in side-by-side comparisons.It tastes good, too. If you like peanut butter, chances are you like Georgia Green. Of the state’s $400 million peanut crop, about 75 percent goes into peanut butter. Nearly all of the rest hits the stores as snacks or in candies. In 1999, Georgia grew 37 percent of the nation’s peanuts.Despite three years of drought and increased TSWV pressure, state growers have averaged about 2,600 pounds per acre with Georgia Green. During a similar drought in 1980, growers reached only 1,935 pounds per acre with Florunner, with no TSWV pressure.Georgia Green, along with other management tools developed by CAES scientists, saved state growers $28 million in 1999 alone.Branch said Georgia Green, because of its multiple-gene resistance, will continue to be a viable variety for growers for many more years.”Georgia Green has consistently performed well from field to field and year to year over many different management systems and environments,” Branch said. “We can now manage TSWV with Georgia Green.”The variety has helped save the Southeastern peanut industry during recent years of drought and spotted wilt, said Emory Murphy of the Georgia Peanut Commission.”We would have been in a mess if we didn’t have Georgia Green in our industry,” Murphy said. “That’s about the best way I can put it. If we hadn’t had Georgia Green, our alternatives would have been dismal. It came along at a very important time in making the difference in our growers, not only staying competitive, but even growing peanuts.”Since its release, Georgia Green has been grown in some of the most extreme weather to hit Georgia, Murphy said. “It has held up extremely well,” he said. “It hasn’t had the chance to be assessed on a full-scale commercial basis under what we would consider normal conditions. We are very glad we’ve had Georgia Green available to the farmers.”The CAES will spotlight Georgia Green at the 2000 Sunbelt Agricultural Expo Oct. 17-19 in Moultrie, Ga.
By Larry Dendyand SharonOmahenUniversity of GeorgiaRob Shewfelt, a professor with the University of Georgia Collegeof Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has earned nationalrecognition as an academic advisor.Shewfelt will receive the Outstanding Advising Certificate ofMerit from the National Academic Advising Association. He’s oneof 12 people in the nation honored in the faculty academicadvising category of the association’s national awards program.The category recognizes faculty members whose primary job isteaching but who spend part of their time providing academic helpto students.Shewfelt is a professor and undergraduate coordinator of the foodscience and technology department in the CAES. He was entered inthe national competition after getting the OutstandingAdvisor/Mentor Award at UGA earlier this year.The UGA award recognizes faculty and staff members for excellencein advising undergraduate students on their selection of classesand course of study, for helping them with academic problems andfor providing guidance on graduate school, career and relateddecisions.Shewfelt has been a member of the CAES faculty for 22 years. He’sbeen teaching and advising students on the Athens campus for thepast eight years.Student favoriteA major theme in his classes is professional development. In oneclass, “Chocolate Science,” he challenges first-year students tothink about careers. Another, “Food Science Forum,” stressesjob-search skills and strategies.Students describe him as innovative, enthusiastic, passionate andcaring. One student said, “The only common factor amongShewfelt’s classes is that he strives to get his students tothink for themselves.”Another declared, “He expects his students to truly participatein their own education. And he’s always willing to explaindifficult topics again so everyone can understand.”The NAAA has presented awards in academic advising since 1983.The award will be presented at the group’s annual conference inOctober in Cincinnati, Ohio.Kathy Wilson, an advisor in the insurance, legal studies and realestate department in the UGA Terry College of Business, will alsoreceive an award. She’s one of 15 people recognized in a categoryfor people whose primary role is advising students.(Larry Dendy is assistant to the associate vice president forpublic affairs of the University of Georgia. Sharon Omahen is anews editor with the University of Georgia College ofAgricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
For more free resources on topics ranging from gardening to raising backyard chickens to managing a dairy herd to getting rid of head lice, visit the Web site www.caes.uga.edu/publications or contact your county UGA Extension agent by calling 1-800-ASK-UGA1. By Amanda SwennesUniversity of GeorgiaIf you’re looking for reliable, up-to-date, free information about how to prune your plants, or how to plant shade, apple or pecan trees, or how to protect your plants this winter, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension likely has a publication that will answer all of your questions.The UGA Extension Web site (www.caes.uga.edu/publications) offers more than 200 research-based publications on gardening and landscaping. Another 400 publications cover subject areas ranging from how to raise horses, cattle, pigs and chickens to how to control carpenter ants and termites. Below is a list of free online Extension publications that can help you prepare your garden for fall and start planning ahead for winter. Indoor and Container Gardening• Gardening in Containers: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C787/C787.htm• Gardening in Containers Using Tropical Plants: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B1338/B1338.htm• Growing Indoor Plants with Success: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B1318/B1318.htm• Propagating House Plants: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C950/C950.htm• Flowering Perennials for