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Vt. gets into fall foliage fight with Ariz. - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. gets into fall foliage fight with Ariz.

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The trees won't reveal their fiery colors for at least a couple of weeks, but a recent article in an Arizona travel magazine had Vermont's chief marketer, Megan Smith, seeing red.

"I took it a little too seriously I think at first, but I was just outraged," said Smith, Vermont's tourism commissioner.

Arizona Highways magazine committed the cardinal sin of insulting one of the Green Mountain State's signature industries, and drew harsh criticism from Governor Peter Shumlin.

"The thing about Arizona is they're a little bit confused. They think that Aunt Jemima is maple syrup," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

"It's kind of like going after Switzerland," said Robert Stieve, the editor of Arizona Highways.

The magazine touts Arizona's fall foliage as better than Vermont's.

U.S. Forest Service scientists declined to weigh in, stating a conflict of interest as they represent all states. But former UVM President John Bramley, who winters in Arizona, says he doesn't leave Vermont until the leaves fall.

"Arizona's got some good things: Grand Canyon, Sedona. I'll even-- despite all my years at UVM-- accept their basketball team is better than UVM's. But you know, their foliage, no," Bramley said.

Editors of Vermont Life magazine mocked up a fake cover in response, stating the Quechee Gorge is grander than the Grand Canyon.

"To my mind it was almost like a softball that Arizona gave us that we could just knock out of the park," said Mary Hegarty Nowlan, an editor at Vermont Life.

Mock covers are commonplace within the magazine industry, but the inside joke went viral when editors posted it to Facebook. The tongue-in-cheek spat over leaves grew into a forest of free publicity.

"We kind of set them as the gold standard," Stieve said. "What's great about Arizona is we-- our fall season starts in September on the North Rim and goes literally until the middle of December in the desert regions."

Fall foliage isn't Vermont's biggest seasonal tourism draw, but it is for the state's small businesses. State officials say free publicity and a colorful forecast give them hope for a strong fall.

The controversy began before this week's release of Arizona Highways.

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