All the best traditions come in the fall – apple pressing, pumpkin carving, the giving of thanks, the giving of gifts. On Nov. 1, the Vinalhaven community celebrated what islanders hope will become another fall tradition, the Windfall Festival.
That afternoon, islanders were invited to Lydia Sparrow’s farm for a “family-style country fair to celebrate our community.” The fair included cart rides, cider pressing, baking contests, pumpkin carving and scarecrow contests, sawing competitions, games, and music in addition to community to-getherness and goodwill.
The special day was the brainchild of Karen Jackson. After a summer and fall filled with the blasting, digging, dust, noise, and traffic congestion associated with the sewer construction that Vinalhaven is currently undergoing, Jackson felt the community needed something to “heal up people’s nerves.” A conversation with local merchant Bob Candage, and the idea was born. “I pulled together the best of anything I had ever been to,” said Jackson, referring to the way the idea for a fair progressed. She remembered a logging festival she once attended and decided to include sawing competitions. The cider pressing came to her from an apple fair she once visited in England, and so it went.
The festival “kept getting bigger and bigger because nobody was saying no” to her requests for help. “The Garden Club made magic,” she explained, by transforming Sparrow’s barn with their fall decorations.
Carlene Michael, also a Vinalhaven merchant, suggested that Jackson recruit the ninth grade class for the project. According to Jackson, they were “very enthusiastic.”
The Wednesday before the festival the students met with several island ladies in the Life Skills room at the new school to bake 20 pies for the event. The day of the fair the kids were already waiting when Jackson arrived to set up, and members of the class judged the children’s baking contest later that day, as well as helping to serve pies and ice cream and run the pumpkin-carving and scarecrow-making.
Jackson felt it was important for the festival to be a totally free event. This meant no fundraising, which tends to be a very pervasive activity on Vinalhaven. However, funds were necessary to get the ball rolling. Jackson was floored by the unsolicited generosity of local merchants and organizations. “The ARC [Arts and Recreation Center] activated the whole thing by donating $200,” she said. “Todd Brown [owner of Todd’s Garage] handed me $50 and I hadn’t even asked for anything!” She stressed that many townspeople were generous with their time and money. There was even anonymous help. A husband-and-wife team of clowns showed up to help bring cheer to the festival-goers. Jackson still doesn’t know who they are.
Jackson, and likely all who attended the festival, feels it was a great success. “This was something for us,” she emphasized. A new tradition that encompasses all the time-honored customs, the Windfall Festival was quite a gift indeed.