Folk & blues festival at Plymouth Notch wakes up “Silent-Cal.”

Plymouth FolkAlthough you wouldn’t know it by the warm temperatures, the last days of Summer at the October Country Inn are close at hand.  Here and there a few trees are starting to display Fall colors.  It won’t be long now.  Labor Day weekend traditionally signals the close of Summer.  This may be your last chance for a quick getaway.  Let us make a suggestion, check out the 11th annual 2015 Plymouth Notch Folk and Blues Festival.  Music will fill the air on Labor Day weekend, September 5 and 6, in this idyllic rural community which was the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, also known as “Silent-Cal,” the 30th president of the United States.

Plymouth MapAn article in a local newspaper puts it this way: “It’s hard to get more Vermont-ish than Plymouth Notch. Forget about the modern-day Vermont attention-getters like Ben & Jerry’s or Phish; we’re talking Calvin Coolidge and prize-winning cheese here. And this Labor Day weekend, Plymouth continues what’s become a new tradition in town – the annual folk and blues festival.”  The reference to “prize-winning cheese” is about the Vermont Cheese factory located across the street from the Coolidge homestead.  But apart from sampling their delicious smoked cheddar, taking a wagon ride, or painting your face, bring a blanket to spread on the lawn and be entertained by down-home folk and blues performers.  And it won’t cost a dime.  It’s all free.

Jay Ottaway with his band.

Jay Ottaway with his band.

The event’s organizer, Jay Ottaway, a traveling blues musician himself, notes: “The festival is special for performers and audience alike because, even though it draws a big crowd, it retains the intimate, personal feel of an acoustic folk coffeehouse.” Ottaway said that he chose this venue for the festival because: With all the traveling I do as a musician Plymouth Notch has been my one steady home since childhood.  Also, if you’re more of a hands-on folk and blues enthusiast, there’s a Saturday night jam session at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizza Pub.  All in all, not a bad choice for a Labor Day outing in peaceful Plymouth Notch.  If it rains, no worries, the whole thing just moves indoors to the historic 1840 Union Christian Church right in Plymouth Notch.  Of course, if you need lodging, you can’t go wrong with the October Country Inn.

 

And the light pushed back the darkness.

goldThe October Country Inn was recently certified “Greenleader Gold,” by Trip Advisor for our energy conservation practices.  A substantial element of our conservation practices is to use energy-efficient lighting throughout the inn.  We first replaced all the many incandescent light bulbs with the more efficient flourescent variety, leaving a box full of incandescent bulbs in the basement.  Most recently we revisited this bulb switching strategy by replacing all the flourescent bulbs with the even more energy-efficient LED variety.  Now we also have a box full of flourescent bulbs in the basement alongside the box of incandescent bulbs.

The box of replaced incandescent bulbs next to the box of replaced flourescent bulbs.

The box of replaced incandescent bulbs next to the box of replaced flourescent bulbs.

Speaking of light, regardless of how energy-efficient our lighting may be, a nighttime thunder-storm will roll through every once in a while and blow down a few trees taking out a power line somewhere, and we are thrown into darkness like it was the middle ages.  Out come the candles.  Candles have been around since about 3000 BC, however, where they were once the go-to form of artificial light, they only serve an interim purpose when electricity is unavailable to provide quick access to light in order to collect and fire up the slightly more practical wick burning lamps.

Woodstock's gas plant (note the chimney) circa 1860

Woodstock’s gas plant (note the chimney) circa 1860

In the eighteenth century, Edie’s Vermont ancestors would have used wick lamps burning whale oil (which may well have also come from Edie’s whale hunting ancestors).  Compared to candles, whale oil produced a superior whiter, brighter light.  But then they began to run out of whales.  The price of whale oil went way up, and cheaper carboniferous fuels from coal and petroleum emerged.  By the 1850s kerosene replaced whale oil as the lamp fuel of choice in the Woodstock area.  The next big thing in indoor lighting was fueled by gas that was piped into homes and businesses from coal-fired gas generating stations like Woodstock’s Gas Light Company set up in 1855.  Gas light was cheap and led to a high incidence of night illumination in the cities and towns of the area.  It was also a bit dangerous and led to many structure fires as well as gas plant explosions.

Of course, just like today, when gas supplies (or electrical supplies) are interrupted, out come the candles and lamps.  In some ways, when you need to push back the darkness, not much has changed.