WILLISTON It was as if the stars had aligned to deliver Carrie Cruz’s cosmic second act. The Planetarium Lady moved to Vermont from Long Island in 2020 following two of her adult children and plans to open a cooking school.

But when her real estate agent showed her a property in Williston that included an observatory, the retired teacher and former planetarium presenter set a new course.

“I didn’t anticipate this, but it makes sense,” Cruz said. “Instead of stuffing people with food and satiating the physical appetite, it’s like an appetite curiosity. Because people are always curious about the sky.”

The Planetarium Lady was born, and astronomers of all ages can come to her wooded property to learn about the night sky or sit inside the inflatable dome as she travels to libraries, community centers and summer camps throughout the area.

Carrie Cruz has updated an observatory built by the Vermont Astronomical Society to launch her business - The Planetarium Lady - which educates groups about space science.  She is seen next to the Williston Planetarium on May 18, 2023.

Honoring tradition and making it your own

With its purple walls, blue-and-yellow color accents, and a hand-painted “Planetarium” sign directing visitors up the short path to the site, it’s easy to deduce that a former educator now runs the observatory.

Built in 1982 by the Vermont Astronomical Society to house the University of Vermont’s Clark Telescope, the white cinder block building with a retractable roof was abandoned years ago and stood empty until Cruz gave it new life. He put up a solid roof and knocked out most of an interior wall to fit his portable dome that seats 15 inside. Add to that a cozy seating area with space-themed literature, fairy lights, and other whimsical touches.

A planetarium in the Williston Woods that was once an observatory for the Vermont Astronomical Society as seen on May 18, 2023. Planetarium Lady, Carrie Cruz, preserved cornerstone with 1982 engraved on it, still in white and can be seen in the lower corner in the foreground and an inscription above the door.  He livened up the exterior of the cinder block structure with color, a moon and star painting (left), and star decoration.  During its renovation that began in 2020, it tore down most of a wall, added windows, and replaced the retractable roof.

But it didn’t cover the cornerstone engraved in 1982 or the quotes above the door jambs that include “May every night be clear and starry,” “We have loved the stars too fondly to be afraid of the night” and “Let us always remember to follow the stars – TGT 9/5/82.”

What she calls the elementary teacher’s bulletin board includes historic photos of the observatory under construction provided by the astronomical society, as well as pictures of the renovation and final product. It’s a tribute to the past refreshed for the future.


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