Happy Vernal Festival


Vernal refers to Spring. And these days, any day that starts to look like springtime is worth a festival.

Mark Twain is famous for his tales of life on the Mississippi and around his birthplace of Hannibal, Missouri, but he also lived in Western New York, in Buffalo, to be specific. As a result, we know what he meant as few other readers can appreciate. He wrote:

“In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”

On the second day of Spring last week, it snowed. Again. Most of the first week of Spring will see sub-freezing temperatures overnight, and the opening day of Baseball Season will see all 30 Major League teams on the field on March 28.

As a result, a Vernal festival is a variable thing. I haven’t yet seen a swelling tree-bud or an impatient tulip poke its head up to look around. Only the calendar seems to think it is Springtime.

It’s no wonder that around the world Spring is welcomed with excitement, wonder, and sometimes with real, over-the-top weirdness. Sometimes Spring is celebrated with the strangest festivals on Earth. Consider these:

  • Some people in Kyrgyzstan kick off springtime playing Buzkashi, which is supposedly like polo. Instead of using a ball, though, the players seem to find more fun in using a beheaded goat carcass.
  • In the U.K. some places welcome Spring with a revived Celtic jubilee. Witches and demons dance around bonfires to show thanks that winter has ended and spring has arrived.
  • Elsewhere in England, in Gloucestershire, people chase a nine-pound wheel of Cooper’s Double Gloucester cheese down a steep hill. Disregarding injuries, what could say “Springtime” better?

Fortunately, in Jamestown, New York, we’re a little less raucous with our Vernal Festivals.

This week, your Jamestown Gazette invites you to enjoy our own traditional celebration of Spring, the Annual Grow Jamestown Garden Fair and Home Show. We have no rolling cheeses, dancing witches, or deceased farm animals, but we do have:

“…a one stop shop to get your home and gardens ready for the spring season…including landscape designers, craft vendors, home improvement experts, kid’s craft activities, local nonprofit organizations, DIY demonstrations, prizes, food and retail vendors, and gardening workshops, and for those still hankering for something less conventional, live chainsaw carving!”

Appreciation for Springtime across North America, however, predates the land’s now mostly non-native population. Nevertheless, the same sentiment still greets every new Spring.

These are the words in the ancient Lakota language of a man named Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, perhaps better known to modern Americans as Sitting Bull:

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”

Enjoy our Vernal Festival and, regardless of our weather, enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.