The Open House weekend is the biggest weekend of the year – the biggest fundraiser at the sanctuary as well as the one that draws the biggest crowd. This year they guestimated over 1,000 people showed up. It seems to grow each year, which is definitely a positive thing!
This year Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was the speaker. I was really excited about this – the majority of the supporters of the sanctuary, and thus the majority of the visitors at the Open House, are not vegan. Many are not even vegetarian. Colleen has a great message and delivery for that kind of crowd. And her recent book, 30 Day Vegan Challenge, was really the perfect thing to be pushing at the sanctuary, at this event, at this crowd.
The event this year was very different for me than in the past. Usually I spend my day in the chicken yard, which I love even though talking to people all day long is exhausting for this poor little introvert. This year Terry asked me to give Colleen a tour of the sanctuary before her talk, and I’m so glad Terry had Colleen get there early – she was busy signing and selling books from the moment her talk ended until she left to go to the airport! If she hadn’t gotten there early, she would not have had a chance to meet any of the animals, and she loves sanctuaries, loves the animals and their stories.
I managed to get her around the sanctuary to see most of the animals (the cows and horses and mules were off in the woods somewhere) within the allotted time. I had expected that I’d give the tour and skedaddle to the chicken yard, coming back up for Colleen’s talk, but in retrospect it was probably unlikely for that to have happened because having given her the sanctuary tour, I naturally fell into the role of doing whatever was needed to help Colleen, which means this was the first year I was able to listen to the speaker and see what goes on during the rest of the event!
And her talk was even more awesome than I had anticipated. If you’ve heard her talk – at an AR conference, another speaking event, or her podcasts – you know the warmth she brings to these talks. She talked of compassion, and of herself as a child, and of experiences with sanctuary animals in California. She talked quite a bit about the importance of sanctuaries and the impact that getting to know the individual animals can have in awakening our compassion – very different than learning statistics that can be hard to relate to. She also recited her “Prayer for Humans on Behalf of Animals,” which is powerful always, and brought tears to my eyes to hear it recited at the sanctuary.
The overall tone and message is essentially that she is like all of us – a caring, compassionate person. And that she knows that we can all be vegan, and she’s going to help us get there.
I know that many people came to the event specifically because Colleen was there. (I heard several people mention it while talking to her during the book signing.) Whether while signing books or simply while walking around the event, people were constantly stopping to tell her that she had changed their lives, that they listened to her podcasts and went vegan. It was very inspiring to hear this, to see how much of an impact she has on so many lives.
But there were also many people there who had never heard Colleen talk or even necessarily heard of her and her books, and it seemed that several of the conversations during the book signing indicated that people had been inspired right then to go vegan. One guy turned to his girlfriend and said, “will you take the 30 day vegan challenge with me?”
It was a really wonderful day, and luckily my friends who normally find me down at the chicken yard found me even though I wasn’t where I expected to be! Also, the world’s cutest 5-year-old gave me a gingerbread man that she helped make herself. You just can’t beat that!
And at the end of the day, there was cake from Brunie‘s, a vegan bakery in Baltimore. Delicious!
Goal for future events: PHOTOS! I tend to take almost zero pictures during events, and I generally regret it. This year’s open house is no exception! Colleen has some great photos from during our tour, though, so check out her Poplar Spring album on Facebook!