Over the course of a few weeks we rolled our way through the northern tip of West Virginia, Harrisburg, PA, through Amish Country finally arriving in Philadelphia. Every stop we reveled in community, seeing old friends and making new friends, learning and experiencing history, culture and the inspiring ways folks do life.
Our first stop was with the Bannister family. Craig’s old music mate from Australia, Keith, and his family, welcomed us to their storybook town of Shepherdstown, WV.
They invited us to explore around their area, visiting the historical Civil War battlefields, Harpers Ferry where we learned about abolitionist, John Brown. We enjoyed an afternoon walk in the downtown district, shopping and getting a flavor of the local tea and coffee vendors. A favorite was the little ice-cream shop, Nutters Ice-cream, where they served up two huge scoops of homemade ice-cream for $2.00! Best of all, we were able to catch up on all the amazing life stories that had come our way, and theirs, over the past seven years since our last visit. Our last two days with them sickness came our way and it was in that moment that were so grateful to neighbor with kinfolk, able to find a comfort and hospitality.
Our next stop was in Harrisburg, PA Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, sits near the middle of the large state. Once a thriving city, but was recently bankrupted by a former mayor. None the less, we found there was a sense of pride and community effort that seemed to keep the city alive. A few of our favorite things we noticed about this city, specially near the downtown area, was the community gardens and Broad Street Farmers Market. We also found the amount of children playing in the streets and folks sitting on their porches, neighbor to neighbor, enjoying the warm breeze and the company of each other, to be invigorating and most encouraging.
Our host in Harrisburg was the Compton family. We met Jake Compton a few weeks prior in Frostburg, MD when we played a show with Jon Felton and his Soulmobile. Jake played in Jon’s band that night and after the performance he invited us to his hometown.
He, his wife Sommers and their darling children, live inner city and are engaged community builders, encouraging their neighborhood by actively caring and connecting, as well as, impacting their greater community through the arts. They invited us to share meals, story and song at their performing space called the Harrisburg Improv Theatre. They use this space for concerts, performances and to teach improv classes. They are a creative and innovative family, always looking for ways to invite other into life. This young couple expressed a desire for a story like ours and shared their uncertainty about their purpose, feeling like maybe they were missing out, wondering if travel might be the key. But what we saw, was that their life was already full and they were already living the dream. Travel would just be the icing on the cake.
Later that week, we took a day drive out of the city and enjoyed a taste of Amish Country. We stumbled upon a little town called Intercourse and couldn’t help ourselves but to stop and have a photo taken by the town sign. Yes, we were those tourists. Ha! Really though, who names a town Intercourse, unless they were referring to the dictionaries first definition of the word which is “communication or dealings between individuals or groups.” Even so, we had a good laugh.
Once we got over the name, we sat back and enjoyed taking in the Amish way of life. The neatest thing about this area is the opportunity to see from a birds eye view how they farm and live. It was absolutely mind-boggling how hard they must work and so close to the earth, with the whole family involved. We admire and respect this culture and are thankful for the opportunity to see it unfold, even if from afar.
Our final destination on the “Kinfolk Road to Philly,” was Philadelphia, where we connected with kinfolk, Tevyn and Jay. We’ve had many mutual friends for years, and had run in similar circles but this was the first time we connected and shared story with Jay and Tevyn.
We met them at Fanny Lou’s Porch for coffee and immediately felt like we were with family. We learned about their community, Circle of Hope, and their circles of ten that meet weekly, encouraging one another in faith and love. We visited the communities thrift store, coffee shop and were invited into one of their gatherings.
We also learned about Tevyn and Jay’s creative dreams and endeavor with the Carnival de Resistance, a traveling arts carnival and ceremonial theater company, a village demonstration project exploring ecological practices, and an education and social outreach project; all focusing on ecological justice and radical theology. We enjoyed meals, and conversation about traveling and shared stories about mutual friends whom we all love. Yes, we were talking about you, Joby, Seth and Jon. 🙂
We did a little sight-seeing, exploring the cities historical sites, including the Liberty Bell, the remains of the home of George Washington and we saw the statue of William Penn, all of which was just like the text books described but our most exciting day was spent at a local African heritage event on the South side of Philly, called the ODUNDE Festival.
The festival boasts the largest African-American street festival in the US with over 500,000 attendees. The festival, whose concept originated from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa, celebrates the coming of another year for African-Americans and Africanized people around the world.
Our day was filled with amazing dance, music, and fool. We’d highly recommend this festival to anyone visiting Philly in June and looking for a fantastic educational and cultural experience.