Every year in September's third week, Durham buzzes with a bit more energy and activity than normal. As the Durham Fair enter's it's 94th year, it becomes clear that the residents of this town have been embracing the event for many years now. To discover this, one simply has to walk down Main Street to see the plethora of activity. As long as the fair has existed, so has Dr. Francis Korn, one of Durham's oldest and prominent residents. For most of his 98 years, he has lived in the very heart of Durham center, equally centered between the north and south ends of town. He's seen a lot of things. As a physician, he has seen the runny noses and injuries of many of the townfolk. He has witnessed the evolution of the automobile and remembers a time when the early model Fords would share the roads with horse and carts. He has also seen Durham grow from a small farming hamlet to a larger suburban dwelling.
Despite the town's many changes, one of the things that have remained a constant in his many years is The Durham Fair. He's doesn't remember the details of his first fair, he would have been too young. Back in 1916, he was pushed in a baby pram by a relative named Ed Shelly, a Civil War veteran. They would walk the distance from his home on Main Street and he would have his first view of the exciting new fair at only 6 weeks old. He would continue coming to nearly 93 more fairs. The fair would bring all of Durham out for a day or two, and he would enjoy seeing people he sometimes hadn't seen since the previous year at the fair.
The fair was much smaller back in his youthful years, bringing mostly those from Durham and just a few neighboring towns. He recalls, "There was a long barn paralleling the cemetery for the cows. The kids would go the night before the fair and sleep in the barn. The kids would sleep up against the animals to stay warm overnight. Most everyone had a cow, to some degree, everyone was a farmer." Dr Korn looks most forward to seeing the Farm History Museum at the fair to catch a glimpse into his yesteryear.
Dr. Korn remembers being a passenger in his mom large DeSoto as they headed down to town green to see the event. Like today, their was a great buzz around town leading up to the fair. The green had been transformed into a carnival with a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel and games of chance that flanked the edges. To further explain the experience, active Fair Committee member, Malcolm Pearce Jr. recalled some of his own experiences. "The basement of the town hall would house kids exhibits. Our teacher would have us hand carry our entries from the school on Friday afternoon. On Saturday our mothers and fathers would bring us back to the town hall and the place would have been transformed into a mass of colorful exhibits and ribbons. Everyone got a ribbon, no matter how bad the project was. I got my first prize in 1936."
Mal continues, "The cow pulls were the hi-light of the fair, then at noon, the fair would come to a stop and all would all head down to the Methodist Church basement where many townswomen would have prepared a big potluck meal. Despite the busy harvest season, the two men recalled a change in the date from the second week in October to its current September date because organizers feared the vegetables were going to freeze and flowers would be well past their prime.
Even in the early day's of the fair, food played an important role. While everyone ate at the church or the grange, some had the opportunity to delve into the culinary world and judge pies that had been baked and entered into the fair. Depending on the skill of the baker, the lucky or sometimes unlucky judge would have their hand in tasting the creations and awarding ribbons. Photography, another department also grew tremendously making its way into the fair especially when Kodak's Kodachrome became available to the masses.
When asked if there were any entertainment acts that seemed memorable, they remember few in the early days. The fair centered wholly on agriculture, but both remembered a man by the name of Reggie Bolt, who worked as a sheep hand for Brewster's Farm. He would herd the sheep from where Greenbackers is today and use his 4 sheep dogs to drive 50 sheep down route 68 and take them to the north end of the green. Reggie would take the sheep, all white accept a black one in the middle and make a big tight circle. He would have one of his dogs jump onto the the backs of the sheep herd. Once it found the black sheep, it would jump down and start nipping at its heels to pull it out of the pack. Malcolm smiles and says, "I was just a kid and nobody had ever seen anything like it. Kids gathered along 68 to see the sheep come down the road. It was incredible."
The Durham fair has stood the test of time alongside the Great Depression and two World Wars. Its history is as important to this community as the people who have worked to define it. 700 community volunteers make the event possible, many which whom are decedents of the first fair goers from 1916. On Thurday, Dr. Korn and Mal Pearce will be the first fair entrants for the 2013 Fair, reminding us to cherish the fair's traditions alive and keep it close to your hearts.
Teacher's run with the Strong Cross country team.
