Big Crowds in Burlington

Rudy Norman
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Visitors pleased with Gathering weekend

When Barbara and Frank Keating retired a couple years ago and sold their bed and breakfast in St. John’s, they decided they wanted to tour the province, and spend much of their time seeing what was available right here at home.

Chefs and volunteers at The Gathering serve supper to over 1800 patrons on Saturday night. The meal consisted of locally grown and sourced meat and vegetables, along with other delicacies that tickled the taste pallet of everyone who enjoyed it.

“We’ve been all over the province, taking in sights and things to do,” said Barbara.

Their years of seeing tourists coming through their business, she said, gave them the travel bug and the desire to do the same themselves.

Earlier this month, while sitting in their St. John’s home, they decided it was time for another trip to somewhere in the province.

“We got out the map and asked ourselves where we had never been,” she said. “We realized we had never been out this way, to the Baie Verte Peninsula, so we got online and started looking at what was on the go here.”

The couple found The Gathering, the annual festival in Burlington hosted by actor and comedian Shaun Majumder, along with organizers from the community.

“The more I read about it, the more I realized it was something I wanted to go to,” she said. “So we called out, managed to get the last hotel room available, and we were off.”

The Keatings ventured to The Gathering on Saturday, just in time to take in the music and food that has made the festival the drawing for so many around the province and the country.

“It’s unique,” she said. “We’ve been to so many festivals and it seems like they’re all pretty much the same, or have a lot of the same elements, but this one is different and it’s great.”

One of the aspects she said they really appreciated is that The Gathering makes its surroundings part of the festival, rather than letting it just be a backdrop to everything else that’s been organized and planned.

“The scenery is as much a part of the festival as anything,” she said. “It’s just so beautiful and breathtaking.”

The Gathering is also a dry festival, meaning alcohol isn’t available for purchase at any events, and isn’t permitted on the concert grounds at all. For Barbara and Frank, while it isn’t something they’re used to, it’s something they enjoy.

“We go to so many events where it’s about alcohol and people are so focused on that aspect of it they don’t even get a chance to take in what’s happening around them,” she said. “This gives us a chance to walk away, and know about everything that happened, and we can really appreciate what went on.”

Craig Saunders echo’s much of the same sentiments.

He’s a former resident of Burlington, but now lives in Stephenville. He’s been to the festival now all three years, but he says this year was his best yet.

“I’ve never seen a crowd like this here before,” he said. “Growing up here, we never ever had anything like this, and I think it’s great for the town and for the area that it’s here now.”

Saunders says even though he’s been gone from Burlington for several years, he still feels a connection to the place he called home in his youth.

“I don’t want to see this place disappear someday, and if that isn’t going to happen, we need something that’s going to bring life back into it.”

As Saunders says those words, standing on The Gathering grounds, the thump of the music sounds in the background. He raises his voice to lift it above the noise.

“And this is certainly bringing life back into it.”

Geographic location: Burlington, Stephenville

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