A Small Town Feel-Good Time: How a Shy Person Made a Bunch of New Friends Far From Home

If you read my last post, you know that Glittermoon & I were heading off to upstate NY for the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival last weekend.  I wish I had taken a picture of my car for you – it looked like the Beverly Hillbillies were driving a Volvo station wagon.

And I was going alone.

This caused me no little anxiety.  To be going all by myself was daunting; I had been hoping until the last moment that my friend and partner in crime would be able to go with me, but, alas, that was not to be.  If you were to meet me at a show or festival, you might think that I am outgoing.  But you would be surprised to learn that I am actually a terribly shy introvert.  I have worked hard for many years to overcome the shyness but it is still pretty alarming to contemplate jumping into an unknown situation, far from home, and all by my lonesome.  When I made the decision to light out on my own with Glittermoon, I became determined to stretch my boundaries.  I have been challenged six ways to Sunday but, oh boy, has it ever been worth it.

Which brings me to Sharon Springs, New York.  Population 547.

When I was booking my shows for Fall 2012, I got a wild hair one morning and decided to email Brent & Josh, the Fabulous Beekman Boys (who you might remember I met at the Country Living Fair in Atlanta last fall).  I really did not even expect to hear back from them.  But to my great delight, within an hour (!), I received this lovely email from Brent: “So nice to hear from you!  We would LOVE to have you come to the festival!”  Well, golly.  How could I refuse?

And so, this past Friday morning, I rolled into Sharon Springs to get the lay of the land the day before the festival was to begin.

Main Street in Sharon Springs the day before Harvest Fest.

This is important to me (the getting the lay of the land part) because it takes me a really long time to set up my booth and when you only have a couple of hours the morning before a show starts to unload, park your car, set your tent & tables up, hang pictures, and make your display ready, it is a prescription for unmitigated anxiety and a guaranteed sleepless night the night before.  Besides I had never been there before and did not know a soul.

That would soon change.

I parked the car in front of the Roseboro Hotel, the building which now houses the Beekman 1802 Mercantile and walked into the shop, hoping to see either Brent or Josh, but expecting that they would both be at the Farm getting ready for all the Tours the next day.

The Beekman 1802 Mercantile

Well, there was Brent behind the cash register talking to a couple of customers.  I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes.  After asking about where I might meet Joe Todd Campbell, the vendor coordinator and owner of The Finishing Touch, another shop in town, Brent took me outside and pointed the way up the street.  In fact, Joe Todd himself was walking in the distance.  So far so good.

Then I went next door to check out the other shop in the Roseboro: Garden Creations.  I can never resist a garden shop, especially when it also has a bunch of cool vintage stuff, too.  While I was nosing around inside, the owner, Beth, and I struck up a conversation and I learned all about how she had just opened the shop this past spring.  She was open and friendly and I had a lovely time talking to her.  She was genuinely interested in what I do.  I gave her my two business cards (one for Glittermoon Cards and one for Glittermoon Vintage Christmas) and she promised to come visit my booth if she could over the weekend.  Here is a picture of the front of her shop and that is Beth on the porch chatting to customers.By now, I was starting to feel a little more relaxed about things and I set off to find Joe Todd.  His shop is next to McGillycuddy’s Natural Soaps so I headed up there to see if I could find him.

He had disappeared.  So, I went into McGillycuddy’s to ask.  There was the owner, Deb, soap maker extraordinaire, talking with a couple of local friends.  As you enter, your nose is greeted by the most delicious scents and as I remarked upon it, Deb turned her attention to me with a big smile.  We got to talking and she told me that she made 120,000 bars of soap last year!!!!  Can you imagine?  WOW.  In addition to the beautiful soaps she makes for her own shop (from goat milk as well as olive oil and in fabulous molds), she makes the Beekman goat milk soaps.  I had recognized her from Beekman Boys TV show.     As we talked, I thought about how nice everybody seemed thus far.  Not only that but they were interested in me, too.

McGillycuddy’s Natural Soaps

Shortly, Joe Todd and his friend Harry appeared, I was introduced, and even though he was a bit stressed out with trying to figure out vendor placement (he said they had just discovered another 25 vendors!), he very generously walked me back down the street, past the Roseboro, and showed me where I was to set up.  We had had a phone conversation that morning and after I told him that I had a lot of heavy stuff and it was hard for me to cart it very far, he switched my spot to this one where I could simply carry my merchandise a few feet from where I could unload.  Well, how nice was that?  And then, I asked him the $64 question.  Was there, um, anyway I could set up today?  He thought for a moment and said, “Sure.”  Yippee!  I immediately felt my anxiety level dial down several notches.

The American Hotel on Main Street.Kismet struck when Brent & Josh stumbled upon the American. Their lives would shortly change in a profound way.

