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Rutland, Vermont – July 28-29, 2006

Last year, the Back Home Again Café and Simon the Tanner – Family Outfitters had a relatively “minor” role in the Twelfth Annual Ethnic Festival in Rutland, Vermont. A small booth, like most of the other hundred plus vendors, was in front of each of our doors. This year, in addition to our booths in front of 23 Center Street, the entire “Pit”—the large vacant lot at the corner of Center and Church Street—the Community in Rutland transformed into a truly ethnic festival. A thing of beauty sprang up overnight, and it lived and breathed, as it were, for two days: The Merrymakers' Caravan Festival.

Lining the back walls were Peacemakers I and II and the Garden bus. At the corner was a beautifully decorated Open Forum tent. Next to it, up Church Street towards our café and store, was a Tribal Trading booth accompanied by pictures of our boat, the Avany, as it is and as it will be when fully rigged. Next was the Basin Farm booth with its homegrown grains of spelt, oats, and corn, as well as the delightful story of the Basin Farm in an oversize, homemade book.

After that, was a mini-Maté Factor offering teas and smoothies, and next, up on the street, was our information booth. Beyond the stairs going down into the Festival was the tent where the musicians played and sang. Completing the square was a series of booths like those we had at the Brattleboro Festival: children’s art, instrument making, and bread making. As an extra bonus, though, at the bread-making booth were not only loaves of bread to sample (or take home), but several times a day there were in-depth seminars about the “pure culture” of sourdough bread, filled with wisdom about many topics that shed light on what can be described as either pure or impure cultures. These were presented in a lively fashion by Yochanan Bekor, our wonderful Scottish brother who has come to pass on to the bakers in the American tribes his skills, vision, and enthusiasm about baking, contributing to the emerging pure culture of the Twelve Tribes.

 

The Festival opened in fine form on Friday morning with music, dancing, parents and children enjoying the arts and crafts booths, and then a light rain fell. Whew, much less than predicted… An hour later, however, the heavens opened and the rain poured down from the sky for hours on end. Everyone at the Festival, hosts and guests, huddled inside the tents surrounding the large open space in the center, watching as the rain made little rivulets in the bark chips spread over the entire lot. Would it ever end?

It did, breaking the heat for the rest of the evening, and many more came to the Festival, stopping as they walked along the many vendors on Center Street. The next day could have used some rain to break the bright sunshine and high temperatures (for central Vermont) as the Festival swung into high gear. The most encouraging aspect of the day was the number of local people who walked in and spent time with us, not a few of whom had not realized that the folks at the Back Home Again Café were part of a larger group of communities capable of building such buses and hosting such a festival.

Our Rutland event saw a family from Brattleboro travel just to see the Merrymakers' Caravan. They and their two daughters promised to stay in touch.

“We really want to visit the Basin Farm. What you do for your children is very appealing to us,” they shared.

Bynah met an older Jewish couple from New York City who came to our café for their first time. They really wanted to know what we were about and listened in amazement to words they had never heard before of our connection to Judaism and Christianity. They loved the children’s play and the buses, and left with freepapers in hand, really desiring to read them. That was a very pleasant as well as unusual encounter.

One woman commented that the festival in general represented the melting cultures of the world today that have blended together into an unrecognizable conglomerate with only food as a distinctive characteristic, while she saw in our demonstration a very unique and distinguishable culture in every aspect.

We were so thankful to meet again, in another setting, so many of the fine people of Rutland. There are unseen barriers separating all groups of people, that most are content to live behind, being somewhat fearful of pushing beyond and breaking free of them. It satisfies something deep inside of us to find ways to reach out to the people we live with, as we understand the mistrust that clouds and darkens modern life. We came from the midst of it ourselves, after all.

It is why we keep holding open forums, for instance, knowing the difficulties firsthand of being face to face and voicing your inner thoughts, hopes, and convictions—what we call "expressing one’s heart". The everyday experience of our gatherings in our communities where all are free to speak, from the “least” to the “greatest” (as the Bible describes), is something we wish to share with others, and Open Forums are one way to do this. Indeed, every conversation is an opportunity for all—each person—to be real and open with the things they are really thinking about and concerned with. It is a chance to break free of the superficiality that smoothes over life’s difficulties while avoiding any hope of solution. So, each new day is one of hope in our midst, a hope that has not disappointed us these thirty-five years, and a hope we hope to share with others.

Next, we go on to Burlington, Vermont, east across its northern cities and villages, landing in Island Pond, and then on to New Hampshire, traveling from north to south. See our schedule above and consider meeting the Caravan on its travels. You won’t be disappointed.

More coming soon!!!

For more information contact eastcoast@merrymakerscaravan.org

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Merrymakers' Caravan