Irene, day 7 ... the Street Party

On Saturday night, there was a party. A big one.

Hosted on Bridge Street, the symbolic epicenter of relief efforts in the Mad River Valley, the party ran from 3 pm till who knows when. There was free barbecue, unlimited cookies and ice cream, adult beverages and all the music you could ever want. Dancing, smiling, laughing. What a great thing to see.

It was a free event, made with the volunteers in mind. Thanking them for their hard work. But there was also a flavor of New Orleans in there. It's just mud, after all. And after a week of shoveling and hauling crap and making piles, why not take advantage of a closed road to host a big throwdown?

At one point, driving around, looking at the devastation, I wondered about the future of the Mad River Valley. Would people still want to come here after all that had happened? Would they still keep it on the short list of their favorite places in the world?

But then, when I saw the weekenders mixing with the dusty and dirty locals at the Bridge Street community party ... the shirtless rescue workers, muddy chainsaw volunteers, and broadly smiling local families who'd spent the last week reeling ... I realized that this is exactly the place that people want to be.

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