Monday, June 7, 2010
Blown Away by the Big Wind Regatta
The Big Wind Regatta is now a thing of the past.
Last night, people from across Maine and New England joined together, attending a fund-raiser hosted by Nancy Gray of the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport. Six weeks of preparation had gone into the gala affair. I’d met twice with the owner and the management team at the Inn to plan the event. The Harraseeket is staffed by an amazing group of people. The owner, her daughter, the managers of operations and sales, the audio tech, the wait staff, the house-keeping crew, the chef… each one I interacted with was phenomenal. Polite, helpful… and yet, full of vim and vigor and cheer. I was and am terribly impressed!
We began the evening with registration and a social hour, during which time our guests could wander through the rooms wherein we had our silent and live auction items displayed. Mrs. Gray had a cash bar set up, and waiters roamed the rooms with trays laden with scrumptious-looking hors d’oeuvres. I know they were delicious, because I asked our guests, but I didn’t partake. Pre-show jitters and rich food are not a good combination. Lucky for me, I learned that fact early on.
As people strolled through the rooms and wrote down their bids for the silent auction items, they also bonded with other Maine citizens who are engaged in battles similar to the one we are waging. In attendance were people from many other activist groups intent on fighting the destruction of Maine’s mountains by industrial wind developers. There were people there representing Friends of the Boundary Mountains, Friends of Lincoln Lakes, Friends of Spruce Mountain, Mars Hill, Friends of Bigelow, Friends of Saddleback and the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power, as well as us; the Friends of the Highland Mountains. It was uplifting and encouraging to see so many brave and hard-working citizens who care about doing what is right. I dare say there wasn’t a single person there who wouldn’t prefer to spend his or her free time doing something other than fighting Big Wind. It just goes to show you… this state is populated by some wicked awesome folks!
At six thirty we moved en masse to the Casco Bay room, where an amazing dinner was served. Roast beef, salmon, roasted baby potatoes with garlic, fresh salads, asparagus… it looked divine! (Yes, I said “it looked…” Remember… food + my nervous stomach = disaster on stage. I could only look and smell, but not taste.) Mr. Grumbles said it was an excellent meal, though, and he wouldn’t say that if he didn’t mean it. He’s painfully truthful, that way.
During dinner, several speakers addressed the crowd of 170+ people. Jonathan Carter was emcee for the evening. He introduced Steve Thurston, one of the co-founders of the Citizen’s Task Force on Wind Power. He was followed by Bob Weingarten of the Friends of the Boundary Mountains, and then Dick Fecteau of the Friends of Bigelow gave a short Power Point Presentation showing the impact the Highland Development will have on the Bigelow Preserve. Lastly, our own chairman, Alan Michka, spoke to the guests and introduced our DVD, “Save the Mountains of Highland, Maine”.
I hope those good men who gave speeches will forgive me for not going into detail about what they said. I am positive that they were engaging and articulate, and that they dispensed wise words of advice. They may have even cracked a joke or two! But I simply have no recollection of what they said. I was in the dining room during most of the dinner, but I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I’d scurry over to my computer to make sure Dick’s Power Point Presentation was properly loaded. Back out to the foyer to check on the members who were handling the live and silent auction details. Over to the “reserved” table to sit for a minute, making sure my husband and Dave Small, my Designated Laugher, both loved me, still. Up to the doorway to ask that the lights be dimmed. Back to the lobby to answer the manager’s questions about when to serve dessert. Up, down, around… I am sorry to admit this, but I didn’t hear a thing those esteemed gentlemen said. What I do know is… they LOOKED really sharp!
After our video played, it was my turn. Early on in the planning stage of this event, Jonathan suggested that it would be a great idea if I stood up and did a short comedy sketch, and to my utter horror—I said “sure”. He’d been in my audience previously at a couple of fund-raisers I held; one to benefit the New Portland Community Library, and the other to raise money for Alzheimers of Maine and Androscoggin Home Healthcare. But cripes… I’m pretty sure he was drinking alcoholic beverages at those events, so how could he competently judge my laughter-inducing abilities? I agreed to try to come up with something for the Regatta, hoping against hope that our guests would make numerous trips to the bar before it was time for me to go on stage. It was my only hope.
I’m pleased to say: They did! There was a good-sized line in front of the patio bar before dinner, and the bar set up outside the dining room was equally well attended! I thought I just might survive the night, after all.
