Cleaning out the garage last week, I came across my press copy of a kitchy wall calendar that-as I recall-created a bit of a stir in tiny Chester, Vt. That was back in the good old boom days of late 2007. Anyhow, I tossed away the faded calendar, but it got me wondering: why would a group of women in a very small community bare it all-even it was for a good cause? All for a lark? Soemthing darker, like exhibitionism? What had fermented the small town nude-calendar craze a few years back?
Chester is a quiet little village in a sleepy valley between Okemo, Bromley and Magic mountains. It's a winter wateringhole for skiers with its old-time train station, the 1858 Cummings Hardware Store, art galleries, gift shops and restaurants.
So Chester isn't the sort of New England community you think of when it comes to cheesecake-at least, the pinup variety.
Back in 2008, a dozen local women, with the support of several businesses, bared themselves for the sake of civic pride. At the time, the discreetly nude calendar-which was called "2008 Chester Calendar Girls"-raised some eyebrows and other things locally.
Let's be frank: Chester's famous 2008 calendar ladies were mature women; at the time, all were apparently over the top-of-the-rollercoaster at age 40 plus. We're not talking about fashion models here, but there still was ample feminine beauty pictured. These were genuine Vermont women with the natural flaws of age lightly Photo Shoped. An aside: There's really wasn't enough flesh revealed to offend those of us already exposed to cable T.V. and movie nudity; most of the images-which were professionally crafted by photographer Pam Nelligan-hinted at nudity by strategically covering body parts.
In 2008, Chester's promotional slogan proclaims "Chester: Beautiful in Every Season." And those dozen brave women of 2008 who created the calendar wanted to support the slogan by raising funds for local projects and promote awareness of the town.
"The women are not technically nude," said Miss October Julie Pierce in an interview published in the Rutland Tribune in late 2007. "There's no frontal nudity and the photos are tasteful as well as aesthetically pleasing. I think they will bring a chuckle to those who can appreciate the giddy terror we were happy to endure to do something positive for the town."
Pierce, who was a 48-year-old at the time the famous calendar appeared, owns the Inn Victoria B&B in town with her husband. She appeared to have enjoyed the experience of modeling. In the calendar, she posed in her inn's kicthen. Nelligan's playful photo shows Pierce chuckling and sporting a messy baking-flour facial. I guess not everyone around town was "chuckling" back in 2008.
For a few less open-minded residents, the idea that local professional women would show a little skin to sell their town might have been troubling.
When it was revealed that then Chester Town Manager Sue Spaulding had posed as Miss April, one Chester voter and town-meeting regular remarked, "Well, I now know more about Ms. Spaulding than I do about the town budget."
The English comedy movie "Calendar Girls" was the big influence to Chester's calendar ladies and similar racey hometown calendars of the early 2000s. Also, "The Men of Maple Corners Calendar", an au naturel Vermont calendar, inspired the women to boldly show what few small-town women in Vermont have shown before.
The $64,000 question remains: Will the Chester ladies bare it all it, yet again, to promote local commerce? Stay tuned.