Monday, March 23, 2015

Bringing back an old friend

By Beth Sullivan
Many of us have a long connection with Avalonia Land Conservancy, some going back to when it was Mashantucket Land Trust, and there are still a few around who were there at its founding in 1968.
No one quite remembers when the first Winter Pot Luck Supper event was held, but by the 80s and 90s, it was a well attended and much enjoyed event during the January depths of winter. No one remembers when it ceased to exist or why.
A pot luck spread than couldn't be beat.

But during this past winter, a hard winter by all standards, a group of volunteers, many of them part of the original Pot Luck Crew, started thinking of ways to warm up winter and reconnect friends.

A revived tradition

After months of planning, the event was reborn March 14th.
True to spirit, it was held in a community space-no frills-this time in the St. James Episcopal Church in Preston. Guests arrived with arms full of platters and bowls and crock pots. Your last name dictated your dinner contribution. Also brought back to life was the “Scotch Auction,” “Basket Auction,” or “Teacup Auction”-known by many names but always the same: inexpensive raffle tickets rolled out in long streams. Guests donated everything from coolers and artwork to birdhouses and knick knacks.
While guests arrived and mingled, a super bluegrass group played and got the spirit warmed up. They called themselves the Avalonia Quicksteppers, at least for the evening…but they claim the name might stick!
The Avalonia quicksteppers entertained everyone.

Guests could enter drawings for door prizes, read about Avalonia, take a debut peek at a beautiful quilt to be raffled over the next months (stay tuned, more to come, and it is worth waiting for) and catch up with friends. The Board Members and town Chairs were tasked to wear St Patrick’s style hats, and any one with questions about the organization were told to “ask someone with a hat!”

Great food for all

As with every Pot Luck, the food was tremendous with great variety and bounty, the colors and flavors were just beautiful. The “Kitchen Gang” deserved a big standing ovation for the planning and organizing, setting up, and sorting out. To me, what was wonderful was seeing some “old faces,” friends of Avalonia who may not have worked together in a long time, all really enjoying the occasion.
Some of the kitchen crewthat did a superb job.

After dinner, we settled back to a truly enjoyable journey through the natural year with terrific photos and narrative by naturalist, educator and photographer Bruce Fellman. We were reminded that spring always comes, and the seasons always follow a cycle, bumpy though it may be at times. Those of us who follow these cycles and take note of the little things always know to have faith in Mother Nature.
Red Shouldered Hawk, captured by Bruce Fellman, a part of the cycle of seasons.
The raffle was really fun; a lot of people went home with special items, and a few went home with several! In a surprise live auction: The Avalonia Quicksteppers allowed themselves to be auctioned to do a benefit concert for the winning bidder, but the proceeds went back to Avalonia. Thank you Quicksteppers!
Ann Nalwalk and Michele Fitzpatrick conducted the raffle.

Special guests included Board Members and past Presidents, including Lois Tefft Van Deusen, one of the founders of Avalonia and long-time director.
Lois Tefft van Deusen, founder and long-time director was the guest of honor.

The evening ended too soon. Already there is talk of another gathering in the summer. The word will spread, and the event will grow. It's a great way to rekindle both friendships and the spirit of love of land that binds us all.

Photographs by Bruce Fellman.

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