Georgia Gardens: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B944/B944.htmWinter Gardening• First and Last Frost Dates in Georgia: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/MP117/MP117.htm• Soil Preparation and Planting Procedures for Ornamental Plants in the Landscape: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B932-w.htm• Winter Protection of Ornamental Plants: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C872/C872.htmPruning• Pruning Ornamental Plants in the Landscape: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B961/B961.htm• Basic Principles of Pruning Woody Plants: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B949/B949.htmlGround Covers• Ground Covers: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C928/C928.htm• Spacing Plant Material: Ground Covers: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/L127-W.HTML• Success with Cover Crops: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/EB-102/EB-102.html Trees• Trees for the Landscape: Selection and Culture: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubs/PDF/B875.pdf • Fast-Growing Shade Trees: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/L350.htm • Home Garden Apples: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C740/C740.htm• Pecan Trees for the Home or Backyard Orchard: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B1348/B1348.htmPests• Managing Imported Fire Ants in Urban Areas: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/B1191/B1191.html • Rats and Mice: Get Them Out of Your House and Yard: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/C970/C970.html
The workshops are hosted by UGA Extension and the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture. Participants can attend one or both days. Each workshop costs $250 and is limited to 40 students. The registration fee includes all drafting supplies, handouts and refreshments. For more information and to register, visit www.caes.uga.edu/campus/griffin/oce/cip/LandscapeIndustry.html or contact the UGA Griffin Continuing Education Office at (770) 229-3477 or email@example.com. Landscape professionals can learn better design techniques using graphics and sustainability practices at upcoming workshops on the University of Georgia campus in Griffin, Ga., Nov. 11-12.On Nov. 11, the “Landscape Design Graphics – the Fundamentals” class will cover better landscape design and speed graphics, a technique used to create symbols faster than the time required to regularly draft them.On Nov. 12, attendees will learn how to create eco-friendly landscapes for commercial and residential properties in “Designing Sustainable Landscapes.”Instructors for the two workshops are Richard Ludwig, former director of environmental horticulture and landscape design instructor at Gwinnett Technical College, and Bill Slack, a registered landscape architect and former UGA Cooperative Extension landscape design specialist.
In February, University of Georgia poultry experts traveled to the West African country of Mali to establish a poultry and biogas program to improve food security and expand economic opportunities for Mali’s rural poor population, especially its women.Michael Lacy, professor and head of the UGA poultry science department, and Jack Houston, a professor with the UGA department of agricultural and applied economics, joined Catherine Keske, an economist from Colorado State University’s department of soil and crop science on the two-week trip.“Women in Mali have so few resources. Establishing small-scale, women-run poultry and energy enterprises in Mali will have a huge impact on the livelihoods, nutrition and health of these women and their children,” Lacy said.Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development bilateral mission in Mali through Colorado State’s Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change Collaborative Research Support Program, the team will work with Malian collaborators to build a model poultry hatchery in a rural Malian village. The hatchery will be a hub for research on improved poultry genetics, vaccines for diseases like Newcastle Disease and exploring the feasibility of biogas production from manure and other wastes. Extension educational programs on poultry husbandry, good nutrition and business practices will be offered through the hatchery.While in Mali, the team visited several villages outside Bamako, the country’s capital. They met with local leaders, non-government organizations and women’s groups to determine the best location for the hatchery and training complex. They also discussed local micro-credit loans for women that would help kick-start the program.“The Mali people are very excited about this project and are interested in receiving training, education, advise and support,” Lacy said.Poultry production in the U.S. during the 1800s was largely the domain of the farm wife. A backyard flock was tended at nearly every home. The extra eggs or meat that could be sold to stores would earn the family “egg money” to be used for new shoes or material for clothing.“That was the first time women in America had any economic independence and was the first step to equality,” Lacy said. “It is the same for other cultures, including Mali, where we can empower these women and ultimately help their families and communities.”Healthier chicks and skills to raise them productively will ultimately increase the amount of eggs and poultry meat available for local consumption and for selling to local markets, Lacy said. In a country where 90 percent of the population earns less than $2 a day and many children are malnourished, this could have a big impact.“One or two eggs per week would have a tremendous impact on the nutritional status of children,” Lacy said.The hatchery will be complete by next winter. Until the hatchery is complete, the group will train women’s groups and get housing ready for the chicks.
