As the Vermont days grow shorter and the dark storm clouds of winter approach, residents of Braintree will look to a new hero to protect them: Captain Snowmerica.
But Captain Snowmerica, whose powers include clearing snow from roads and distributing salt, is no Avenger. This hero is a snowplow.
The Captain is among 163 plows throughout Vermont that were given new names this week by schoolchildren through a statewide Agency of Transportation program.
On Wednesday, aka “Vermont Plow Day,” school officials across the state celebrated the rechristening of Vermont’s fleet of snowplows.
“We had so much fun with this thing,” Robinson Elementary School Principal Edorah Frazer said. “It really was very exciting.”
Earlier this fall, after getting word of the Agency of Transportation’s plans for the contest, each class at the Starksboro school chose a candidate for the plow’s name.
Then, via a schoolwide vote, students chose a final winner: Snowy Chicken.
“I mean, ‘snowy’ is obvious,” Frazer said. “Our mascot is a robin, so we think in terms of birds. But how we came up with Snowy Chicken instead of a Snowy Robin? I really don't know.”
The inspiration for naming snowplows came first from Scotland, according to Amy Tatko, a spokesperson for Vermont’s Agency of Transportation.
Scots vote in public contests to name snowplows, which are known as “gritters” there. (One of last year’s winners: Grit Expectations.)
The trend quickly caught on in North America, which has seen plow-naming contests in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, South Dakota and Canada.
Earlier this year, the Vermont Agency of Transportation — no stranger to heavy snow — decided to get into the game.
State officials announced plans for the program in late October. Each school was assigned a snowplow in a maintenance garage close to it and given a blank slate to choose a name.
“Really, the only guideline was appropriate names only,” Tatko said.
The list of names features luminaries of various cultural realms, from music (Jennifer Snowpez) to literature (William Scrape-speare) to Star Wars (Snowbegone Kenobi).
At some schools, students opted for the elegant. Students at Hiawatha Elementary School, in Essex Junction, named their plow Crystal Royalty. In Bomoseen, Castleton Elementary School kids settled on Stardust.
Other students chose to highlight the intimidation factor. In West Burke, fallen snow may soon fall prey to Frosty’s Demise, courtesy of students at Burke Town School. Meanwhile, Snow Destroyer, so named by students at Barre Town School, will protect the residents of Washington County.
Still other plow names are rather enigmatic. Students at Burlington’s Christ the King School decided to name their plow Carl, while Charleston Elementary School students opted for Dorito.
“There's just been a lot of excitement and joy,” Tatko said. “Thank-you notes are pouring in from the schools.”
One underrated aspect of the event, she said, was that it helped connect communities with road maintenance and cleaning workers.
“Now there are kids and teachers and schools all over the state that know the name of the person who drives the plow to maintain and keep safe the roads that they drive,” she said.
For many students, it was simply a moment of joy in a troubled year.
“It's been a hard year and a half,” Frazer said. “Things tend to be on the hard side of things right now. And so this was just a real bright spot of fun.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Amy Tatko's name.
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