1. The governor debate

With candidates who decided to dress for the Kentucky Derby, a Duck Dynasty marathon, and a lumberjack competition, the Vermont gubernatorial debate was perhaps the most entertaining political event this year. With current Governor Shumlin essentially having the election locked in, all seven of the candidates were invited to participate in the debate. This proved to be a brilliant move, as it seriously upped the entertainment value.

The entire debate was wildly animated with one candidate lobbying for secession, another encouraging residents to buy lottery tickets with food stamps, and a third accusing the Taliban for the heroin problem. If SNL isn’t doing it for you lately, I highly recommend watching this debate for a chuckle.

2. GMO labeling bill / scaring Monsanto and Starbucks

In May, we voted for food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled. Monsanto and Starbucks turned around and sued the state of Vermont, saying the Constitution is being violated by forcing companies to reveal information they don’t want to. If the bill goes into effect, Vermont will be the first state in the country to require this, possibly causing a ripple effect in other states, and making top food production companies come clean about what’s in their products.

3. The real Captain Phillips

Vermont is proud to be the home of real-life hero and movie-inspiration, Captain Richard Phillips. The end of 2013 brought Tom Hanks and the movie Captain Phillips to the big screen, a true story based on the Vermont ship captain who was held hostage by Somali Pirates. In 2014, the movie and many of the actors were nominated for Oscars, bringing more attention and acclaim to this hero and the state of Vermont.

The man behind the story lives in Jericho, Vermont and is often seen around town. He keeps a low profile, and doesn’t consider himself a hero; just a regular guy who happened to have a movie based on his experience. As a side note, according to Captain Phillips and his wife, my boyfriend makes the best martini in the state!

4. A craft-beer destination

2014 brought some serious attention to beer tourism. According to the Department of Liquor Control, the number of Vermont breweries increased by 80% in the past two years! There are three breweries — Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, and Lawson’s Finest Liquids — that have beer geeks traveling hundreds of miles, waiting many hours, and spending loads of money on their incredible libations. There is even a nickname given to the route between these three top breweries: The IPA Highway.

In 2014, Hill Farmstead was rated the number-two brewery in the world (according to Ratebeer.com) and pumps out some of the most delicious beer you will ever taste. The last time I was there, I met a guy who didn’t want to tell his wife he was driving six hours from Connecticut to spend hundreds of dollars on beer. So he made the trip in one day, and due to the limit on how much he was able to get, came back again the next day.

5. Multiple best place to live awards

Anytime I see a ‘Best Places to Live’ list grace the pages of magazines or online publications, I immediately head for number 1 to see if Vermont makes the top spot. This year the Green Mountain State rolled in at the top of plenty of lists including:

    Best State to Raise a Kid (Center for Disease Control)
    Best Places to Live in America (Outside Magazine)
    Second Healthiest State in the US (America’s Health Rankings)
    Sixth Happiest State in the US (Gallup)
    Hottest City (Burlington) to Move to in 2015 (Business Insider)

The focus on local and healthy foods, combined with the plentiful outdoor adventure possibilities, makes Vermont an ideal place for anyone who values health and fitness in their life.

6. A Scandal shout-out

What better way to bring attention to a state than have Olivia Pope and President Fitz use Vermont as their secret getaway location. The Scandal episode had the two hostile lovebirds jet off to snowy, ‘secluded Vermont’ to the massive log cabin the fictional president had built for his mistress. Here the duo dreamed about living a quiet life of jam-making. Not too far off from what life in Vermont is actually like.

7. The ‘Eat More Kale Guy’

Love it or hate it, our obsession with kale is here to stay, and you can thank Vermonter Bo Muller-Moore for that. After engaging in legal battles with Chick-Fil-A for the last three years due to trademark issues with their slogan ‘Eat More Chikn,’ Bo has officially won the rights to ‘Eat More Kale.’ A win for Vermont, small businesses and, you know, people who love kale.