JAMAICA -- Karen Amenden looked toward the skies on Saturday and said, "The rain isn't going to stop us."
She turned her heels to snap some more photos and walk toward the canopy tent at the corner of Route 30 and Depot Street to announce the youth foot race was about to begin.
Although all of Windham County was under a flash flood watch with gray ominous clouds moving across the horizon, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Jamaica to celebrate Old Home Days.
"We've had a great turn out this year from locals and lots of second homeowners," Amenden, one of the organizers said. "It's all going smoothly this year and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was nervous, but I'm not thinking about the possibility of thunder showers.
The crowd certainly didn't seem to mind as they huddled under umbrellas and covered porches of the businesses and homes that line the main street through the town to watch the parade stroll through.
Doug Burchards of Manchester, Conn., returned to his boyhood home to celebrate the weekend with his family, including his mother, Vera Burchards, whose own parents and ancestors had lived in the village dating back centuries.
Vera was prominently featured in the parade riding in one of the passenger cars of a small train. Doug said he was supposed to ride along with her but missed the train and said jokingly that he was "going to pay for it later."
"It's great for her and us to come back
Last August, the village of Jamaica suffered some of the worst damage the storm doused out, flooding the Ball Mountain Brook that runs through and along most of the town. The typically small waterway swelled to historic levels and swallowed homes along its banks, some set back as far as 50 feet.
But Saturday was a day to celebrate community and the town's history, knowing that no one was injured in the flood and that together residents would persevere.
At the Jamaica State Park, the site of a recent archeological dig that unearthed hundreds of artifacts from the Abenaki Tribe, some dating back as far as 7,000 years, Roger Longtoe, chief of the Elnu Abenaki tribe, led a reenactment of what life would have been like for his ancestors in the 1660s.
Longtoe, who grew up in Jamaica, was joined by fellow tribe members Mike "Frog" Plant of Putney and Rose Hartwell of Pepperell, Mass., a French tradesman, Didier Cazaudumec of Manchester, an Abenaki enthusiast, and John Santos of Northampton, Mass.
"This is truly a unique spot in Vermont because it served as a meeting point for several different cultures," Longtoe said. "My ancestors would have been able to trade with the English, French, Dutch, as well as other tribes at the Salmon Hole because the rivers served as an ancient highway."
The group spent Saturday afternoon explaining their tribe's history, dress and culture to any who'd listen. Hartwell sat underneath a cloth tarp amongst tools, weapons and other items once used for trade, and talked about her traditional attire of animal hide. Santos wove rope from the bark of a tree. Cazaudumec stood over the slow boiling soup above their campfire, stirring occasionally, while Frog and Longtoe swapped stories with people as they walked through the park.
Using wild turkey and venison that he killed himself, fresh vegetables and herbs from his family's garden, Cayton, who finished second last year, was determined that this was his year.
Sadly for Cayton, Fat Spy's chili took first place.
Following the parade, most of the town got together at the Jamaica Community Church to have an early chicken dinner cooked by local barbecue expert Jamar Robinson, of Jamar's Famous Barbeque Chicken, and his dad, Everett.
"It's just the right amount of marinade, cooked over charcoal and applewood chips," Jamar said of his legendary style. "Good old southern cooking."
It rained for nearly the entire day and for some, the cool water droplets were a welcome relief.
"I hate for it to rain on Old Home Day, but we need it," said Estelle M. Schwartz of Bondville, who was sitting beneath a canopy selling knitted goods. "There's still a lot of people here enjoying themselves and that's what truly matters."
Josh Stilts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.