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The Debate: Meanwhile out in the hayfield

07/24/2008

By Robin McDermott
 
Hosting the first gubernatorial debate of 2008 in the Mad River Valley was really exciting and having the Localvores be a part of it with food and agricultural issues at the forefront of the conversation was simply remarkable. You can read and hear about the debate in dozens of newspapers (including The Valley Reporter), blogs, on local TV and radio news across the state. What I would like to write about is the "rest of the story" and some of the true heroes of the event.

The rain would just not stop and by mid-afternoon we threw in the towel and moved the debate venue from the back porch of the Lareau Farmhouse to the Lareau Farm Pavilion. By 4 p.m. our volunteers were all in place with several of the people scheduled for parking lot duty for a one-and-a-half-hour shift. Because of the rain, we expected a much smaller crowd than the 400 people we estimated would attend had it been a bright, sunny day, but still we knew that we might need to use the Lareau Farm hayfield and were grateful that Hadley Gaylord had just finished haying it.  
 
However, before 5 p.m. the main Flatbread parking lot was jam packed and overflow parking in the hayfield was opened up. People kept pouring in; the rain did not deter this dedicated crowd that may have exceeded our sunny day estimate of 400 people. They wanted to hear what the candidates had to say about the future of environment, food and agriculture in Vermont. The debate got underway a little late and just as it did, the skies let loose and the torrential rains rattling on the metal roof of the pavilion was almost deafening at times.  
 
Although I could not see my husband Ray and the other car-parkers in the sea of people in the pavilion, I was sure they were all inside watching the debate. What I didn't know is that most of our volunteer car-parking team was really out in the monsoon. Ed Read from Mad River Garden Center had been called and left a family gathering at his home to deliver and spread two dump truck loads of crushed stone into the quagmire that had been the road leading in/out of the hayfield. Our volunteers had been diligently working in the rain for over three hours digging trenches, spreading stone and getting drenched. Two angels, who were not even on my volunteer list, appeared and joined the team at 4 p.m. working with them through the thick of it. By the time the debate ended, Alan Gaylord from Hap's was called and swung into action with his tow truck to get people out of the hayfield. People got out of the field the same way that they got in -- with help from the skillful guidance of those same volunteer parkers who never had a chance to see the debate or have dinner. By the end of the night, just two cars were left in the hayfield.
 
While I am very proud of the work that went into the debate itself, I am equally proud of the show of community that went on out in that hayfield. The mass exodus of cars trying to get out of the field after the debate could have been a real disaster and had the potential of turning a successful event into a failure, but that didn't happen because of those selfless volunteers and incredibly understanding attendees.  
 
Next time you see any of these folks, please shake their hand and give them a big thank you: Dave Cain, Geri Procaccini, Carol Chamberlain, Joe and Maggie Grant, Jim Leyton, Trish Hopkins, Ray Mikulak, Alan Gaylord and Ed Read.

McDermott is one of the founder
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