Drought conditions continued to shrink across the state during April due to the seasonal rainfall and cool spring temperatures; the only area of Georgia left in drought is a small sliver along southeast coast. Northern Georgia’s drought eased in February due to wet conditions north of Atlanta in January 2013 while most of the rest of the state saw the drought gradually diminish over March and April. Wet conditions in February and continued rains in the following months erased years of precipitation deficits in all but the deepest groundwater aquifers. Many farmers went from very dry soil conditions to saturated fields, leading to problems for some crops and difficulty getting into the fields for spring planting. The cooler temperatures in March and frost in early April also caused some delays in farmers’ fields and damage to some crops. However, more seasonable temperatures through the rest of the month allowed slow planting of peanuts and corn as the month progressed. Excessive rains triggered some worry about this year’s Vidalia onion crop after growers reported some seed stem problems. Seed stems can be brought on my excessive rain and cold temperatures and affect the onions by drying out and hollowing the onions’ cores, which renders them unsuitable for sale. Some growers were reporting fields with 30 to 40 percent seed stem problems compared to a typical year when seed stem losses might be in the two to three percent range. However, yields are expected to be higher than average and that may offset some of the losses due to the seed stem loss. The onions available for sale should be of good quality, according to industry reports. Hail associated with severe weather damaged canola and transplanted vegetables in some areas. The cold temperatures in March delayed the production of Georgia highbush blueberries by up to ten days due to the slowdown in maturity, but the total volume is not expected to be affected in spite of minor damage from hail in some locations. Storms featuring hail damage hit several parts of the state during April. On April 11, three weak tornadoes were reported in Haralson, Polk and Lumpkin/Hall counties, along with hail up to baseball-sized. High winds were reported in several coastal counties on April 14, including one report of 86 mph from the National Estuarine Research System site on Sapelo Island in McIntosh County. A tornado was reported near Mansfield in Newton and Morgan counties on the afternoon of April 19 and two EF0 tornadoes were confirmed near Moreland in Coweta County and McDonough in Henry County on April 29, along with large hailstones and high winds. Damage from the storms was mainly due to tree damage, although a small number of buildings were also affected. Temperatures across the state in April were typical for spring in the Southeast. In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 62.1 degrees F (0.1 degrees above normal), in Athens 61.2 degrees (0.5 degrees below normal), Columbus 65.6 (1.0 degree above normal), Macon 61.9 (1.5 degree below normal), Savannah 66.4 (0.8 of a degree above normal), Brunswick 66.9 (0.4 of a degree above normal), Alma 65.4 (0.8 of a degree below normal) and Augusta 62.4 (0.3 of a degree below normal). Several stations set record low daytime temperatures early in April. Columbus reported a high of 52 F on April 4, breaking the old record of 54 F set in 1987. Macon set a record of 50 F on the same day, surpassing the old record of 53 F also set in 1987. Alma set a record low daytime temperature of 60 F on April 5, breaking the old record of 63 F set in 1971. Augusta also reported a new record low daytime temperature of 51 F on April 4, breaking the old record of 53 F set in 1987; the National Weather Service noted that this low maximum temperature was 24 degrees below the normal high for the date. Brunswick, Atlanta and Athens also tied their record low maximum temperatures at least once during the month. Savannah tied a record high temperature of 88 F on April 12, matching the old record set in 2008. Rainfall across most of the state was above normal with the exception of the southwest corner. The highest monthly total precipitation from NWS reporting stations was 6.03 inches in Macon (3.07 inches above normal) and the lowest was in Brunswick at 2.80 inches (0.31 of an inche above normal). Atlanta received 5.51 inches (2.15 inches above normal), Athens 3.77 inches (0.62 of an inch above normal), Columbus 3.72 (0.17 of an inch above normal), Alma 3.24 (0.43 of an inch above normal) and Augusta 4.23 (1.39 inches above normal). A daily rainfall record was set in Atlanta on April 28 with 1.73 inches, surpassing the old record of 1.23 inches set in 1990. The highest single-day rainfall from a Community Collaborative Rain Hail Snow Network station was 5.86 inches west of Blairsville in Union County on April 18. An observer northwest of Macon in Bibb County received 3.82 inches and a Summerville observer in Chattooga County reported 3.64 inches on April 29. The highest monthly total rainfall was 12.34 inches, reported the Blairsville observer mentioned above, followed by two observers in Fannin County near McCayville and Blue Ridge with 11.43 and 11.25 inches, respectively.
