- Courtesy of Dawn O'Connell
On Saturday, July 25, Burlington's Old North End will celebrate its culture and community with the 11th annual Ramble, a neighborhood-wide, dawn-'til-well-after-dusk party featuring a collage of artists, performers and local businesses. This year, the rain-or-shine, family-friendly event welcomes back singer and ONE native Iris Downey, who will close the festivities as one of four musical acts performing that evening.
Downey, who's been a Wednesday night mainstay at Church & Main for the past year and a half, has acute lupus nephritis. She underwent a kidney transplant last fall and took a hiatus from her weekly gigs downtown during her recovery, which was rocky but ultimately successful.
"I feel awesome now," Downey shares over coffee. She performed at the last two Rambles, where she also sold jewelry to raise money for her treatment. "I love to craft," she says, and adds that the event gave her and her network of ONE supporters an opportunity to spread awareness of kidney transplants and lupus.
Like many other performers and participants, Downey will spend the day at the Ramble before her set. "I might be face painting, [but] I'll hang out until it's time to play," she says.
And there will be no shortage of play. From 10 a.m. to noon in Battery Park, the New North End versus the Old North End "War of the Wards" Field Day will feature balloon tosses, sack races, tug-o'-war and similar activities. After the neighborhoods have been pitted against each other (albeit lightheartedly), the festivities will switch gears with this year's "Unity in the Community"-themed Decaturfest from noon to 4 p.m.
The north and south sides of Decatur Street will — literally and figuratively — tie the knot, uniting a street once divided between older residents and an influx of more boisterous tenants. Organizer Lindsey Gillies says the "symbolic marriage" is a way of "rededicat[ing] ourselves to loving our neighbors" in the face of concerns about Burlington's ongoing gentrification. The 1:30 p.m. ceremony involves a lengthy rope that ties one side of the street to the other, "celebrating our unbreakable community spirit and love of place," Gillies adds.
Notable art-related happenings include Bryce Dance Company's performance of an excerpt from its upcoming "Lonesome Bend." Ramblers can contribute to a community art project — a found-object mosaic around the door frame of Junktiques Collective — or have their portraits done by ONE resident Sam Simon, whose exhibit showcasing the diversity of the neighborhood will be on view at Frog Hollow Vermont State Craft Center in September. Revelers will also have their pick of yoga sessions; poetry for hire from Ben Aleshire and GennaRose Nethercott; and bike races, bazaars, and more at Old Spokes Home and Bike Recycle Vermont.
That doesn't begin to sum up the breadth of the day's offerings: more than 40 free events featuring art, music, food and games. To get the full scoop, pick up a map from Junktiques Collective, Radio Bean, Vantage Press, or other businesses and organizations in the North End.
Downey, who describes her sound as "pop-eclectic," says she's excited to mark her return to performing with Saturday's show. "There's something magical about the Ramble," she says. "[The Old North End] is a place in our area that doesn't get celebrated that often. The Ramble does that."