Sometimes, a few people get together and create something amazing. In the last year I got involved with a theater for the first time and saw how a few talented people can create something that will stun and amaze you and take your breath away.
On Sunday night I saw something similar but different. A whole community can came together and, as a group, create something amazing that would take your breath away – The Feast of the Falls. From the start this has been a wonderful undertaking but by all accounts, this year was was the best yet.
What makes it most remarkable is how it happens – the neighborhood makes it happen. From the first year, at it’s core, the Feast has blindly relied on the neighbors of Upper Falls to just make it happen.
That first year, at the last minute, the organizers realized there had been a serious oversight. When the Feast was over and everything had to be disassembled it would be dark. A call when out the night before via email and the next afternoon, the day of the Feast, people streamed over Echo Bridge carrying extensions cords and lights and a mini-NStar was assembled in the afternoon to illuminate the entire stretch of aqueduct that night for the tear-down. That is the essence of the Feast of the Falls.
The Feast of the Falls is a gourmet dinner for 350 people at one beautifully appointed table in Hemlock Gorge. If you live in the neighborhood, it’s free! Because it’s free, the entire neighborhood is there, it’s not just a certain sliver of the neighborhood and that makes it something very special.
But even more special is that the neighbors come out in droves to create it out of whole cloth, which is a good thing, because that’s the only way it could ever happen. Sunday night there were about 75 volunteers in a dozen roles – the kitchen crew at Dunn Gaherins worked all day Saturday slicing, dicing and prepping. The setup crew poured over Echo Bridge yesterday afternoon and started setting up tables, chairs, table cloths, flowers, signs, etc in blistering 90 degree heat. The on site kitchen crew began mid-afternoon cooking and prepping. The 20+ VIP servers arrived later in the afternoon. Some of the regulars Servers, our elected officials, couldn’t make the rain date so they recruited their replacements (Kay Kahn, Marcia Johnson, Susan Albright). The all-important “runner” team arrived. The Hospitality Team set themselves up on the bridge to welcome everybody and check them in. The musicians arrived – Carriage House Violins ensemble and local Newton folks (Crowe’s Pasture). The sound system arrived. The drone pilot arrived! Once the church bells began ringing at 5 PM, thanks to our local pastor, the guests began streaming in over Echo Bridge and everything just started clicking into place.
At this year’s Feast the quality of the food, the mood of the guests, the operation behind the scenes all were the best yet – and all because the neighborhood en-masse made it happen.
My favorite detail was a guy named Patrick who came up and introduced himself at the start. He said he came last year and this year he wanted to help – “give me a job” he said. We sent him off to start up the generator. “Give me another job”. We sent him off to haul heavy stuff the length of the aqueduct. “Give me another job” He walked the length of the table handing out napkins to all the guests. We kept telling him to sit down and eat but no, he just wanted to help.
As dinner ends, it’s getting dark and the guest all leave and there is a mountain of stuff to be hauled out of Hemlock Gorge. By about 10:30, the park is pristine and back to exactly the state it was the day before – and all by the hands of neighborhood volunteers that just get the job done.
Clearly there’s a lot of organization that goes into something like this but for me the best part is the essentially unorganized part. Right from the first year, the event has always been built on a leap of blind faith – we always trust that lots of our Upper Falls neighbors will just show up unannounced and say “give me a job”, and that’s what truly makes it all happen.