Not every townie is a willing townie. Some of us are baymen forever in our hearts, our arms twisted by economic necessity, professional fulfillment, or educational pursuits. So we live in the city, we find a neighbourhood that makes us feel a little better about our urban environment, and we go about our lives.
But the desire to return to our rural homes, for quiet starlight evenings, for streets without either sidewalks or the need to take our life in our hands to cross them, without getting hit by a speeding vehicle, this desire never truly leaves. Caring for your inner baymen is every bit as important as caring for your inner child, and the cliffside community of Shea Heights offers some excellent summer opportunities for this.
Community spirit is a different kind of commodity when you leave the city’s core. In Shea heights, if your house burns down, it is quite likely your neighbours will build you a new one. The Community Center seems to function as an unofficial town hall, and in partnership with Memorial University a highly regarded community health program is in place.
In the Spring of 2015, a beloved and respected community leader, Harold Druken Sr. passed away, a man who had helped rebuild more than one neighbour’s house with his own hands. He referred to the community as “around the bay without a wharf,” and his work for his community has left quite a legacy.
The Harold Druken Memorial Stage is the main performance area at Shea heights folk festival, which happens in mid-July and is an extravaganza of folk music, bouncy castles, games of chance and smiling folks. A ‘plank ‘er down’ wooden dance floor is laid in the middle of the field, and the beer tent is beyond conveniently located right at front stage left, so those enjoying a beverage or 2 don’t miss anything.
This year’s festival started with the accordion stylings of Gump Warford. A white haired gentleman of distinguished years, he was followed by an equally talented elder by the name of Jim Earle on guitar.
Newfoundland culture distilled and concentrated, these men played with the feeling you get when you hear old bluesmen in a roadhouse on the bayou. Buddy the Puffin was on hand so the kids didn’t feel left out, ponies were present to the side of the field and there was a seniors’ tent to make those on the other end of the age spectrum more comfortable over the event.
Sunday of the folk festival weekend would have been the 3rd annual ‘ Mudder I’m Stuck’ Cancer walk to benefit Daffodil Place, which provides accommodation for out of town residents receiving cancer treatment in St. John’s.
Named after the viral video of Shea Heights resident Barry Horlick unable to get out of his house to due snow, the late Harold Druken said the choice was made on this theme to keep the walk lighthearted despite the seriousness of its mission.The walk was postponed to the following Sunday, July 31st, and began at the community center….as many good things in Shea Heights seem to.
With no reliable Stats Can data on population or other demographics, Shea Heights maintains a mystery, but it has an independence and ‘live free or die’ attitude that even the best of us transplanted baymen would do well to be reminded of.
And for our more urban brethren it’s a glance into a different way of being community. Either way it’s a wonderful experience, and I’m looking forward to next year’s festivities.