AKA:Try your luck for just five clams.
We didn’t think it would be that cool. We crossed our fingers and put in the hard work to make it happen, but none of us really thought it could be THAT cool.
Coming away from ten New River Rendezvous’ was tough on the mojo. After a decade of near flawless execution of the East Coast’s finest climber gathering, we listed about at sea for a bit wondering what to do next. It gave us a chance to refocus on who we are and what our goals are—to “preserve, promote, and conserve” our world-class climbing resource. So we set out to create some smaller events that would focus on service and community.
Someone hatched the scheme for a Yosemite Facelift-inspired Work Week, but one that would be so fun it wouldn’t feel like work at all. (Not) Work Week was born and a dedicated crew slayed the trail to Sandstonia last year. But we still needed to raise some loot for climbing hardware so Jay Young came up with the idea for a film festival. Of course, the film festival would come right at the end of the (Not) Work Week and we saw our little events start to morph into something much bigger. We just can’t help ourselves.
This year’s (Not) Work Week took on the big project of building the North Bridge Connector Trail. This brand new trail, developed in conjunction with the National Park Service, will connect the Burnwood Loop to the climbing access trail that runs along the base of the Bridge Area crags. In layman’s terms, you’ll be able to wake up at the American Alpine Club Campground, have a casual brekky, walk to the Tugging Shack or Interp boulders to warm up, then hike down manicured switchbacks to the cliff and go climbing. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Our own trail guru Gene Kistler led the charge of volunteers. Dozens of psyched individuals from all over, locals and non-locals alike, showed up each day to swing picks, push dirt, and move rocks. A few folks from the NPS trail crew joined in the fun and brought the expertise and equipment to move some VERY big rocks… rocks big enough to build a Romanesque staircase down a crux section of cliff dubbed “The Hillary Step.”
The team had to be fed, so other volunteers took the reins on cooking. A week flew by and by the end the whole process was running like a well-oiled machine, just the way we like it. If you haven’t seen the new trail, take a hike on it. There’s a bit of work left to be done on the Hillary Step, but what was accomplished in just one week is amazing! Thanks to everyone that came out.
Saturday night we closed out the (Not) Work Week with the first annual Appalachian Outdoor Film Festival, and it was SO COOL! We rounded up a few films from some talented filmmakers and we could have just thrown them up on a projector screen at the campground, but nay… we always go big. The Historic Fayette Theatre right downtown was ours for the evening. Did someone say historic? “Might as well make it a theme night,” we thought. “What if everyone dresses up like it’s the 1940s?”
Now picture this: There’s a bit of a pre-party at Waterstone Outdoors where climbers, (Not) Work Week volunteers, filmmakers, and festival-goers bump shoulders. Boisterous ladies and gents are dressed in 1940s attire giving the whole atmosphere an end-of-prohibition celebration vibe. Through a light drizzle, a mint-condition 1937 Packard motorcar pulls up to the front of the shop driven by local history buff and biplane pilot Christian Kappler. A young man steps out from the back seat, meticulously dressed in period clothing. With one arm tucked formally behind his back and a straight face that never broke character, he holds the door open. They’re here to pick up the filmmakers.
One by one, the film crews and their guests are shuttled to the Historic Fayette Theatre where they step out onto a red carpet in front of a long line of people waiting to buy tickets. Cameras flash as they walk through the theatre doors and stop for a photo op in front of an American flag complemented by WWII-era surplus boxes painted with the names of the Festival sponsors. On they go through a 2nd set of doors to find a long table of raffle prizes from our sponsors: Merrell Shoes, Osprey Packs, Outdoor Research, ACE Adventure Resort, Adventures on the Gorge, Trango Extraordinary Climbing Gear, Stonewear Designs and Blue Ridge Outdoors. A raffle ticket salesman dressed like Oliver Twist peddles his goods—“Tickets here! Get yer tickets! Try your luck for just five clams!”
Inside the theatre every seat is filled and we start to sell standing-room-only admission. The lights dim and the show begins…
Our films this year ran the gamut, showcasing everything from slacklining the gunsight notch at Seneca rocks and BASE jumping off, to mountain biking near Asheville, WV whitewater, and a tribute film to New River climbing legend Cal Swoager. The judge’s choice award went to the film “El Arroyo,” a moving portrayal of a young man bitten by the fly fishing bug. The audience choice award went to “Effervescence,” a biopic of an old timer WV raft guide and his story of finding a job that turned his life around.
From start to finish, last week marks another “best” for our small town here in southern West Virginia. We built a trail, laughed, climbed rocks, and celebrated what makes this area great. What made it successful was every individual’s willingness to take a task and run with it, not just to get the job done, but to do it right and make it special. It was the person that brought a smiling face to a rainy trail day; the guy that woke up early to flip pancakes for the crew; the one with the vision for the film festival; the sponsors that donated prizes; and the person that bought a ticket to have a good time and put a dime in NRAC’s pocket all at once.
We didn’t think it could be that cool, but it was, and we owe that to the New River Alliance of Climbers. And who is NRAC? You are!