Had it ever been suggested that the Strolling Fair would improve if it was squeezed onto the Common such a notion would have been summarily dismissed with a great guffaw. Not worth the effort even thinking about. Then the Retreat decided that it could no longer tolerate an entire day of tumult on its front lawn. Its residential denizens became too frazzled and distraught staring out between the iron bars at the frolicking crowd eating ice cream and dripping sausage, oblivious to the fate of those inside. The Strolling was booted. Like it or not it was going to be packed onto the Common. This produced one of the best Fairs ever!
The compactness created more excitement. The density was creating community as people rubbed shoulders at booths and tables and couldn’t get from one place to another without making eye contact to avoid collisions and bumps. Ten thousand people cheerfully accommodating each other in vibrant confines. Courtesies, waves and nods of forgiveness extended with ease. Every place seemed busier. The ambience was a relentless low but joyful roar. The joint resounded with kinetic energy. A great occasion indeed. If there were problems, and I know there were, they weren’t apparent to the crowd. A sure sign of a well run event. Hats off to the Strolling staff.
And of course the parade. Excellent in every respect. Not sensational. Main Street is not Fifth Avenue and it shouldn’t be. But in it’s natural simplicity and jiggly fun it evoked pure Vermont hometown/small town delight. It had pizzazz and relevance. The sun was warm, the leaves green and gently rustling. It was a storybook summer day. The paraders waved and smiled and danced, threw candy and played music. One felt bathed in sweetness and light.
Including one superbly well placed, well designed and well executed if not fully effective Die-In. Bodies strewn across the parade path, delaying the parade for 13 minutes, was intended to loudly clarion the climate emergency and focus our attention on the reality that sustainability, the very journey of the Strolling itself, hinges on whether or not we change our way of life radically and quickly enough to dodge the fatal consequences of growing climatic chaos. They even thoughtfully timed their action to avoid agitating the animals or keeping the elderly in the hot sun.
The media was all over it. Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman, who accepted an invitation to co-announce with Tim Johnson, did a lovely job of getting into the spirit of things and admirably filled the gap with relevant chatter about sustainability issues. The Lt. Gov. noted that the activists needed a few objective statements but remained mildly supportive. These were all very young people just learning what it means to speak up.
A minor irony that blew by everyone was the Lt Gov. exhorting the protesters to give it up by invoking the fact that all the parade vehicles remaining in the jam were sitting and idling. He of course should have addressed the vehicle drivers to turn off their engines. State law prohibits idling for more than five minutes.
Indeed, these were our own high school students and grads telling us that our community and leadership must take immediate action or in very few years mass death will not be a staged demonstration. A second hats off to very concerned, aware and courageous young activists risking their own welfare for all of us.