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04/09/2009

The Mad River Valley Rotary Club has named Claudia Becker its 2009 Person of the Year for her hard work and commitment to the community. 

"Are you going to the Big Picture?" has become a familiar question around The Valley for everything from poetry readings, art exhibits, fundraisers, film festivals, live music, and even a bit of political controversy. 

Becker bought the property in November of 2005 to create the Big Picture Theater, a "local gathering place with a global dimension." Becker told Rotarians that "the Big Picture has become everything I ever dreamed of and more: a great restaurant, a thriving theater, the hub for so much of the community's activities, a gathering place where you can always find a familiar face to chat with, and a workplace that everyone can enjoy and be proud of."

Friends of Becker and the Big Picture Theater are invited to join Rotarians as they honor Becker and celebrate her contributions to The Valley at a dinner at the Common Man on Tuesday, April 28. A social hour with a cash bar will begin at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7. Menu choices include vegetarian ravioli, chicken, salmon or short ribs. To attend call Jim Leyton at Eastern Systems at 496-1000 before April 20 to make a reservation and menu choice. 

Becker was born in Prien/Chiemsee in southern Germany. She lived for 13 years in West Berlin before the wall came down when she describes it as "a forgotten island in the Eastern Block." She took her emerging political activism and entered the University of Munich where she later graduated with her master's degree in special education. In 1995, she began living and working with filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, now her husband, making documentaries and teaching.

She first came to The Valley in 1996 to work on the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm with the Winhold family. In 1998, she moved to New York City to teach at an independent school. She had her first child in 2001 and, following 9/11, moved back to The Valley full time.

In 2004, while pregnant with her second child, she started the MountainTop Film Festival (at what was then the Eclipse Theater). Since the purchase in 2005, her vision has continued to grow with the opening of the theater and cafÈ in August 2006 with Chef Amanda Astheimer and the addition of the Very Small Donut Company with founders Matt and Ashley Woods in the spring of 2008.

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