I went back to my hotel, changed clothes, and drove back to Sharon Springs in time to have lunch at The Black Cat Cafe, next to McGillycuddy’s.  I am sorry that I do not have a picture to show you but the cafe is small and intimate and I had a swell lunch there.  I told the gentleman who had seated me that I was a vendor for the Harvest Fest and asked if he had any breakfast pastries to go, thinking it would take care of breakfast the next day.  Well, one thing led to another and during the course of our conversation, I found out that Tony is the owner of the Black Cat.  I asked him if he knew of a good place in Cobleskill (where my hotel was) to get a good glass of wine & dinner, having had a less than stellar experience the night before,  and the answer was a definite “no”.  Instead, he suggested I should come to the Harvest Hop that evening, where they would have good food and beer from a local brewery.  As luck would have it, I had already purchased my ticket for the Hop in advance.

After lunch, I set about setting up my tent and display.  As I was working, a very pleasant fellow named Jim came over and introduced himself to me.  Turns out he is a food vendor, Two Bears Provisions (We Don’t Hibernate on Taste), who would be selling near my spot.  As we chatted, I was once again struck by just how, well, nice everybody I had met that day was.

As I once more drove back to Cobleskill to change for the Hop, I reflected that had I not met all these nice folks I probably would have chickened out on going to the Hop by myself.  I am so glad that I didn’t.

The front porch of the American all decked out for the Harvest Festival.

As I parked the car, I could hear the strains of music from within the firehouse.  I went in and handed my ticket to a girl with a lovely, smiling face.  I recognized her from the show, her name is Maria.  And as she looked at my ticket, she recognized my name.  She made me feel immediately welcomed.

On the way to the bar, I passed Josh and Brent, who were sitting at a table.  I smiled and introduced myself to Josh and he shot back with a great big smile himself.  How nice!

 I chose an Ommegang ale and after looking around for a second, decided to head towards the food.  As I walked by, an arm reached out and grabbed me.  It as Tony and he was chatting with another fellow named Art Dudley to whom I was introduced.  As it turns out, Art and I have some commonality and I enjoyed our conversation tremendously.  He and his band were slated to play the music for the square dancing later on in the evening.  Eventually, I drifted over to the food window and was warmly greeted by Margie of My Sister’s Place Cafe, and her son, Sean.  Once again, conversation ensued and by the time I had my food, I felt that we were old friends.  They invited me to the cafe for dinner on Saturday night.  What is it with this place?

I settled down with my food to listen to the music.  I felt as though I was back in Virginia or my own small hometown as folksy bluegrass played and I watched the people of all ages who were sitting around me.  As I sat there, I thought to myself, this whole scenario just so wonderfully wholesome.  I stayed longer than I had planned, attempted to dance to an undanceable song, watched some square dancing, had a fun chat with Brent and Josh, and then headed for Cobleskill with a smile on my face, feeling more relaxed that I can ever remember feeling the night before a show.

Cobbler & Co. A quirky shop on Main Street packed to the gills with gifts of all sorts.

Saturday morning came early. After 2 nights in a hotel room with an ancient A/C unit that played a sort of cacophonous Anvil Chorus through the wee hours, I was bone tired.  But driving the 12 miles to Sharon Springs I was struck by how incredibly beautiful the landscape was in the early morning light.  No wonder Josh and Brent had fallen hard.  The rain during the night had washed everything clean and the clouds were scudding away in a golden and blue sky.  I was looking forward to what the day would bring.

As I went about setting up my displays, Jim from the Two Bears came over to let me know that he had come by during the night to check on my tent because he was concerned by the wind.  What a swell guy.  Here he was, a perfect stranger, looking out for me.  I felt very humbled.

When the wooden riser I use to display baskets of my prints collapsed, my near neighbor, Ben, painter of feel-good paintings, was there to help with his nail gun.  While he was unselfishly taking the time away from his own set-up, I found out that he is a former carpenter turned cardiac care nurse.  In other words, a prince of a fellow.  Interestingly, he had nailed one of his own canvases to the telephone pole on the corner and planned on leaving it there “to see what happens.”  His paintings were priced ridiculously low because he wanted them to go to anyone who wanted one.  His plan: sell out so he can paint all new ones for next year.

By nine, my vendor neighbors and I were all set to conduct business.  Shortly, the quiet little town swelled with people – lots of people.  They came from near and they came from far.  I had a wonderful time talking with everyone – they were just so darn friendly and nice and excited to be there.  Over the course of the next two days, I felt as though I made tons of new friends from all over the country.  There reportedly were 10,000 people who came to the Harvest Fest.  And never once, unbelievably in this hot-blooded election year, did I hear even one political statement or comment all weekend long.  It’s astonishing.

