Last evening, on a warm summer’s night in our small sister burghs of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada and Calais, Maine, USA, a few thousand people gathered on both sides of the St. Croix river banks to watch colorful fireballs burst in the sky.
Every year, these two towns conclude the week of ChocolateFest with a grand “International Festival,” sporting parades, markets and community events such as the annual Rock Skipping contest.
It is small town Canadiana/Americana at its best, as people wander in and out of moments of laughter, culinary spectacle and sugar-high romance that yearly spice our small, quirky holiday week.
Two friends and I grabbed a guitar, mandolin and hammered dulcimer and headed into the thick of the marketplace to busk till dusk (or until I couldn’t see the strings on the hd anymore). As people milled about, they were drawn to the music, and at one point, we had a small crowd standing around our little acoustic threesome drawn to the bright business of music – melodies, rhythms, words and textures drawing the soul to expand, the heart to rumble, the mind to think and the feet to tap.
By nightfall, we had played ourselves out, and our small shared repetoire had played itself out as well (most of it we improvised, much to the surprise of friends we let in on the secret). Ending with a reeling version of We Three Kings, just to cool down the summer skin, we found that $70 had found it’s way into our cases.
Not exactly a prince’s fortune, but a pauper’s gratefully found.
As the fireworks burst overhead, and the oohs and aahs uttered by obliging adults and awe-filled children buzzed like an erratic, polytonal chorus, I stared into the crowd. Each person was like a human firework – all color, and fire and stunning.
Lit up with each burst was my community – a place and a people I now call my own. No symphonies accompanied our gathering; no great political pundits ushered in our festivities. But a good time was had by all.
That’s we do in small towns, if we can rise about our heartaches, on a warm summer’s night.