A fun filled weekend for a good cause in Dunham
By Nancy Helmuth
People in the Townships are kind of "festivaled out". Every weekend some town has one and a week ago, the great "Folk and Arts Festival" in Dunham, sponsored by the local advertising paper "Le Guide" and the Caisse Populaire, expected to bring 4,000 people to Dunham, attracted exacely 70 paying spectators. The newsapaper "Le Guide" called it a "catastophy and will not continue to sponsor this ill conceived event.
This weekend however, the JAMM festival at the site of the "Oasis of Dunham" farm saw great crowds of happy people with their children and friends. There was music, dancing, animals to pet, artists showing their work and painting in front of the hundreds of onlokers who got a first hand look at the technique of working in oil and acrylic.
The "Boss" of this farm which takes in people "otherwise hard to place" and teaches them simple living in one of the most beautiful serene settings in the Western Townships. Eric Lafontaine, dressed as a clown and did a credible job entertaining his guests. On Friday, a young Sutton trio called"Les Nitrates de Madame Mimieux" had a spectacular performance of their genre which goes from ballad to pop to superb improvisation where the three artists switch instruments and generate a funky new atmosphere enjoyed everywhere they have performed lately.
Eric Lafontaine, director of the Oasis, Nancy and famous Montreal artist Armand Villancourt check the crop
The farm delivers fresh vegetables to 30 families every week throughout the summer. Everything is organically grown right on the premises, which now encompasses 100 acres. "Oasis" is self supporting. It started with a modest goverment grant but through the benevolence of neighboring farms which lease them land for almost nothing, they have helped hundreds of young people to regain pride and value of their lifes. Many former apprentice farmers were at the festival and we had the opportunity to speak with some of them. The overwhelming answer to our question about " What did this experience do to you ?", was: "I am a new person, I have no anger problems, I do not see any need to get back to drugs, I want to be just like 'them' (referring to the teachers and helpers at the farm).
My husband and I know four young people who have been through this farm life experience and we joyfully have embraced them into out lifes for the past two years. So - the program works.
However, this is about a festival. On Sunday, there was a huge free brunch with croissants and baguettes donated by Pascal Picarda, a Sutton baker, there was music by a variety of groups, imprompty performances by people like the gentleman below (who was grea,t but I forgot to get his name)
And throughout the weekend, there was the presence of Armand Villancourt who is not only a famous painter, whom the Montreal Gazette in a recent article called "Montreal's own Picasso". He gave painting demonstrations, played with children, told stories (he is an incredible raconteur) and helped with the dishes. With his long white mane flowing, he was one of the beacons of this event and when asked why he took time out of an international schedule of shows and openings, he simply stated that "What they do here is more important than anything I can possibly put on canvas. They are painting the life of people, they are allowing young people to emerge from the grey gesso of a canvas into a vivid and colorful and hopefully satisfying future. If I can just inspire one single person in my 82nd year, this is more important to me than a vernissage in Paris".
We have covered so many "events" and "festivals" in the past 40 years, they all kind of blend into each other but I can state that our visit to this beautiful farm, whose outreach program we embrace, made this a lovely weekend for us and, because it was totally non commercial, it was a joyful change in pace of the artificiality of other merchant -driven events which dot our summer calendar.