My blog post this week was supposed to be about a totally different topic, but that feel good afterglow is telling me to delay the one scheduled and instead, to share what I can about our past weekend.
The small towns of Burlington, Smiths Harbour and Middle Arm, Newfoundland experience a population explosion, as chefs, musicians, comedians, artisans and festival goers, all gather for a celebration of Fire, food and music and the weekend event of the year.
The long drive to Burlington Newfoundland may be a deterrent to some, but if you’re lucky enough to have been there, especially during Gathering week, you’re one of us; Someone who would travel from the opposite corner of the earth to get there.
The drive from St John’s is a mere six hours, time well spent to rehash the adventures of years before. Are Dana and Margaret going to do the shed crawl with us this year? Are we going to get a moment after hours to get down to Barbs for a camp fire? Will Renee be there with the new baby??
We pull into Burlington and immediately we feel the excitement. There’s not a lot going one yet (We’re usually there a day early) but the bones are in place. The main stage in up and ready to house incredible musicians, the vendor tent is ready for colourful hand made products, the chef tent along with kitchen gear are standing by, just waiting to be filled with many different flavours of yummy, and there are already many trailers and RV’s scattered among the small town.
We pull into Lew and Janice’s yard, we were smart enough to prearrange to stay with them again during this years event. Lew greets us with a great big grin and right away we know we’re ‘Ome. As we start to unload, Lew is there to make sure we’re all set up with electricity and water.
“Bye’s if there’s anything else you need, make sure you ask. And if you happen to lose power, just bang on this side of the house and I’ll get you fixed up right away. There’s going to be so many trailers in the yard, we’re probably going to blow the breaker”from Lew, as we’re setting up.
Janice’s touches can be seen in our rented trailer. Wine glasses, ready for the pour, small elegant chocolates sit atop pillows on the lavishly made bed and a bottle of sparkly vino awaits us, already chilled in the fridge. We feel like we’re at a five star resort and not in a trailer in small town Newfoundland.
Let the Show begin
The first scheduled event is the homestyle dinner in Middle Arm, a small town adjacent to Burlington. This is the first year for the jiggs dinner, so we’re wondering how it’s going to play out.. Tables are set with everything we need, and volunteers are standing by, waiting to tend to the guests as they arrive. Delicious looking, home made cookies and pies adorn the table, hinting at the yummy things that are about to come our way.
The man of the hour, Shaun Majumder, takes the stage and after a bit of silliness and some well placed jokes , he welcomes us all to another Gathering. He officially opens the event and introduces the first musical act and with that, the volunteers start their work.
They pour from the kitchen in a manner like I’ve never seen before. I’ve attended many community meals before, but the steady stream of kids carrying plates of tatties, veggies and turkey was downright impressive. There was a couple of volunteers with styrofoam cups on a tray following closely behind. As the plates were placed on the table, offering a thick home made gravy to those who wanted to indulge.
The smell of Traditional Newfoundland tantalized us just moments before the meals were delivered. All the while we are being entertained by local musicians who impressed us with their talents. The meal did not disappoint, salty beef and flavours, just like Nan used to make, topped off with a variety of cookies, lemon meringue, partridge berry and blueberry pies.
Next up was the comedy show in the high school gym. Shaun M. himself warmed up the crowds and from there, comedians from’ Ome and away kept us rolling with laughter in our seats. Matt Wright was a personal favourite of mine (two years in a row now). His innocent and fresh demeanor seemed to be a juxtaposition of the dry and witty punch lines he fed us one after another, all the while strumming on his guitar. You honesty were on the edge of the seat wondering what was going to be said next. Shaun Majumder, Mark Critch and Susan Kent (all of This Hour has 22 Minutes/CBC)closed out the very successful comedy show.
The rest of the weekend went by in a blur of awesome; Vendors offered their wares to those Gathered. Treasures such as mummers, sealskin, artisan soaps, driftwood giftware, quilts and even a new brand of NL grown electric guitars. All hand picked because of their high quality, hand crafted products and attention to detail in their work.
Not to mention BPA was in the house as well, happy to play the role of sponsor, vendor curator and ‘Ome Town wanna be.
World class food was delivered by the likes of Roary Macpherson (Sheraton), Shaun Hussey (Chinched), Steven Vardy (Adelaide Oyster House),and Murray McDonald (Fogo Island Inn) and teams, served up flavours that tasted like they were prepared by the Gods themselves. Salmon, mussels, beef, chicken, and soups and stews, all prepared on the Gathering grounds and all perfectly flawless.
The sultry sounds of The Fortunate Ones, Port of Call, The Secrets, Shanneygannock, Alan Doyle and Sherman Downey made us tap our toes, clap our hands and dance in the moonlight like Jannies at Christmastime, after a neighbourly cup of cheer.
Sherman’s performance was particularly special for me. While I enjoy the music of the others, I openly confess to having a ‘musical crush’ on the Wild Strawberry that is Sherman Downey, with Isadora Duncan (honorable mention to his song Annalee) being one of my favourite tunes ever.
Chef Hikes, brook picnics, shed crawls and community breakfasts round out the ‘just gotta be there’ weekend. There’s so many wonderful people in these towns, so much talent, food and music, that a guest/visitor hardly knows what to do with oneself.
Time to leave ‘Ome
We saw so many old friends from last year, met some wonderful new people, heard some great music, laughed our faces off and had some incredible tasting food. I honestly consider it a privilege to be sponsor for this incredible event and can not wait to get back next year. If you think the pictures and words make this event sound nice, just realize its impossible to capture the real spirit of The Gathering in picture or words….you just have to be there to feel the love yourself.
Honourable mention goes out to the sweet butterfly who got stuck in our trailer late at night. Your visit added charm and much laughter to the weekend. Dana and Margaret did do the shed crawl, although we couldn’t get there ourselves…we were slightly envious of the good times to be had on the crawl. We didn’t get to Barbs campfire, but are hoping for the possibility for next year, and Renee was there with he gorgeous little man. Janice and Lew, thank you for being so good to us again this year..you both are part of the reason we feel like we’re ‘Ome when we’re in the Burl
Personally, I leave a little piece of me in Burlington, every year I visit. There is such a special feeling to the place, I wish I lived closer to the Burl, so I could recapture a little of that magical feeling that is ‘The Gathering’. Overall, we were all welcomed ‘Ome for another year with open arms. The whole town had on their biggest smiles, their warmest hospitality and everybody went out of their way to make The Gathering a very special time. Once again, we truly felt like we were ‘Ome. And heaven and all NLers know, There’s NO place in this world like ‘Ome.
That’s it for this time, if you have any questions, or comments, I’d love to hear them. If you’re really enjoying the BPA blogging adventures and don’t want to miss out, click ‘follow me’ and your name/email will be added to our growing list of blog subscribers.We’ll email you when a new blog post happens, then you can read them all at your own leisure…..and remember, I’m no expert, I’m just a painter gal with some thoughts to share.
What are your special memories from Summer 2015? Did you enjoy this blog? Have you ever been here?