Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So, how was your holiday?

Hope y'all had a great holiday weekend. Ours was very full and active and quite wet.

It rained most of the days on both Sunday and Monday. We're not just talking showers. Nope. We're talking pouring, hard, driving rain - sort of like a monsoon.

We headed to Johnstown, PA on Saturday to attend the annual Ethnic Festival that has become a Labor Day tradition there. Held in the historic Cambria City community, this festival is put on by the churches in the area.
At one time, there were something like 11 churches within about 8 blocks on two parallel streets. Each had their own ethnic flavor - Polish, German, Greek, Irish, Slovak, Italian, etc. Each church sold various ethnic foods and provided both ethnic and generally popular entertainment on street stages and indoors. Most of these very ornate, Old World style churches were open for tours throughout the festival, too. Many families use the weekend as a sort of family reunion time or a "homecoming," so to speak. Those who have left the area but can still make the trip home, often return for the weekend of partying and reconnecting with friends and former neighbors on the streets of Cambria City.

A few years back, the Catholic Archdiocese decided it was no longer financially feasible to support 5 churches within a 4 block area and combined all to form one. Many thought this would be the death of the festival but the remaining churches attempted to do their best to put on a smaller but successful event. Johnstown natives rallied around them and the festival has quickly recovered. Though not quite it's former self, it has grown tremendously over the last few years and provides three full days of free music, wonderful food and lots of fellowship in the streets.
Can't find a washboard to play? Why not strum a
ridged water bottle with a plastic knife?

It is still one of the highlights of our summer. We gather at a friend's home there for a kind of grown-up slumber party for the whole weekend. Often, we have as many as 4 couples and a few stray offspring staying there together.

The mountains of Western Pennsylvania usually provide a cool and comfortable respite from the super hot and humid air we experience here along the Chesapeake. This was not the case when we arrived on Saturday. It was hot (in the 90s) and very humid. (Our hostess once joked they get their share of "humid" days. They get 3 or 4 every summer!) We did, nonetheless, wander the festival, moving from one shaded area to the next. A cold beer here, a bottle of water there and a shot of AC here and there along the way as we wandered in and out of the various tents, pavilions and open pubs listening to music and sampling the foods.

Sunday started gray and only got wetter as the day went on. We didn't let it bother us - much. We eventually holed up in one of the festival pavilions where we circled our chairs near the food and beer and listened to a live band while the storms simply trained through. ("Training" storms are multiple storms following closely behind one another on the same course.) When we hit a lull in the rain, we proceeded down the street to our friend's social club where we settled in to hear a fantastic Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash tribute band. While it wasn't my chosen style of music, I must admit these folks were great and really channeled the spirits of Johnny and June.

When the rains come down,
folks entertain themselves
by challenging each other
to tests of physical skills.

On Monday,
one of our "visiting chefs" rose before dawn to prepare a super spread of biscuits and gravy for the whole gang. (Another tradition he performs every time we're all together for an overnight stay.) Following breakfast, those of us who had traveled headed back down the highway. We had three separate parties to attend later in the day.

A 4-hour drive in the rain brought us home to clearing skies and a quickie stop-over at home to unload the car before heading off to our first party. The first event was at a friend's home on a beautiful quiet cove on one of the nearby rivers. They pretty much have the river to themselves there and the kids spent the day jumping off the dock onto an inflatable slide, being pulled on rafts by a motorboat and rambling around in a paddle boat. The air was filled with shrieks and laughter.

After a brief shower, a rainbow
formed over the river.

(This was the calm
before the storm!)

As The Big Guy and I both grew up whiling away many an hour doing the same at our respective grandparents' river homes, the sights brought back fond memories for both of us. So fond, that we didn't even mind the rain when it started. (It didn't phase the kids at all!! After all, they were already wet.) And, Boy, did it rain!!

Funny though, I tried to take pics showing the kids playing in the river in the pouring rain (There was no thunder or lightning so it was safe on the water) but the rain doesn't show at all in the pictures. Seriously, it was coming down so heavy, visibility was limited. That did not, however, disturb the kids one bit.

We were sitting under a small canopy
eating steamed crabs when it began to pour. We scooted a little further under and all was well until the wind shifted. We got wet. Actually, that's an understatement. We just about drowned! We joked that we should have simply jumped off the dock with the kids.

When the rains let up a little, we made a run for the car and moved on to the second party. This is a family thing where we knew we'd be welcome even if we were dripping. At that point, we were running about 2 hours behind. We learned our third activity (at our neighbor's) had been canceled due to the rain so we simply relaxed and sat on the plastic patio furniture and eventually began to dry. As that crowd dwindled, we had a chance to really chat with a few folks that we really don't spend enough time with. Ultimately, it was a wonderful evening.

Much as I hate to see Labor Day Weekend roll around as it means the end of summer, I've got to say, I loved this weekend!!

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