While some young men collect baseball cards or video games, University of Georgia senior Vince Hix has a slightly more exotic hobby. “When I was four, my dad bought me a few Rhode Island Red chickens for laying,” said Hix, an avian biology major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “I’d get the eggs and sell them at church on Sunday. I’d fight all year to get $80 together to buy more chickens.”His operation began with 25 laying hens. He gathered eggs from these hens and sold them to buy feed, putting aside money when he could to grow his flock, always of different breeds — from unusually colored blue laced red Wyandottes to fluffy-plumed Silkies. The power of networking grew from a simple operation of laying hens to a collection of approximately 1,000 rare and exotic birds from all over the world.Walking among hundreds of enclosures he built with the help of family, Hix rattles off names of birds at a dizzying pace.From the Australian emus and South American rheas that placidly stalk among Boer goats and sheep in his parents’ sprawling backyard to turacos from Africa and great argus pheasants worth thousands per breeding pair.While Hix has some domestic breeds — homing pigeons, turkeys, a variety of bantam chickens, pheasants and quail — he says he doesn’t like “the domestic stuff.”“I like the birds you find in the wild,” he adds.He branched out into more exotic species beginning with pheasants he bought when he was 16 and expanded from there.“My parents said I could have anything I wanted as long as I took care of them and paid for them,” he said before pausing. “I don’t think they thought it would go this far.”Adam Davis, an associate professor in the Department of Poultry Science, is Hix’s advisor and faculty mentor.“I have had students who have had more experience with the poultry industry and broiler houses, but nobody has ever had as much experience in the exotics as Vince. He is, by far, more experienced than anyone I’ve ever met in my 20 years here as far as students go,” Davis said. “When there is something he is passionate about, he is very proactive. It doesn’t bother him to call whoever he needs to find out what he’s after.”Many in the exotic bird industry have gotten to know Hix and have entrusted him with birds other facilities have had difficulty breeding.“He’s been successful at breeding birds no one else could breed. That’s led to zoos and a lot of people loaning or giving him birds if he will breed them and share the offspring,” Davis said.On his family’s property and on 40 acres he bought nearby to expand his collection, Hix has birds from every continent except Antarctica.“There are some birds at my house that you wouldn’t even think existed,” said Hix.Egyptian geese wander between enclosures holding birds with outlandish names like the violaceous turaco from Africa or far-flung locales like the black francolins from India, multihued Mandarin ducks from East Asia, bronze-tailed peacock-pheasants from Sumatra, great currasows from Costa Rica, and Bornean crested fireback pheasants who look as if they are wearing blue masks over their eyes.Among the many birds you will find in his possession, some are the last of their breed and others are rarely seen in the U.S. outside of zoos or sanctuaries.Hix has been a part of multiple initiatives to preserve breeds of birds all over the world while still in college.In one enclosure are a pair of Edwards’s pheasants that are extinct in their native Vietnam. Hix has raised more than 40 of the birds with his breeding pair.When it comes to the Galliformes species — an order that includes about 290 species including turkeys, chickens, quail, partridge, pheasant, peacock, guinea fowl, and grouse — “I’d rate him No. 1 in the world as far as breeding,” said Davis. “Some of the curassows he’s breeding, no one else can breed.”Hix has put in many hours of hard work to create his exotic bird oasis. There is not an instruction manual for an operation like his, so much of his time is spent discovering the best ways to raise various species. He has built relationships with exotic bird collectors and experts, calling them with questions and comparing notes on breeding. He also provides birds to zoos worldwide.”With exotic birds it is a lot of trial and error,” said Hix, pointing out two breeding pairs of Ceylon jungle fowl in adjoining enclosures. He obtained one pair from another breeder who wasn’t able to successfully breed them. Hix was having similar issues with the pair until another breeder mentioned that he had luck getting fertilized eggs from his birds after he put a mirror in his birds’ enclosure, inciting jealousy in the male. In a play on the ploy, Hix got another pair of the birds and put them in an adjacent enclosure.“I’ve gotten 20-plus birds from them now,” he says. “It is just something I figured out. There’s nobody to tell you a lot of this.”In a henhouse on the property, Hix keeps dozens of Old English game hens whose sole job is to incubate the eggs of the exotic birds he breeds.“I hatch every bird underneath a hen and only have incubators for backup,” he said.In addition to the four hours a day he spends caring for his birds, Hix attends classes at CAES and works with Davis in his lab.“When Vince is talking casually to you, he makes it seem like there’s nothing to it, but he’s gone through a lot of observations and experience. He has a confidence; he’s not afraid to try anything. And, once he gets his mind set on something, it is going to happen. He is determined. This is why people come to him,” Davis said. “He really is extraordinary. Based on the success of his breeding and his personality — especially his personality — it’s hard to say no to Vince. People are comfortable doing things with him and loaning him birds and trying different things. Then, once he has success, that leads to other people contacting him from zoos to help them with breeding.”After graduation, Hix said he is considering medical school. Davis said he hopes Hix will apply to graduate school in avian biology so he can continue to work with him at CAES.”I’ve spoken to him about a master’s and a PhD. I also have friends who have a DVM and a PhD, and I think Vince is definitely suited to the PhD side, but he’ll go beyond that,” Davis said. “He’s gotten so much experience just by himself that, with a PhD, there won’t be anything he can’t do related to medicine and birds.”Regardless of where his career path leads him, Hix plans to build a house on his property near his parent’s farm, along with room for whatever other animals he gets the notion to collect.“I’d love to have aviaries attached to the house and a balcony where I can feed giraffes,” Hix mused before he was off to take care of his birds.(This story was produced for the CAES magazine Southscapes. For more stories from the most recent issue of Southscapes, visit southscapes.caes.uga.edu.)