We are growing into a running community. It's virtually undeniable. We are so hyped up on a runners high, that our district schools are fully engaged in the effort. I can't help but feel like these photos from today envision Coginchaug pride at its best. At the lower school level we're launching Go Far to into its 7th full year. Just the other day 99 percent of the students at Lyman school participated in kick off day day of recess running. Go Far volunteers have been hard at work, creating this year's framework for a successful program. If you want to help build this healthy community, get involved with the Go Far team, you wont regret it. Brewster, Korn and Memorial schools are all set to start their programs in the coming days. As my kids get older and Go Far continues to run, I am shifting my focus to support the upper school programs. If your kids also have turned the corner towards the upper schools, there are many ways we can support their teams. As Go Far in the lower schools continues to act as a feeder program, their is no doubt in my mind that our upper schools are fully capable of producing championship teams. Prior to today's high school meet, Strong's huge team held a special practice with VIP's in attendance. Thanks to the efforts of enthusiastic coaches, teachers that care and a great principal leader, I cant help but notice more and more positivity growing out of the Strong community. Much of the school's faculty came down to Allenbrook to run with their student athletes showing immense school pride and support of this promising group of runners. Furthermore, I was greatly encouraged by the fact that during this week, both Coginchaug and Strong runners came out to cheer for each other at their respective meets. As a community, Durham and Middlefield are figuring out how to Go Far together, something I had always hoped and believed could be possible. Today Coginchaug High School held their annual Run To The Sun cross country meet, producing some great performances. Our high school team has an amazing spirit thanks to the nurturing on many levels by their esteemed coaches. Christian Aberico and other teammates produced inspired performances while many of the younger Strong athletes looked on. Parent's, athletes and teachers alike, I encourage you to encourage each other. There's nothing out of reach when a strong community works together to make things possible. Go Far!
See all the pics on my website.
I sit here on my birthday night full of my mom's lasagna and birthday cake. Outside I hear an owl melodically singing his song. "Who Who" he questions? I turn and lean my head out the window, "We'll it's me", I say back to him. He seems to keep asking "Who, Who" again and again? Somewhat wearisome I say, "It's Jennifer Schulten, 42 year old, mother, wife and whatever else you want to throw in the bag." I could show him my Facebook feed or an album full of photos to explain who I am, but instead I sit and and think.
There is a beauty to being 42. I know who I am. I have spent a good number of years trying to figure it out. There's always the who I may become, but I know who I am right now. Who I am can not be found in an iPhone full of selflies. Instead, who I am is reflected in the thousands of photos of the people I feel connected with. Call me a hub for those who need to be seen for whatever the reason. I cherish who I am because I am fortunate to be trusted to witness WHO you are. Who is a heavy question for an owl to ask of someone that just had to come up with some sort of wish as she blew out her birthday candles. Beginning to fall into a cake coma, my eyes begin to get heavy hoping I answered his question. As I drift to sleep, I can't help but think 42 reminds with WHO….let's see what tomorrow brings.
Heaven is a place that is hard to fully imagine. Is it full of white puffy clouds, the way it has been portrayed in storybooks? Are you welcomed by the voice of Morgan Freeman? Are you put in some game show outside the golden gates where you have to answer one final question to gain access? I don't know, but my mind can't help but wonder if there is some close association to our earthly personas. Because of my active imagination, I have a picture of it in my mind. It looks something like a vista we would see in New Zealand, perhaps a field of purple and yellow flowers blanketing an undulating hill that leads down to a calm phosphorescent blue lake. Since we lost our friend Melissa Albin yesterday, my view of heaven seems even more welcoming. Up there, they are very lucky to have her for a perfect angel has come to light. She looks the part, because she has spent her life playing the role of angel better than just about anyone I know. A beautiful woman in white sits criss cross with a circle of little children around her. The children sit and pick at the daisy shaped flowers as they await their story time. She asks them how their day is, listening fully as she did when she was here. A small child looks up at the beautiful angel and says that she misses her mommy. Seeing her sad face, Melissa holds up a magical book and opens it. The little girl comes closer because she wants to see the details. The little one takes a flower and slides it into the nook of the angels ear as she cozies into her lap. The angel's wings gently wrap around the little one making her feel safe and loved. The images in the book move, much like in Harry Potter. Melissa expresses the thoughts seen in the images that are familiar to the child who gazes into them. The children in the circle lean forward to get a closer glimpse into the little girls story. Somehow Melissa is connecting the little girl to her family that she misses, telling her that the girl's brother is learning how to ride his bicycle without his training wheels. Wide-eyed, the girl looks into the book and sees and image of her brother riding and her mother running arms-stretched out, close behind smiling a proud smile. The little girl smiles and puts her head against the beautiful angel. She is feeling connected to both heaven and earth.
