Abare Farm Rook Dining Out - A Norwich Family Tradition
On a clear fall day, the view from the Abare Family Farm is breathtaking. Situated on a gracefully sloping hill overlooking the Dog River Valley, the 140 acres of fields and forests are a haven of peace and tranquility. But for one day each fall they provide a venue for what is arguably the biggest private picnic in all of Central Vermont.
On that one day, the entire rook class is marched up Union Brook Road for an afternoon of food, fun and relaxation. This year's picnic took place on Saturday, September 11.
"A lot of those kids do not know where they're going or what they're going to do until they get here," said Jack Abare '57, who, along with his wife, Lona, has hosted the shindig for the past nineteen years.
The rooks show up a little before noon, and for the next five hours the maroon caps come off and everyone is given a commemorative t-shirt. The surrounding mountains echo with the blasts of 12-gauge browning skeet guns, and rock music cranks out of huge speakers. Everywhere one looks, students are having a ball -- playing Frisbee or touch football, touring the hillside in an authentic 1942 Willy's jeep, stuffing their faces with chicken, hot dogs and ice cream, or simply lying down in the shade to catch a rare nap. Last year, a new tradition was started: a company tug-of-war competition, (won this year by India Company). Best of all, there's not a uniform in sight, and upperclassmen are not invited.
"The first few weeks of school are really tough on the rooks," said Abare. "They're not used to having someone in their face every minute, telling them what to do. This is a chance for them to kick back, relax and have a little fun."
"It's a fabulous experience for all," said Brigadier General Michael B. Kelley '74, vice president for student affairs and commandant of cadets, who attended his first ever picnic last year. "We had heard how great it was, but we never realized just how magnificent it really is. The Abare family and all of those who helped them really rolled out the red carpet. I saw lots of smiles on the faces of the rooks as they participated in the events of the day," Kelley said.
A legion of volunteers, including Jack's large, extended family, former commandants, trustees' wives, and dozens of alumni, makes it all happen.
"Once you get a group of people coming up, they want to come every year," said Abare. "We have one heck of a good time." Fun aside, Abare is emphatic regarding the underlying purpose of the event. "Our objective is: make sure we keep these kids; give them a feeling of family."
Judging by the thank you notes the Abares have received over the years, the effect has been truly gratifying.
"Every year, we get letters. Some of them say, 'up until rook dining out, I was going to quit, but I changed my mind.' One year, I counted twenty letters with that kind of statement, so I know we're saving a lot of kids. That's a great feeling," Abare said.
firstname.lastname@example.org, September 2004