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Fire, Food, Music and one Amazing Festival

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A bus dropped us off at the side of the road where a small flag, set beside a narrow path that led into the forest, indicated the start of the trail. It was not a simple walking trail, there were some difficult parts, but it was beautiful. Halfway along the trail there was a lookout. I felt as though I was standing on top of the forest. All I could see were the tops of trees stretching out toward the open ocean in the distance. As I stood there catching my breath and taking in the beauty, I could almost have believed I was the only person on the planet.

We arrived at a clearing a little farther along the trail. The trees parted like a curtain to reveal a stage set upon a lush green grassy clearing that overlooked a postcard-perfect view of the sparkling water. To the left of the stage, tables were set up with chefs shucking oysters and pouring refreshing drinks. This was the chef hike at the Gathering in Burlington, Newfoundland.

 The Gathering, a festival of Fire, Food and Music was created by Canadian comedian and Newfoundland native Shaun Majumder. Shaun is a successful comedian who could very easily disappear to a life in Hollywood and never look back. Instead he chose to come back to his small hometown to showcase the power of the remote landscape and help it grow economically. Launching its first year in 2012, the festival is about celebrating rural Newfoundland while stimulating the senses. With some of the country's most talented chefs preparing food that tantalizes your taste buds while world famous musicians perform amazing, toe-tapping music. All while the unadulterated beauty around you captivates your soul.

 The festival was created in order to transform Burlington NL into a world class tourist destination. All profits from the ticket sales go to support BSM Manor, a not-for-profit business with a goal of providing business support to entrepreneurs in the area. They are helping to morph the Baie Verte Peninsula into a tourist destination while respecting the local traditions and environment.

 The three day long festival includes chef hikes as well as comedy shows, shed crawls, fires and lots of music and food. A chef hike is a hike to a location where chefs prepare fresh, local dishes that put an innovative spin on classic NL flavour. As you take in the surrounding beauty and enjoy the delicious food, you are enchanted by a variety of musicians.

 What I found the most amazing was how the celebrities interacted with festival guests. Rex Goudie invited us to a shed party, while Shaun Majumder drove us to our next location when he discovered we were without a ride. When about to take a picture with Jim Cuddy, he suggested we face the other way for the best use of the light. I was floored; no egos, just talented, friendly people wanting everyone to have the best time possible. Growing up in the Toronto area, I attended many music festivals and can honestly say that I have never experienced anything like this. Not only did I feel that the celebrities really wanted to be there and were having an amazing time, but that they truly wanted everyone to be having a good time and would do whatever they could do to make that happen. I was amazed not only by the beauty of the area, the music and the food, but by the beauty of the people.

 The festival ends with a house pull, something that is extremely significant in rural Newfoundland. In many towns and communities across the province, the government pressured people to relocate to a more populated area. People literally pulled their houses across the ice or by boat over water to their new location. If the house fell in the process, the people lost everything. Resettlement took place between 1954 and 1975; it resulted in the abandonment of 300 communities with nearly 30,000 people being relocated. A tribute is paid to this moment of history by lighting a fire inside a wooden house and having a boat pull it along the water. Not a sound was made as the illuminated house floated by and we all imagined what it would have been like. Even as a visitor to Newfoundland, I was brushing tears from my eyes; it was not surprising to witness the flames of emotion from the people whose families had made a similar trip.

 This was a truly inspiring festival to be a part of and I highly recommend planning your trip to Newfoundland to include this weekend. It is a unique experience that should not be missed. Not only will you leave with new recipes, new CD's, new friends and a new love of rural Newfoundland, but also with a sense of pride in knowing you helped support the future of a great community.

For more information on the Gathering go to www.thegatheringburlington.com