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Wet Weather Dampens Weekend Festivities

  • Isaiah Kol, of Post Mills,  7, walks with his dad, Josh Kol and baby brother Judah Kol (in the stroller), during the Open Fields Medieval Festival in Thetford yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Isaiah Kol, of Post Mills, 7, walks with his dad, Josh Kol and baby brother Judah Kol (in the stroller), during the Open Fields Medieval Festival in Thetford yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nicholas Lamontagne, 9, of Lebanon, takes shelter from the rain under a tent during the Renaissance Fair in Thetford yesterday. Attendees of the fair braved unusually cool temperatures for this time of year. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Nicholas Lamontagne, 9, of Lebanon, takes shelter from the rain under a tent during the Renaissance Fair in Thetford yesterday. Attendees of the fair braved unusually cool temperatures for this time of year. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Isaiah Kol, of Post Mills,  7, walks with his dad, Josh Kol and baby brother Judah Kol (in the stroller), during the Open Fields Medieval Festival in Thetford yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Nicholas Lamontagne, 9, of Lebanon, takes shelter from the rain under a tent during the Renaissance Fair in Thetford yesterday. Attendees of the fair braved unusually cool temperatures for this time of year. (Valley News - Libby March)

Thetford — Under one of many tents on the Thetford green, a procession of children and adults circled a table, systematically lowering a wick into a can of hot wax, forming candles layer by layer.

“Down; up,” said Jennifer Manwell, who was running the station, to a nascent candle maker. “Let it drip.”

Rain dropped just outside, catching on all of the tents at the Open Fields Medieval Festival yesterday. Nearby, a group huddled by an outdoor fire. Some wore several layers: the first, clothing that wouldn’t have been out of place in the 1300s; the second, coats and hats made in the past few years.

A cold air mass parked itself above the Upper Valley and beyond yesterday, keeping the temperature low and offering steady precipitation. In Lebanon, according to the National Weather Service, the temperature topped out at 47 degrees, a full 21 degrees lower than the date’s average high temperature.

By today the ugly weather should have moved on, said Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, Maine. Yesterday, though, certain points on the Connecticut River — safely north of the Upper Valley, closer to Dalton, N.H., which is near Littleton — were close to reaching flood stage, she said.

Killington,Vt., she said, received some snow.

Yesterday’s dismal weather forced anachronisms on the festival, which Open Fields, the private, independent elementary school in Thetford, puts on once every two years.

For instance, under the candle-making tent, an outdoor stove was used to keep wax melted. Various articles of high-end rain gear were pulled over medieval skirts, shirts and dresses. A vuvuzela, the plastic horn that rose to international prominence during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, heralded the arrival of the day’s king and queen.

Greg Leibon, of Post Mills, wore a shawl over his yellow raincoat, an item given to him for the day by a “nice medieval man.” He was at the festival with his son and nephew, and said he would have definitely taken them to it, with or without nice weather or protective feudal clothing.

“You’re not going to sit at home just because it’s raining,” he said.

On the green, umbrella-dotted crowds took in skits that included an elementary school-aged knight taking down an elementary school-aged dragon. Nellie Pennington, the director of Open Fields, said she and other volunteers had taken to calling the day the “Mud-ieval festival.” At one end of the green, Leibon sang a song about grinding grain while sitting on a wooden bench, turning a metal crank and turning wheat to flour.

“This is going to turn into cookies later,” he said, as a small crowd of children gathered. “And I’m getting five of them. That’s how hard I’m working.”

At the nearby candle tent, Manwell darted among the table with a spool of wick, ready for cutting, the outdoor stove, at which she stirred congealing wax, and the main attraction, the dipping wax that received expectant wicks every few seconds.

Young children and their parents found respite from the rain under the tent. Some eyed the candle-making process warily.

“(The rain is an) added challenge, not a damper,” said Manwell, who runs an after-school program for Open Fields and Thetford Elementary School students that focuses on nature-based art projects. “It just makes things slower.”

Just before, Gavin Irish, 5, had finished a candle. He hopped over to his mom, Crystal.

“Cold cold cold,” he said, all three instances spoken in rapid succession, a portion of his hood covering his mouth.

In Lyme, the unseasonable cold seemed to be a deterrent for the summer’s first of five plant and food sales on the town common, which yesterday attracted just a sole vendor.

Paphanh Sithavady, who has sold plants and Thai food during the summer for the past several years, stood under the tent that kept her food dry. A light stream of regulars came by to purchase to-go boxes, but Sithavady said the precipitation and unseasonable weather had greatly diminished her flow of customers.

“Too cold,” Sithavady said. “Not too many people today.”

“It’s like winter out here,” replied Mant Copeland, who had initially planned to go hiking with his wife, Nancy, yesterday, which was his birthday.

The Copelands ended up purchasing several to-go packages of food, as well as several plants, and headed out. Sithavady said it had been a bad day, but she had no choice but to give it a shot — she had prepared much of the food ahead of time.

She rubbed her hands together for warmth. Another customer approached.

“You want to take everything?” Sithavady asked, chuckling, as rainwater pooled atop her tent.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.