Conway, Massachusetts, USA
June 16-18, 2017
The Dzogchen Community in America,The Shang Shung Institute of America and The Khandroling Paper Cooperative, all housed in the Tsegyalgar East Schoolhouse, collaborated and participated with great enthusiasm in the 250th Anniversary of Conway, Massachusetts, where the Tsegyalgar East Community was born over thirty years ago.
The Khandroling Paper Coop diligently prepared colorful origami paper lotuses for a year prior to the event that were distributed among the onlookers at the parade on Sunday. The coop members, as well as Community members and local townspeople, were all folding and contributing their efforts for a year leading to the event. The local town library boasted a glass case display full of paper lotuses. The lotuses initiated the ongoing cooperation between the Town of Conway and Tsegyalgar East.
Closer to the time of the event, which included a three day celebration in the town, starting with fireworks on the first rainy evening and culminating with a joyful and raucous parade through town ending at Pumpkin Hollow, the original site of the town center, the Dzogchen Community and The Shang Shung Institute began its own preparations of a series of events.
The weekend before the celebrations, SSI USA organized a wonderful Khaita workshop with Matthew and Katya Schmookler, who came with all the family from Berkeley, California, some 3000 miles away, to help prepare dancers for the parade and introduce Khaita to local folks.
Our planned demonstrations in town of Yantra Yoga, Vajra Dance and Khaita were rained out the first evening. On Saturday we hosted a day long Open House at the Schoolhouse, organized by Marit Cranmer, that featured an opportunity to learn paper making with our resident master paper maker Sheryl Jaffe, two very interesting public talks, one on Tibetan Medicine by Menpa Matthew Schmookler, a graduate of the Shang Shung Institute’s Tibetan Medical School, and Giorgio Dallorto, a visitor from Merigar West, on Tibetan Coins and Paper Money: An Introduction to Tibetan Numismatic History with a Description of its Symbolism and Calligraphies, a photo exhibit of Tibet and an art exhibit provided by the Khandroling Paper Coop. Shang Shung Institute and the Khandroling Paper Coop both had tables at the Conway Grammar School with books and information about activities. The Paper Coop had an art exhibit of artwork made with their handmade paper from the Conway Rags to Paper Project, which was partially funded by a HATCH Grant from the Greater Shelburne Falls Business Association and Massachusetts Cultural Council.
On Saturday afternoon there were three successful public demonstrations of Yantra Yoga, Vajra Dance and Khaita in front of the public library in the center of Conway. At the end of the Khaita demonstrations, onlookers were invited to join in and they enthusiastically and joyfully took us up on the invitation.
On Sunday morning there was another demonstration of the Vajra Dance in the Schoolhouse and then Sunday afternoon a quick change into the Khaita costumes and in the heat of the cloud covered summer day, the Vajra Dance turned Khaita Dancers joined the parade in their spot between the Moose Float and the Turner’s Falls Tech High School Marching Band. Along the parade route the lotus float accompanied the dancers and the lotuses were distributed among the spectators. The crowd seemed very appreciative of both the dancers and the lotuses – there was a lot of cheering as they danced by.
Overall for both Communities, the Town of Conway and Tsegyalgar East, the effort and collaboration bore much fruit. Conway was able to demonstrate its rich history and The Shang Shung Institute, The Dzogchen Community and the Khandroling Paper Cooperative as well. We hope this is only the start of a harmonious and beneficial relationship for us all! Happy 250th to Conway!