Prairie Home Companion: Shelburne Museum Concerts on the Green

{Side note: today is Labor Day (observed). Curious as to the history of Labor Day? Check out this blast-from-the-past post from PiP (2008!)}

As mentioned yesterday, summer is not over. It sticks around for a good three weeks in September. So let’s keep talking summer. What has been your favorite part of summer? The longer daylight hours, barbecues, farmers markets, outdoor concerts, swimming, sunshine, not wearing 10s of layers of clothing, cold drinks, better moods? As for me, I love it all. Summertime in Vermont is particularly beautiful, and on sunny, warm days, I want to be outside as much as possible. This summer I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful outdoor concert at Shelburne Museum: Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion Radio Romance Tour. (A huge thank you to my friend and fellow preservationist, Adam K, for bringing me along.) 

For starters, the Shelburne Museum has an absolutely beautiful setting looking to Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

The sun was setting as the show was beginning.

The sun was setting as the show was beginning. The picture doesn’t quite do the view justice…

I had never listened to Garrison Keillor, but knowing that he is a great American storyteller, I was intrigued (hello folklore and oral history!). And what could be an outdoor show on a beautiful Vermont summer evening with a friend? Precisely. What is Prairie Home Companion? It is a live variety radio show, written and hosted by Garrison Keillor, running (with some exception) since 1974. The show focuses on music, stories, and features such as Guy Noir, Private Eye and  News from Lake Wobegon.

A glorious sunset.

A glorious sunset.

Hundreds of people on the lawn.

Hundreds of people on the lawn.

The show was wonderful. Listening to these amazing stories, live entertainment, a radio show in person (as opposed to through the radio) was such a unique experience. Clearly, I’ve been missing Prairie Home Companion all these years. Garrison Keillor is brilliant, creating these ongoing stories for decades. There are many people who can tell a good story, but to hear someone who has what are essentially books in his head – that he’s written – and is sharing it live…wow. How many true storytellers have you heard in your life? I’m grateful to have seen this show live. And now I want to hear ALL of the Lake Wobegon stories. It reminds me of just how special folklore is in our cultures (and all cultures). Folklore represents traditions unique to certain set of people, idiosyncrasies, memories, beliefs, and treasures to that culture.

Close up on the stage.

Close up on the stage.

Have you heard or seen Prairie Home Companion? Who are your favorite storytellers?

Labor Day

 Ah, Labor Day: barbecues, lingering warm summer weather, family, friends, the last beach weekend before school starts (up north anyway), a three day weekend for the working folk, and just an all around good time. The sound of Labor Day recalls memories to me of visiting Point Lookout, having the chance to hang out with my cousins who lived so far away, and of course, the best hamburgers in the world, grilled by my dad.  This year I’m in North Carolina, but enjoying a rather breezy, pleasant, sunny day and hoping that my family is having a good Labor Day celebration at home.  

According to the United States Department of Labor’s website, the meaning of Labor Day is:

the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Unlike Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, which celebrates and honors the obvious heroes of country, those who fought for our freedom, Labor Day is honoring the common man – those who by just doing their jobs are insuring our country’s well being.  Without everyone doing his or her job at home, our heroes, the soldiers, would not have been able to do their job protecting us.  The truth is that we’re all connected and taking turns to honor each other is a good way to remind us of the little things that matter in life and appreciate what we have as a country and where we live individually. 

In honoring those people I know who have worked hard all of their lives, here is a photograph of my maternal grandparents: Abraham Bider and Dorothy (Daunt) Bider.  The date of the photograph is unknown [side note: I should ask my grandmother]. 

Abraham & Dorothy Bider

Abraham & Dorothy Bider

My grandfather, who died in 2007, had great stories of working in the CCC and out west and being in the Army.  After his wild days, he settled down with my grandmother on Long Island and my grandfather worked in your average construction line of work. My grandmother took care of the children and later worked in a lace mill, to which she walked every day.  They were average good American folks who enjoyed a Labor Day celebration as much as anyone else. 

Thinking about little moments and family tidbits such as the above reminds me of just how important it is to celebrate the good times and help to maintain or improve quality of life amongst all Americans.  Because, we, preservationists want to make sure that everyone enjoys the little things in life.  Happy Labor Day to all! Take a moment to think of the day to day work that you do, that your ancestors have done, that millions of people do every day, and then sit back, relax, and be glad that we can all work together and have such a day to appreciate it.