Silence on South Street

South Street in Castleton in the summertime is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite places to be. The hustle and bustle of commencement has come and gone, and all of the summer residents have moved into Babcock hall for the season.

Castleton University hosts and handful of conferences and events over the course of the summer, with notable groups including the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, the New England Quaker Annual Session, and the Governors Institute of the Arts. Over the past four summers, the arrival and departure of these groups became markers of time passing.

While anyone who has spent a summer living on campus or renting on South Street will exaggeratedly lament the steady beating of the snare drums droning through the days and weeks, we also turn out in droves to watch the magical exhibition of musical and physical performance that these students have devoted weeks to developing before they go on tour.

A screenshot of student performers in the Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corp brass line performing Sweet Caroline

Who will I cheer on this summer?

Next is the Vermont Governor’s Institute of the Art’s, a two-week camp for students finishing grades 9 through 11 that allows high-school students to participate in hands-on sessions in a variety of mediums. While some students may work on their puppet making skills, others work with MacArthur Stine and CU summer work-study students to learn about sound and light engineering in the theater.

These kids come together and see friends from all over the state for a few brief weeks, and they thrive on our campus. Their energy and creative spirit never fails to make me smile as I see young artists being given the opportunity to flourish. This is especially true on the 4th of July when they parade their homemade puppets down Main Street.

A handmade puppet from the Governor’s Institute of the Arts 4th of July parade. Image curtesy of GIA

However, they too are inevitably replaced with another massive group gathering, the New England Quakers Annual Session.

Every summer, more than 600 Quakers from around New England gather for a week of meeting to discuss everything that has occurred within the fellowship over the previous year. They worship, discuss business proceedings, and one by one, they honor each and every individual who has passed on in the prior year.

The campus is overtaken by what truly feels like a whole village of people, so kind and open with each other and with strangers. Children on scooters and pop-up book sales overtake the walkways and grassy spaces of campus and just as quickly as they appear, they disappear.

An audience sitting on the pavilion green during the Summer Concert Series. Photo courtesy of Castleton University

While all of the groups I have mentioned have announced plans to meet virtually with their participants in an attempt to make as much as possible out of the situation at hand, there will be a quiet on South Street this year that I have never experienced before.

Castleton is a college town, through and through. While it has been odd enough passing by vacant parking lots as the winter turned to spring, I cannot anticipate what it will be like to experience a quiet, subdued summer. As I prepare my garden to be filled with flowers, vegetables, and herbs from the greenhouse on campus, I know that I am never truly disconnected from the Castleton community.

There will come a time when it will be safe for us to come together again, without fear. We will huddle together over Roxie’s fries while we listen to concerts on the green, we will welcome first-year students when they move in, and we will look back on this quiet summer and remember that the sacrifices we made in 2020 kept ourselves and those we care about safe.

Until then, take a listen to the Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps brass section, featuring Castleton’s own Carley Patch, as they virtually perform Sweet Caroline.

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