There was no Jimmy Stewart. There was no basket full of cash spilled onto a table to get George Bailey out of trouble. And there was no little girl telling her daddy that every time a bell sounds an angel gets his wings. But there is no question that angels were close by on Friday night, when The Sherburne Inn opened its doors for the first time in more than decade to welcome over a hundred people to gather and celebrate the rebirth of an historic landmark.
Those of us at Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project have spent the past 14 months thinking, meeting, talking, planning, and convincing others that the future we see for The Sherburne Inn is a bright one. On December 6, 2013, not much convincing was needed. On Friday evening, SSIRP's first fundraiser was held at The Inn, a building that only months ago was slated for possible demolition. People from Sherburne and its surrounding communities walked through The Sherburne Inn's doors to see a holiday wonderland. White twinkle lights on a live Christmas tree, gold and silver balloons, crackling logs in the fireplace, white vases filled with pine; garland and candles and all manner of winter delights were only part of what made the evening so special. The displays of food were remarkable: cheeses and desserts, breads and meats, vegetables and fruits and wine and beer and fresh-brewed coffee. There were live and ticket auctions, with baskets and other items donated not only by local individuals, but by Chef Charlie Palmer, author Andy Straka, Nike, and The New York Knicks. The lights of The Inn glowed both inside and out, although those lights had great competition: the faces of guests glowed even more with the realization that The Sherburne Inn is in fact coming back to life.
It seems that is should be easy enough to thank an entire community, especially one as small as Sherburne. We could take an ad out in the paper, I suppose, and say "Thank you!" Such an ad, though, cannot begin to express our true appreciation for what has transpired over the past few weeks in getting ready for the December 6 fundraiser, and indeed, for the months prior when donations of money and services and good will have poured in. There is the person from Long Island who has sent not one, not two, but three checks, the last arriving in a Christmas card where she wrote "Thank you for taking such good care of my hometown!" There is the lady from Maine who watches our progress in The Sherburne News and who has sent two checks with notes of glad tidings. There are the people who have donated time to cleaning the building, and decorating the building, and making sure the fireplace is working and the water is flowing. There are those who send notes of encouragement through the mail and on Facebook. Those who call to say "Keep up the good work!" There are the politicians who commend us, the historic preservation representatives who tell us we are an example for others who want to save important landmarks, the local contractors who are eager for us to start work, and the local farmers who wait with great anticipation for us to open a restaurant where food will be tasty and healthy and fine (and local). There is the graphic designer who donates his services, the webmaster who donates his, the auctioneer, the mason, the businessmen who all take time away from paid work to help us go forward. There are the "elves" who cleaned and decorated and moved furniture, volunteers who could have stayed home but instead showed up with mops and brooms and muscles. There are, in fact, too many people to thank with a simple newspaper ad. The outpouring of support has been beyond our wildest dreams because The Sherburne Inn is part of everyone's dream. We at SSIRP weren't sure of that in the beginning. We are sure of it now.
Someone, who it was I'm not sure, once referred to The Inn as "that pile of bricks on the corner." I hope that person drove by The Sherburne Inn on Friday night. What he or she would have seen was nothing short of a miracle: lights shining brightly through once-dark windows, people inside smiling and toasting, music and laughter and life, a revival of our rural culture. People of this wonderful community stepped up on Friday night and said "We believe!" They were there for us at SSIRP, for others who will someday dine and sleep and rejoice within the walls of a building that is anything but just "a pile of bricks;" they were there for themselves, making new memories in a place that guards and celebrates the memories of a century, a special place in the physical heart of Sherburne -- and in the emotional hearts of our townspeople -- that was almost lost.
No, Jimmy Stewart wasn't there. But angels were most certainly all around, those who walked through The Sherburne Inn doors on Friday evening in support of this journey, and those whose spirits are still there, one hundred years later.
As guests drifted away on Friday night, gentle snowfall began decorating our village. It was the perfect ending to a perfect night, and the beginning of a wonderful new life for The Sherburne Inn.