And I did. Heck, anyone can survive ten or fifteen minutes of sheer terror, right? So what if I called the chairman of the Forest Ecology Network—an organization 10,000 strong—a “cheap b@$*@*d”? What does it matter if I mentioned my cleavage to a large contingent of activists whom I hope will take me seriously? And really, who will remember that I made fun of a former governor of the state of Maine? I’m not going to mention which governor, for I am more circumspect when I am not performing on stage. Besides, Angus will forgive me, I know. Once you’ve discussed your virginity with a man, a certain bond is created…
Yes, I survived. And if nothing else, I saw Mrs. Gray laugh while I was spouting my foolishness. That made the whole effort worth it, and then some.
But man, was I hungry! Thirty-six hours without a bite, and as soon as I stepped down off the podium, the nervous tension fled and I was ravenous. Naturally, by that time, the food had been cleared away. Not even one of those decadent pieces of cheesecake could be found! It serves me right for agreeing to try to make an idiot of myself on purpose, rather than allowing nature to run its course… In due time, the same thing would have happened, anyway.
The evening concluded with a live auction of some wonderful products and services donated by generous people from across the state. As guests filed out of the dining room, my big buddy Dave was there to collect their bids and hand over their purchased items. And then… it was time to pack up and go home. Back to Lexington. Back to the country, and my quiet hillside home.
I count the evening a huge success. We had no idea how many people would attend the affair, and so it was a pleasant surprise when a table had to be added to a room which was set for 160 diners. I was delighted to see people from as far away as Mars Hill, at the top of Maine, and folks from Massachussetts, down beyond our southern border. My fellow Mountain Defenders came out in force, and we are more determined than ever to right some serious wrongs and to join together in order to collectively give our quiet voices some much-needed strength.
This IS America, even though sometimes it seems as if our country and its founding principles have slipped away from us. We have allowed a government which is too large and too powerful to take our rights away. We’ve been a bit lazy, I think. I know I have been. The problem is that those in authority who have been charged by the citizens of this state and this country to protect our natural resources, our wildlife, and our people, have dropped the ball. Hell, they’ve thrown it! The power to shape policy has been held by those with the most money and influence. But you see… mountaintop industrial wind is WRONG. The whole concept is flawed, and the developers and the administration KNOW that it is wrong. However, there are billions of dollars at stake and sadly, when that is the case, many people are oblivious to the realities which are staring them in the face. They can’t see the forest for the trees. And so, they cut them down and replace them with colossal industrial wind turbines...
The issues are many, huge, and varied. There are countless arguments as to why industrial wind should not be allowed on Maine’s mountains. Those “in charge” are well aware of those reasons, but they are blinded by greed. So now it is up to us—the proud NIMBYs of this state--to take a stand and show our government employees and the industry which influences them, what—exactly—they need to do. A good first step will be to enact a statewide moratorium on mountaintop industrial wind. Let’s do it before our mountains, our tourist economy and our heritage are damaged beyond repair. Before anymore of our fellow Mainers are driven from their homes, or our animals are forced to migrate to quieter regions. Before we allow the expenditure of billions of OUR tax dollars on an experiment which has already been proven to be a failure. Before it’s too late, we need to stand together and speak together and set the policies which will demonstrate common sense and common decency.
Yes, I was humbled at the outpouring of support I witnessed last night. I was overwhelmed by the frustration and anger which infused our guests. More than ever, though, I was encouraged. Sometimes when you take an unpopular stance and embrace it, you feel a little lonely. You feel like the child who’s warming the bench… or the fat kid who is always chosen last. Every Mountain Defender, ever Wind Warrior in last night’s crowd has sacrificed something in order to do what they feel is right. It felt good to not feel lonely.
I was in the company of greatness.
And I was hungry, too.
Drawing: Windtoons Artist John Terry's "Vacationland"
Photos: Jean Marie and Marcia of the Harraseeket Inn-- What lovely and helpful women!
Dave Miller's bird prints
Jonathan Carter and Nancy Gray--our awesome hostess
One of the bars
The F.A.R.M. in Lexington Township
The Board of Directors of the Friends of the Highland Mountains: l-r, Dan Bell, Alan Michka, Karen Bessey Pease, Jonathan Carter, Greg Perkins. (Note the fashionable "X-it Lite" hat I am modeling...oh, brother....)