BENNINGTON — When historians look back, they might say that 2021 was a year for the record books.
We began the year with an insurrection at the Capitol, and we end it with a surging omicron variant of the coronavirus.
At the Banner, we delivered many memorable stories in 2021, including the specter of gangs appearing once again in Bennington County; Alec Baldwin holed up in Manchester, attempting to dodge the paparazzi after a fatal shooting on the set of his movie “Rust”; and the ongoing shenanigans of our local white supremacist, Max Misch.
All told, over the course of the year, your visits to our website resulted in 3,036,233 unique pageviews.
Here’s our Top 5 Most Read Stories, as chosen by you, our readers:
1. In Old Bennington, historic Walloomsac Inn could change hands, Dec. 10
In this story by veteran journalist Jim Therrien, we learn that the future Walloomsac Inn in Old Bennington, one of the most recognizable and historic structures in Southern Vermont, is up in the air. The recent deaths of two sisters from the Berry family, which has owned the inn since it was acquired by their grandfather in the early 1900s, has prompted concern about the building’s future. The town Historical Society met earlier this month to discuss how to support any effort to restore what is considered the earliest hostelry in Vermont. “It is one of the most historic buildings in the area and relates to the early days of Bennington,” said Historical Society member Donald Miller.
2. Pawlet holds contentious tax hearing for Daniel Banyai’s Slate Ridge property, Aug. 18
In this ongoing story, covered by Darren Marcy of the Manchester Journal, we find illegal gun range owner Daniel Banyai going nose-to-nose with a town official over mask wearing and property taxes. Banyai has been feuding with town officials and neighbors for close to a year, has accused town officials of treating him unfairly, and done battle with neighbors on social media sites where he has regularly issued veiled threats and bullying tactics against them. At the hearing, officials told Banyai that it was the Select Board’s decision that everyone must wear a mask in town buildings. “I don’t give a [expletive] about the Select Board,” Banyai said.
3. Man faces first-degree murder charge in Bennington slashing death, Jan. 19
In what appears to be a nightmarish random slaying, a Pownal man fatally slashed a woman in Bennington. Darren Pronto, 32, had been recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to his sister. The assault reportedly happened around 11:15 a.m. on a Monday along the Walloomsac River walkway. Authorities said the victim, a 26-year-old Bennington resident, was found lying on the ground, just off of the walkway, with a deep cut in her throat. She had just come from a nearby pharmacy, carrying a purse and a prescription bag.
4. Local military wife turned TikTok star asks Toby Keith to play her husband’s homecoming, Dec. 23
Banner newcomer Cheryth Youngmann reported on this grassroots effort in nearby New York to get country performer Toby Keith to play for a soldier’s homecoming. One local woman is on a mission: bring her husband home and bring country music star Toby Keith to play for his homecoming. Tammy Schnoop’s husband, Darren Schnoop, is a sergeant in the Vermont National Guard and overseas on his third deployment, this time in Kosovo. Undaunted, she said she’ll keep asking Keith to come until she hears back.
5. Gage Street drug house raid finds a possible gang and guns, Nov. 18
Police raided a building known for drug-related activity and arrested six people on numerous counts of drug trafficking and conspiracy to sell heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine. Banner reporter Michael Albans covered the story and learned that Bennington Police had been watching 318 Gage St. for two-months. Officers observed car and foot traffic in and out of the residence at all hours during their surveillance. Officers also saw known drug users visit the residence for short stretches. The raid yielded multiple weapons, illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and thousands of dollars in cash.
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