Everyone knows that I frequently refer to one of the happiest places in the world as a little farm up in the New York Amish countryside between the cities of Sherman and Panama. It’s the site of the Great Blue Heron Festival, my most celebrated event of the year. I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with the benefactors of the festival, the Steve and Julie Rockcastle.

They called the weekend the ‘Ski and Stamp’ weekend because they were assembling the yearly bulk-mailer for all of the festival attendees. It’s no easy task, because while I don’t have actual number, I can safely guess that there were about 10,000 envelopes to be stuffed that weekend. With such an enormous task, Julie sent an email out to the Blue Heron volunteers and asked for some help.

Meanwhile, myself, Nathan and DPM were shaking morbidly as a result of the on-setting effects of cabin fever. It had been the worst winter that any of us had endured in our lives; more snow, more cold and longer in duration than any winter we’ve seen. So when I got Julie’s email, we knew we had to go.

The drive was very difficult, as the snow only pounded harder the closer we got. When we got off the highway exit, we were surprised that the roads around the Blue Heron property weren’t even plowed. We had considered taking my Toyota instead of the 4×4 Blazer, a mistake that would have cost us the weekend (and probably our lives 😯 )

We were a little unsure what to expect when showed up the at the property. We timidly approached the door, our hands full of food we cooked the night before. Unsure we were at the right place on the property, we were pleasantly relieved when the queen bee, Julie greeted us at the back door.

Inside were about a dozen volunteers working like honey bees to assemble the mailer. We jumped right in to help with the task, but after about 30 minutes, Steve started setting out food. Between the butternut squash soup, my guacamole, someone’s jerk chicken and many other delicious items, it was a decadent and filling lunch. We could barely digest before someone piped up, “Who wan’t to go skiing?”

Now, it should be mentioned that neither myself, Nathan or DPM had ever cross-country skied before. Fortunately, DPM works at his campus sport outfitters and procured some rental cross country skis and snow shoes for us. We had assumed that DPM would be able to give us a crash course on the sport until he admitted that he’d never done it before.

Luckily, another member of the organization was a newbie too; Jim, a middle aged, easy-going guy was a pleasure to stumble through the woods with. We all fell around 3 times each, but the light, powdery snow made the ski seem like more of a walk.

After we returned and finished up the mailer, we decided to try our hand at snow shoeing. Julie had a pair also, and had some business to attend to up at the Coffee Shack (don’t you wish your property had a Coffee Shack?), so we accompanied her on her duties, trying to be as helpful as possible without getting in to the way. During our conversation, we had the opportunity to soak in some of the details of whats it takes to throw a massive music festival. As you’d expect, it takes a fleet of volunteers and the whole year to prepare for.

We when got back inside, we were greeted with one of the largest, most decadent meals I’ve ever seen. Everyone brought something (including us), so much food that one simply could not fit a sample of everything in to their stomachs. After gorging and another attempt at digesting, we helped Steve move some woods from the woodpile and prepared for some relaxation.

But, just like the festival, there’s little time to relax. We were soon up for another round of cross country skiing, which ended up being just us three in the Rockcastles. This time, the day’s worth of snow-shoeing and skiing had left nice, slick and compact snow for us, a breeze to ski on. It’s positively surreal to be skiing on the festivals property, lit only by moonlight, between Steve and Julie. It was such a beautiful view and unique perspective of an event that we love so much.

After we got back, we packed up and said our goodbyes. The Rockcastles have this unique ability to make strangers feel like family, an ability that we witnessed first hand. Not knowing what to expect when you arrive in someones house, we left feeling like we were the Rockcastles’ extended family.

Here are some pictures from the weekend.

Heron Ski and Stamp

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