Melissa, will you be our connection? Will you help us connect to something far greater than what we are capable of here on earth? You still have the ability to transcend what feels disconnected by finding a way to bring us closer. Your's is a presence that will always be. I have no doubt in this. We love you.
Early on, when my son Peter was in in Kindergarten, it became undeniable that he needed to run. The first time I realized this was while we were waiting out at the bus stop. In the 10 minutes we waited, he had run back and forth a good mile up and down the neighbor's long driveway. I gave him a hug goodbye and worried not for him, but for his teacher. This kid had energy. He had the type of energy that could be bottled and sold as rocket fuel to NASA. In that moment, Go Far was born. In the typlified school setting, he would struggle to contain his energy so I knew we had an uphill battle. By first grade, I had hashed out a plan to help him put his energy to good use. John Lyman is a very "Green" school. I had contemplated setting up some treadmills and having the kids help power the overhead lights, but alas, the principal already thought my unconventional ways may stretch the rules. Instead, we started a recess running program. In the first year, the kids at John Lyman ran 3500 miles at recess. Crazy enough, all they needed to do this was a pile of popsicle sticks, some charms, t-shirts for rewards and some really enthusiastic mentors tho had their best interest in mind. As it turns out, there were lots of other kids just like Peter who needed to run! Go Far has grown to happen at all the lower schools in RSD 13 and its efforts have produced over 50,000 dopamine driven, Goldfish cracker-powered kid-miles.
Not surprisingly, Peter still runs. He takes his role of Go Far poster child super seriously. Even Kate, his book-powered sister has discovered the wonderful community of CRHS running. She loves the experience. Cross Country at Strong School begins Monday. For a boy who has worn out more sneakers than you can imagine, Pete is so excited to finally be part of an official school team. After all, he's been preparing for a while now. He's ready to put the strong in Strong along side his teammates. For myself, what is so special about this upcoming team at Strong is that it will be the first class of students who have had a running program available to them since they were virtually toddlers. Those who have run Go Far over the years already understand the enthusiasm and love associated with the sport. They know they'll never sit idle as a member of this team. They know they have value because the adults in their lives are invested in them. They have already unknowingly been part of a team for 6 years and will bring their experience and base as athletes to the next level. To this new team, they will bring with them the integrity, perseverance and sportsmanship that Go Far demands.
So this is the call to all of our Go Far runners from over the years to lace up those sneakers. You're ready to be the new stars of Coginchaug's storied running history. Rather than earning little charms, know that a state championship is a reward within you're capabilities if you stick together and grow the upper school program. A good team is born with not only the fastest of runners, but also the more recreational runners that enhance everyone's experience. I dare all of you to let those running legs guide you through the many challenges of middle and high school. You won't be disappointed. I am very excited to cheer you on as you reach your goals!
From you're dedicated running momma , Mrs. Schulten
Many of us awoke to news of a close friend experiencing the unspeakable. Today she lay in a hospice struggling as her wonderful husband and family keep vigil. Typical of my morning routine, before mustering the kids, I'll grab the ipad to catch a glimpse of what the day will bring. I opened my email to see a Caring bridge notification. If you have lived in this town a while, the cancer social networking site has become our everyday reality. The sinking feeling was already there. Having conversed with her husband earlier in the weekend, I sensed the hard truth of where his heart-felt writing was heading. If we're anything alike, you may be feeling as hopeless as I do. So with tears in my eyes, I went to rustle Peter out of bed, telling him it's time to start his day. I felt angry that she was robbed of this simple task of waking her own child. I'll shamefully admit, it wasn't only she what I was thinking about. Our own daily dance with our mortality plays this "what if" game in our heads. What if this was me? When the guilt of thinking that thought set in, I sluggishly moved forward ashamed of my thoughts.
Some of us headed to work or stayed home. Maybe, you went for a walk or reached out to a friend looking for a bit of normalcy. Despite the small town charm and cheer that our town usually affords us, the muggy overcast day seemed to act as a shroud to the brighter side of life. Little of what I write here can change some of life's destined outcomes. I wish more than anything, like the author of a book, I could craft the perfect ending to each story I come upon. Everyone deserves to live happily ever after. But to my friend, her husband, her family and friends, this chapter is a painful one. My librarian friend, once again you are reading to us. As you spell out your chapter, the best we can do is sit back, listen and learn. Please know that we are all in this together hinging on your words. Our stories are all unequivocally linked together through community, friendships and family. Like a great novel, your story is now a classic to be loved and passed onto everyone you have touched. Yours is the very finest of love stories.
So we all pray for you, as those you love hold your hand, we hold your heart.