pMs. Blow is a compliance specialist in the customer service department and has been with Blue Cross and Blue Shield since 2003. She is cited for her professional attitude, her willingness to help her co-workers, and for her dedication. A co-worker stated, “Katy is consistently an innovative, positive, thoughtful hard worker.”Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont employs about 350 Vermonters at its headquarters in Berlin and its branch office in Williston. A committee of employees recognizes an employee each month in honor of Carol L. Goodrich, the winner of the first-ever Employee of the Year award in 1992. This program awards individuals who demonstrate extraordinary effort above and beyond the scope of their current responsibilities. More information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is available on the Internet at www.bcbsvt.com(link is external). Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is an independent corporation operating under a license with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.
Sales Tax Holiday Is This WeekendAll items eligible this weekend;ENERGY STAR appliances tax free until July 18MONTPELIER, Vt. – With the Independence Day weekend behind us, state officials today took time to remind Vermonters that Sales Tax Independence Days are coming this weekend.”I hope the people of Vermont and visitors to our state will take advantage of this opportunity to purchase products without paying state sales tax,” said Governor Jim Douglas. “This weekend is a chance to save some much needed cash, and to help Vermont businesses.”Included in the Governor’s Economic Growth Initiative, the sales tax holiday on July 12 and 13 means all non-business purchases of property costing $2,000 or less will be exempt from state sales tax except automobiles and vehicles.Customers can purchase multiple items on one invoice totaling more than $2,000 and still receive the exemption if the selling price of each item is $2,000 or less.For example, a customer can purchase two bicycles for $1,500 each; a roof rack for $300; and two helmets for $150 each. The invoice total is $3,600, however because each item is priced below $2,000 the entire invoice is exempt from sale tax.And from July 14th through 18th, the sale tax holiday is extended on Energy Star-rated appliances costing $2,000 or less.”This a great opportunity to replace that old, inefficient clothes washer or other appliances with a new ENERGY STAR ™-model that can help lower your electricity costs and save more money over the long run,” Douglas said. “In addition to the sales tax savings, Efficiency Vermont is continuing its offer of cash rebates from $25 to $50 on selected ENERGY STAR ™-appliances.”Efficiency Vermont is the state’s provider of efficiency services and is currently operated by Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), an independent non-profit organization under contract to the Vermont Public Service Board.”Purchasing an ENERGY STAR ™ appliance helps Vermonters lowers their energy costs,” said Scott Johnstone, executive director of VEIC. “Everybody benefits from that.””Not only do consumers get their electric bills lowered, but reducing demand means utilities don’t need to purchase as much power,” Johnstone said. “That helps reduce not only everyone’s future electricity bills but emissions as well.”The state has been promoting the sales tax holiday event in concert with retailers and Efficiency Vermont.”We are promoting this event not only to Vermonters, but to neighboring states and Quebec,” said Kevin Dorn, Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. “Vermont is always a popular vacation destination in the summer, and this sales tax holiday can make the state even more attractive to visitors.”Learn more at: www.taxfreevt.com(link is external)-30-
The American Bus Association (ABA) announced that the ‘Vermont Celebrates Champlain,’ and ‘Hudson 400th Celebration of Discovery’ are the winning US events, respectively, as ABA released its 2009 list of the’Top 100 Events in North America.’The year 2009 will mark the 400th anniversary of when French explorer Samuel de Champlain traveled by canoe up the Richelieu River and came upon a lake spanning 120 miles in length and 12 miles in width.Vermont will commemorate this event in 2009 with festivals, pageants, exhibits and much more. All are invited to share in the fun and help commemorate this historic moment.The annual guide for professional travel planners and the general public highlights the top fairs, festivals, parades and regional events across North America. While the Top 100 are not ranked, ABA highlights the top US and Canadian events for 2009.First Night Burlington on Dec. 31, kicks off the statewide ‘Vermont Celebrates Champlain’ commemoration events.