Small town epitomizes American values of freedom, equality
Just two days after the Supreme Court ruled that Dedense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, Sharon Springs demonstrated yet again that its basic human and American values of inclusion, freedom, equality, and mutual respect are alive and well. And ahead of the curve.
When two explorers from “The City” traveled upstate several years ago to pick apples, they drove by a beautiful old mansion on their way into the village, looking for someplace to eat. Asking about the historic Beekman place when they stopped at The American Hotel, they were told it wasn’t a museum but a house for sale. Serendipitously, the hostess who seated them for dinner was the realtor, and to make a long story short, veni, vidi, visa. They came, they saw, they bought it.
Those two explorers were Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, better known since their reality television series as “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” their winning “The Amazing Race” on CBS television in 2012 and the launching of their Beekman 1802 brand of heirloom foods, heritage products for the home, gifts, books and much more.
BRINGING NEW LIFE
Since they transplanted their lives to Sharon Springs, they have become a generous and supportive part of this small, conservative farming community. Their new store, the Beekman 1802 Mercantile, used to be the Village Hall and Library, and several things before that, as most older buildings in small villages are. They have created jobs at the farm, the store and events; they constantly look for local artisans who produce items for sale in the store and online and make contacts with large markets for the sales of these products.
The spring garden parties and fall harvest festivals attract thousands to the village and are familiar online to fans and customers all over the world. On July 31 at 6:30 p.m., they will lead the Grand Sunshine Parade in Cobleskill as part of Schoharie County’s Sunshine Fair.
When they began planning their wedding at the Beekman Farm more than a year ago, they didn’t know the historic Supreme Court decisions would coincide with their celebration. More than 250 friends and family gathered for the party June 28 and were asked to bring a special dish (with recipe) to share. These will be featured on their website, as will the events of the day.
At noon, guests zig-zagged up the hill behind the farm, accompanied musically by two pairs of sopranos from the Glimmerglass Opera and a simple exchange of poetry and vows took place. A family friend of Josh’s from Wisconsin presided over the ceremony, and a Sharon Springs resident and Glimmerglass baritone sang the happy throng back down the hill to a picnic lunch that was, well, fabulous.
WHO HAS THE RIGHT?
Opponents to same-sex marriage frequently try to pit blacks, women and the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender community against each other. We should ask why. The question is, who is going to define dignity, justice and love? The same folks who champion shame, inequality and hate? Is marriage a civil state or a religious institution? Can we vote on human rights? Interracial marriage has only been legal since 1967, and the same false specters of polygamy, bestiality and harming children were raised then — and were just as mean, ignorant and irrelevant then as they are now.
What we heard at wedding conversations about the Supreme Court decisions were words like “dignity,” “kindness” and new, inclusive defi nitions of “family” and “community.” It was a loving, joyous day.
T h e g u e s t s mixed happily, including Martha Stewart, Brent’s Southern mom and grandmother, Josh’s family from the Midwest, friends and neighbors from down the road and all over the country. One guest asked if all of upstate New York was this friendly, or just Sharon Springs. Several local folks smiled, looking around the lawn where children played bocce and croquet; others sat under a tent to keep dry, more were petting the goats and going back for more dessert.
“Well, we do like to get together for special occasions. And this sure is one, isn’t it?”
Both Josh and Brent wanted to say “thank you” with this wedding party, and each talked about looking to a time, “someday, when this won’t be a big deal. Won’t it be nice when that happens?”
Their settling in the country on a little piece of land to raise kids (and a llama) is just their version of the American dream.
It was obvious they feel at home here and want to get on with life. A honeymoon? They were in Beekman 1802 Mercantile the next day, meeting and hugging customers, clearly having a fabulous time.
Karen Cookson lives in Sharon Springs and is a regular contributor to The Gazette Opinion pages,