The Glittermoon tent all set up and ready to go.

It was as though everyone had partaken of a magic potion because something akin to joy emanated from every single person.  I have never seen anything like it.

The truly amazing thing is that every last one of those 10,000 people are friends of the Beekmans.  Brent and Josh spent all day for 2 days on the front porch of the Mercantile chatting up every single person who came and every single person felt special.  They truly are (and I have been saying this ever since I met them almost a year ago) the nicest, most down-to-earth, polite, and interested people you will ever want to meet.

The following encapsulates part of the Beekman philosophy.  When asked if they really wanted to do a Season 3 of their TV show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, this is what Josh replied: “Yes, we do. It’s a big time investment, and can sometimes be a strain on our personal lives, but honestly, we’re really proud of what the show has accomplished. There aren’t a lot of positive media messages in the world about rural communities, being a good neighbor, and working hard for rewards. We think that there should be more. We try to represent the beliefs and values we see around us, and not those of typical reality TV excess and bad behavior. The show has also been a valuable contributor to our local community, which we’d like to continue.”

Looking back towards the Roseboro from behind my tent on Main Street.

People who bought from me on Saturday came back on Sunday just to say hi; several folks plan to visit me at other shows this fall; and everyone was incredibly complimentary of my work.  My vendor neighbors were a delight in every way, I am so glad to have met them. I expect that we will stay in touch despite geographical distance.  A couple of vendors made a point to come by to meet me after we had commented on the Harvest Festival Facebook page in the weeks before leaving home.  All my new Sharon Springs friends, Deb, Beth, Margie, Joe Todd, and Tony came by at some point over the weekend, too. On Sunday afternoon, Brent and Josh were able to make a circuit and stop by to speak with us all, too.

Oftentimes at the end of a show, many vendors, who have been perfectly pleasant all weekend, suddenly become less than nice in their hurry to pack up and get out.  Not so in Sharon Springs.  Everybody took their time and everybody helped, or offered to help, each other.  As I was trying to get my tent back into its storage bag, all of a sudden another pair of hands were there to assist me.  My new friend and next-door neighbor, Dana, a potter from New York City and I had big hugs for each other.  Across the way, Scott, whose botanical scanographs are gorgeous, came over to give me one of his pretty bookmarks to remember him by.  Tony stopped by to give me a yummy Blaak Cheese-Potato-Leek Tartlet for the road.

Some of my neighboring vendors. That’s Scott, creator of “Earthy Originals,” in the green sweater

This is a long post yet I don’t seem to be able to find the words I need to describe just how special this weekend was.  It was an experience that I went into with some trepidation, and there were definite challenges along the way, but I had a wonderful time that I will always remember.

Thanks, Sharon Springs, for the memories.  I just might be back again next year.  I hope so, anyway.

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21 thoughts on “A Small Town Feel-Good Time: How a Shy Person Made a Bunch of New Friends Far From Home

  1. What a fantastic post from the weekend! I was one of the ones who bought a picture on Saturday and came back on Sunday to get a magnet. (Magnet is on my fridge and my picture is in a frame, just have to decide where to hang it now) I must say, I agree with everything you posted about from how friendly everyone was waving and just saying Hi all the time, to how fantastic Josh and Brent are.

    I’m certainly glad you made the trek to Sharon Springs yourself, and had a fantastic time. Fingers crossed you’ll be back in Sharon Springs in 2013, and you’ll get to meet even more people!

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  2. Loved the story…thank you so much for sharing your experience. I have been trying to attend one of the shows since last year but living in NC it was difficult. Now, I am in New Baltimore, NY…about two hours away from Sharon Springs and I will definitely be there, as a vendor, in the Spring for the festival and again in the fall for Harvest Festival. What you described is what I expected from everything I have read about Sharon Springs. Hope to see you there in the Spring.

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  3. What a wonderful read, it allowed me to relive a little from the magic from the weekend. Ron and I stopped by your tent on the Sunday morning before we had to head back to Illinois. We liked so many of your pictures and bought 2. I am sure we will be buying many more from your website. Hope to see you at future Harvest Festivals.

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  4. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s just as you say, and I had a similar experience. Tony was so friendly and sweet to my three year old son at breakfast both mornings, Josh and Brent stood for hours being gracious, Maria is just the nicest, kindest person. I could go on and on. Sharon Springs has beautiful energy.

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  5. Wonderful post I could picture it all! I have visited Sharon Springs at other times and it always feels good! Everyone is so nice, friendly, and always with a smile and chat. Josh and Brent and friends have created a magical place! I am not surprised you found it so welcoming, it always is. PS I love your wreaths need to go find your web site….

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