Words and Photos // Dante Guerra
This year marks the fourth consecutive year of the Frendly Gathering’ Music Festival at Timber Ridge in Londonderry, Vermont. The main stage at the festival is at the base of a ski slope with other stages scattered throughout the grounds. The vast majority of people camping were up on the slopes themselves.
Day one was slightly overcast, raining briefly later on in the day. Afterwards, an amazing rainbow appeared–a colorful sign of welcome to the Frends, and the perfect gift from Mother Nature to kickstart the festival. While walking around asking festival goers what they thought about the Frendly Gathering, the one thing I kept hearing was that it was the party to be at this summer. But the Frendly Gathering is so much more than your typical music festival in the woods. It’s about comm-“unity.” A community that centers itself around good music, snowboarding and the great outdoors. The Frendly Gathering brings together walks of life from all around Vermont, the nation and the globe to celebrate each other’s uniqueness, while maintaining that “There is no “I” in frend.”
The Frends Snowboard Crew, Mason Aguirre, Greg Bretz, Erick Jackson, Mikel Bang, Dany Davis, Keir Dillion, Scotty Lago, Jack Mitrani, Luke Mitrani, and Kevin Pearce are from the East and West Coasts of the US , as well as Norway. The original Frends came together in 2011 for a mini-gathering of 250 people. The idea itself, fueled by love, passion and togetherness, proved to be a potent catalyst with abounding exponential growth. This year’s festival had more campers/festival goers than in all its previous years, all of whom sought to demonstrate The Ten Anchors of Frendship, the uniting principles that have created powerful bonds between Frends worldwide.
Here are The Ten Anchors of Frendship, and my personal experience with them while attending the Frendly Gathering:
For me, I’ve always found my center dancing to music. It’s a time when I can let my intuition overtake all my reason and logic, and I can let go and just feel the beat as my body unites with my soul and the two tango. For those, like me, who are passionate about music and dancing, the Frendly Gather is absolute heaven. Afterall, it is a music festival!
Some noteworthy Vermont bands I’ve grooved to at the Gathering are Twiddle, and Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band. Coming to the Frendly Gathering to play from different states were Sleepy Man Banjo Boys from New Jersey, Tara Naomi from Los Angeles, and Lake Street Dive from Boston. No matter what time of the day, there was always some type of music being played, and Frends to groove with!
So whether you are enthusiastic about hula-hooping to DJs or Om-ing in unison in a field full of yogis, the Frendly gathering is bursting with passion and self awareness. The yoga classes in the morning were heavenly, and a big thank you to our Frends at Lulu Lemon for the awesome yoga mats!
I almost forgot to mention my passion for ICE CREAM. The free Ben & Jerry’s was SO awesome!
The core value, mutual accountability, asks Frends to take responsibility for their actions. While walking up the hill with my frend to her camping spot, I dropped the water container that we had just filled up. Yes, it was my fault the water spilled and we had to go back and refill it, but it was her fault for losing the the cap to the bottle. We looked at each other and laughed because we knew it was both of our faults. Though this was but a mere mistake on both of our parts, I learned that blame does not exist between Frends, only mutual accountability. Therefore, we can all do our part in making sure that we hold ourselves responsible, and set a good example for our community.
Collaborating with a team is not just fun, it’s also efficient! When I arrived at the Gathering, I bumped into some frends that needed help setting up their tent. This was a pretty large tent, with intricate and hard to follow instructions. The two of them seemed to be struggling to get the tent to stay up. Together we worked as a team and got the tent to stand! We all felt so accomplished and high-fived when the job was done. Many hands make light work!
This Serbian proverb, “Be humble for you are made of earth, be noble for you are made of stars,” best describes how the humility tenet is applied at the Frendly Gathering. As human beings, we often forget that we do not own the earth; we are mere guests and we must be humble. At the Gathering we are constantly reminded of the necessity of service to our environment and, of course, service to our fellow Frends.
