Lake Elmore: Looking Back On A Busy Summer, Featuring Bingo And BBQ

Sep 6, 2018

Last weekend, the town of Elmore said goodbye to its summer residents with an annual block party and fireworks over the lake. While its year-round population is small enough that the old one-room schoolhouse is still in use, during the summer there’s been a lot going on.

Elmore — which proclaims itself “The Beauty Spot of Vermont” — can be a pretty sleepy community much of the year. But when summer rolls around, and the state park opens for the season and the population swells with summer camp owners, there’s no shortage of things to do.

Lake Elmore is a relatively small oblong lake, about 20 miles north of Montpelier. Elmore State Park is at one end and a public boat access is tucked in at the other. Between those two points, the shores are dotted with a country store, the town hall and lots of camps. While some have been upgraded to year-round homes, many are still used exclusively as summer get-aways.

Marilyn Batie of Salisbury, Maryland, has a camp at the quiet end of the lake, where she can let her hair down. With a chuckle, she says it allows her to "Kick back, don't wear makeup, and all that stuff."

Warren Miller, the town fire warden and Elmore Store owner, greets patrons coming to the fire department's annual chicken barbecue fundraiser.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

In mid-June, right around when school gets out, the small town’s population starts to swell as camp owners like Batie return for the summer. With the summer people comes a full schedule of pancake breakfasts, pie socials and community barbecues – including the annual fire department chicken barbecue fundraiser.

Warren Miller, the town’s fire warden, describes the fundraiser's menu: "We’re doing half a chicken, potato salad, baked beans, a roll, dessert and a beverage for $10. It’s pretty reasonable."

But, he says, you’ve got to get there early because they sell out fast.

"We pre-sold a hundred," Miller says as folks line up to pay him, "so it’s going very well. There’s a lot of happy people."

For diners looking to burn off some of those calories, one option is the Elmore Practice Triathlon Series.

Organizer and triathlon hall-of-famer Donna Smyers welcomes participants on the beach at the state park, offering both instructions and tips. Behind them, tethered among lines of buoys designating the swim area, are giant pool floats shaped like a lobster and a killer whale.

Athletes take off on the first leg of an Elmore triathlon. For some of them, this is their first triathlon. For others, it's just a good workout.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

“You’re gonna start right here," instructs Smyers, pointing to the lobster, "lined up between me and the lobster. You’re gonna go around Shamu — so you keep Shamu on your left, you go around counter-clockwise, come around the lobster, go back around Shamu. So, just stay wide enough, make sure you’re looking up, that you don’t go head-on into somebody going the other direction."

After some tips on how to quicken transitions between the swimming, biking and running legs of the race, beginner and veteran triathletes run side-by-side into the water for the quarter-mile swim. That's followed by a nearly 10-mile bike down Route 12 into Worcester Woods and back, and then a 2.5 mile run around the back side of the lake.

For those interested in more leisurely activities, there are many other summer events, most of them put on by the Lake Elmore Association. Some are free and others raise money to help pay for efforts to combat the nonnative invasive milfoil that grows in the lake.

One of the most popular attractions happens at the Elmore Town Hall every Thursday night throughout the season. It’s family-style prize bingo. Admission is a dollar, or instead you can donate a baked good to the prize table.

Joe Ciccolo, standing, keeps the crowd engaged and entertained during weekly family bingo nights at the Elmore Town Hall.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Joe Ciccolo is the master of ceremonies. Wearing a shirt that says, "I love Bingo" and a custom Lake Elmore Bingo half-apron, he gets things started by ringing a bell and asking the crowd: "Are you ready to play bingo?"

The capacity crowd says they are ready and, at Ciccolo's lead, breaks into a customized version of the bingo song. They sing, "There was a town that had a game and Bingo was its name-o. B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O!"

There are almost as many songs as bingo games throughout the evening and the regulars know them all. Throughout the night, the crowd joins Ciccolo in chants and musical responses each time B11 and O69 are called. Ciccolo blows a train whistle for any number ending in two.

Everyone joins in for Lake Elmore's original theme song (just before the intermission for jumping rope out along Route 12). The song tells of the mountain and lake, but also the store and town hall bingo. It ends with: 

"So now you know the secret of our little town.

Be sure to come visit every now and now.

Your visits to the lake make me want to shout:

Fun times, friends, and family is what it's all about.

We're going to Lake Elmore,

I sure do like it a lot.

We're going to Lake Elmore,

the beauty spot of Vermont."

Residents, summer camp owners and state park campers gathered on the Elmore State Park beach over Labor Day weekend for the town's annual end-of-summer fireworks.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Many of us share a connection with a river, lake, stream or pond. Throughout the summer, listen to VPR to hear personal stories from Vermonters about how bodies of water around the state affect their lives, and how they've seen them change over time. Tweet @vprnet to share your favorite bodies of water in Vermont.