North Fork Community: Harvest Festival September 2012

Dec 5, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Lifestyle

Harvest Festival Bittersweet, September 2012

This article was written in September, prior to the announcement in November by the BLM that the agency was proceeding with leasing the North Fork’s public lands for oil and gas drilling, fracking, and development. 

Harvest Festival has been going on in the North Fork Valley for weeks. Months, even. My friend Connie has packed her pantry shelves with canned goods since at least cherry season. Numerous feasts and intimate dinners in recent weeks have featured and celebrated everybody’s garden bounty. But the Mountain Harvest Festival in Paonia only went on most of last week. Starting Wednesday night with the Fashion Show and concluding Sunday afternoon at Town Park, the past week was full of fun, funk, and phenomenal.

In Town Park on both Saturday and Sunday, half the people I spoke with said with no provocation from me, “We are soooo lucky to live here.” Yes, I absolutely agree. Grateful is my mantra. And there was something extra vibrant about this year’s Mountain Harvest Festival. Maybe it had to do with the bittersweet year we’ve had up here. After winning the battle with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve our pastoral valley from potential massive industrialization, others may have felt as I did: This could be our last year as is. Depending on the BLM’s next move, we could soon have to dive back into the fray.

Of course, nobody can stop change. Making friends with Impermanence is the wisest thing anyone can do to promote peace of mind. But being able to control, to some extent, how and in what direction we change can go a long way toward determining our Quality of Life. I do believe that the threat that united the North Fork Valley last winter was somewhere in everyone’s mind who told me this weekend, “We are so lucky.”

The weekend kicked off with an early performance of the District 81428 Fashion Show at the Paradise Theater; in its fourth year, the fashion show not only soared to new creative heights, it added a second performance. The big night was Friday, but those of us who attended Wednesday night’s event got a terrific show. Over-the-top only begins to describe the multi-media spectacle we were treated to. I’m reminded of David Byrne’s understated compliment to the hostess in the film True Stories, about the truly bizarre fashion show she had emcee’d. “I liked it. I’d never seen anything like that, Mrs. Culver.”

Thursday’s events were the Local Farms First farm-to-table dinner at Delicious Orchards, and the someteenth annual Harvest of Voices. I helped plan the first one, and can’t remember how many years ago that was. This feast of word art always commands a standing-room only crowd, and always gratifies. Poetry, prose, song, and this year vocal percussion, from more than a dozen performers, drew generous applause. I was fortunate to be asked to read, and enjoyed the audience reception of a new sonnet inspired by the North Fork Scrapbook, my compilation of a community photo album offered to the BLM as a visual comment on plans to lease 33,000 acres for gas exploration.

And that brings us back to the heightened sense of harvest glee pervading the valley. Everything I saw, from the team Grape Stomp competition to benefit the Library Foundation, to the vibrant Fashion Show, to random expressions of gratitude from happy people gathered in Town Park on perfect autumn days, persuades me the two are connected. “It’s like we fell in love with our valley all over again,” said one glowing resident. Every facet of Mountain Harvest Festival thrummed with love for this place, this moment.

Here’s the sonnet I read Thursday night, “What We Love”:

We love our families, friends, our kids, our pets;

and what we love we fight to save from threats.

We love our hayfields, sagebrush, butterflies,

our full moons, rainbows, sunsets, starry skies;

our peaks and canyons, valleys, cliffs and streams,

our livelihoods, our neighborhoods, our dreams;

our gardens, tractors, barns, and ditches; bears

and herons; cherries, apples, peaches, pears.

We love our views, and trees, and eagles; places

we ski and bike and hunt, our open spaces;

our mule deer, kildeer, sheep and cattle drives;

our goats, and gourds, and greens. We love our lives.

We love our land in summer, winter, fall

and spring. Our water we love most of all.

But I digress. Mountain Harvest festivities continued Friday, and included, among other things, a participatory parade, a Chili Cook Off and Pie Contest, an Art Walk followed by a Pub Crawl downtown. It might have been fun to reverse those. Town Park was busy all weekend with music, kids activities, comedy, workshops, and demonstrations. The Drink Locally Pavilion kept generous hours offering local wines and beers, the new owner of Backcountry Bistro kept coffee coming, vendors of foods, trinkets, health, hope, politics, art, and more, kept their wits about them in the crowds.

There were wine tours, bike tours, farm tours, energy tours, a Farmers’ Market and Harvest Bazaar, and of course, the big bang that started it all 12 years ago, Saturday Night Concerts. I heard the concerts rocked, but I took the night off. Sixteen acts performed at four venues on Grand Avenue from 7:30 til it was over.

With a host of directors, volunteers, organizers, performers, visitors, old-timers, new-comers, and entertainments, the weekend was rich and full like fall colors, ephemeral as a breath, and grounded in the deep love of place that roots us in this community.

Get your tickets as soon as they go on sale for next year’s Fashion Show. Mark your calendars for the last weekend in September, to get away from whatever location or mind space you find yourself in, and come celebrate the abundance of life with the North Fork Valley at Mountain Harvest 2013.

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