During the second night I was getting hungry. There was only one vendor still serving food., and I just assumed that they took credit cards–I was wrong. The man serving behind the counter apologized, but could see the look of disappointment in my face. He handed me a plate of food and said “Here you go, you look like you need this”. I thanked him profusely and his response was – “If there is someone that I see who needs help, I always do my best, and the universe always pays me back.” I believe, without a doubt, that this man’s great nobility stems from a deep understanding of humility. His service to others is also a service to himself.
Within the first few hours of the Gathering I lost my drivers license. Thankfully someone saw it, and handed it in to the information tent. I was so relieved that I did not have to go to the DMV and get a new drivers license. If I had lost my entire wallet, I have faith that whoever found it would have done the honest thing and try to get it back to me. Thanks for helping me out anonymous frend!
The literal meaning of this word is “having wholeness of character.” It means doing the right thing, out of love and with the absence of ego.
While standing around the campfire in the early hours of the morning, listening to some jams, I overheard a conversation between two frends about their commitment to their girlfrends. One guy says “I’ve had girlfrends in the past that have cheated on me, and I could just never do that to the person I am with” the other guy says “Yeah man, I’ve been cheated on too, and it hurts. I couldn’t imagine putting someone else through that pain”. A+ anonymous frends! These are the type of people the Frendly Gathering attracts, and makes for a very laid back and relaxed feel.
I showed up to the Frendly Gathering by myself the first day. I was walking around, exploring, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a frend I grew up with from Stowe. I shouted out her name, and she turned around. We both smiled, laughed and hugged each other. I told her I was by myself at the Gathering, and she invited me to hang out with her, and was introduced to her frends from Burlington as well! Being included in their group definitely made my experience more magical. Whenever I saw the same thing happen between two frends who had not seen each other in a while, I could not help but smile.
Having an attitude of selflessness is something our modern society lacks. It is common for us to try to advance our own agendas with the notion what’s in it for me? At the Frendly Gathering, the idea of selflessness reigns supreme, and in the end everyone benefits.
One afternoon I saw a group of girls with very stressed expressions on their faces. They were getting ready to hike up the hill with their camping gear, and it was obvious they could not do it alone. I introduced myself and asked if they needed any help getting their belongings up to their camping spot. Their facial expression went from worried to relieved. I loaded as much stuff as I could carry into my arms, and we all started up the hill. When we got to the top, they introduced me to their frends, and offered me a drink for helping. It’s fun turning frowns upside down!
Almost everywhere I looked, I saw people having a good time. I mean, how could you not at an event like this!? Our lives are too short not to be enjoyed! In the spirit of the Gathering, I promise to live each day to the fullest and have a blast while doing so!
The thing that stood out to me the most was everyone’s respect for their fellow Frends and the land that they were inhabiting for the weekend. There was a phone charging station provided by Vtel, which was in high use during peak festival hours. I saw a lot of people leave their phones and come back when they’d finished charging. There was definitely an honor system in place, and a mutual respect for each others belongings. What’s more, This year there were Kleen Kanteen water stations at two different locations, each with four spigots providing clean drinking water to campers.
Many tents also had plastic bags set up for their empty bottles and trash. Of course there was some litter, but whenever I saw trash I would pick it up and threw it away in the proper waste receptacle. I wanted to respect not only the wishes of the event organizers to leave no trace, but also to respect our dear Mother Earth. Please help keep Vermont clean, and think before you litter!
I have been going to the Frendly Gathering since 2012, and it has changed my life in many ways. Not only because of the new frends I’ve met each year, but because the Ten Anchors of Frendship have become principles to live my life by. They are not just ten rules I follow for two days a year and forget about when I pack up my tent at the end of the festival. Bringing this spirit back to share with our communities is what the Gathering is all about. We have the capacity to heal ourselves and to heal the world. All we need to do is think more of ‘we’ and less of ‘me’ if we want to make this world a happier, funkier and more awesome place to be!
I am so grateful to all the organizers, sponsors and Frends that make the Frendly Gathering possible. It is truly an amazing and organic way to connect with forward-thinking, groovy Frends and enjoy the splendor of summer in Vermont’s Green Mountains. Thank you so much for having me, and I will see you all next year, Frends!