Vermont businessman Ken Squier became a legend in his spare time.
The Stowe resident, known for his chain of Vermont radio stations, a national and Vermont presence in the auto racing industry, his love of Vermont, classical music, literacy and much more is an icon.
That life is now captured by a Vermont movie producer in documentary: “Ken Squier, His life…. So Far.”
Squier, 79, first learned about the secret making of the documentary Thursday night when he walked into the Hilton Hotel in Burlington to find 200 friends at a surprise viewing party.
The viewing was a who’s who of Vermonters including Gov. Peter Shumlin, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and various leaders in business, education, banking, lawyers and the arts.
There also was a strong delegation from the auto racing world, including two NASCAR Hall of Famers, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. His son, Travis, from California and daughter, Ashley from Chicago flew in to surprise their dad.
Squier is credited with being the first person in getting flag-to-flag coverage of auto racing on television when CBS aired the Daytona 500 in 1979. The four-hour event was a huge success partly because the nation was socked in at home with a major snowstorm and the the race had possibly the most exciting finish in auto sports history.
Squier also is remembered in the documentary for his work in putting video cameras in race cars for live shots during races.
The video is the creation of Ed Dooley, president of Mad River Media in Waitsfield. He cris-crossed the nation to do interviews with about 30 people, who told a wide range of Squier stories.
They ranged from Vermonters talking about him growing up in Waterbury and working at WDEV radio, which he now owns, to people Squier met while chasing auto racing, including his work for CBS-TV Sports for 25 years covering racing, major golf matches, the Olympics and more.
They gave him plenty of recognition for his colorful, catchy, descriptive announcing. He passed out nicknames to drivers and could turn a phrase that could stick. “The Great American Race” the moniker for the Daytona 500 has stuck through the years.
Yet, Squier told the audience that his first love was Vermont, his home state.
“I can’t think of a better place to come back to,” Squier said about his stints on national networks, which also included ABC, Fox and super station WTBS.
“I had the family that said go for it,” he said standing behind a podium with a sign saying Squier was “a Vermont character with, with character.”
He said the latitude that he had growing up continued into his adult life.
Several speakers noted Squier is a “Renaissance man” due to his many and varied interests, including serving as chairman of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. He helped it get endowed. His local radio duties include hosting a weekly show each Saturday morning: “Music to go to the Dump By.”
Again Squier pointed to his upbringing.
“I was allowed for a very long time to try things. It was never a singular direction,” he explained.
The 70-minute documentary will be air on Vermont PBS at 8 p.m. Oct. 2 and 6 p.m. Oct. 11.
“We provide a chronology of his rise from local small-town radio to the top of national network radio and TV, and back to Vermont, where he continues to run his radio stations,” Dooley said before the screening.
Squier was stunned when he walked into a room at the Hilton, thinking he had a business meeting with his partner at Thunder Road, Tom Curley, and others.
“I guess I don’t need my paperwork,” he said, setting down his briefcase.
He was whisked to the front of the room, where it turned into a “This Is Your Life Show.”
Dooley said he got the idea to do a film about Squier after working on a documentary film, “Tune In Tomorrow” in 2006 about the history of WDEV radio.
Dooley said DVDs also will be available with the documentary.
-Burlington Free Press Story – Photo Credit: Leif Tillotson