THERE IS LESS JOY IN VALYERMO

I was saddened to report, in my most recent column (which you can find at sbsun.com/johnweeks), that even our local Benedictine monks, with God on their side, are struggling with the poor economy. They have canceled this year’s Valyermo Fall Festival at St. Andrew’s Abbey, located in Valyermo near Pearblossom, about 30 miles west of Victorville.

The festival is one of the Inland Empire’s great rites of autumn. For more than 50 years it has taken place like clockwork. This year, though, the clock has ground to a halt.

Here’s the full text of the brotherhood’s announcement, which includes their stated resolve to “re-imagine and renew” the festival and bring it back, better than ever, next year. For more information on St. Andrew’s Abbey, visit its Web site at saintandrewsabbey.com:

Fall Festival

Welcome to the online home of the Valyermo Fall Festival. Since 1957, we’ve hosted some of the finest arts & crafts events offered anywhere. This year however (2009), due to the economic crisis, the monks have decided to take a one-year hiatus.

Certainly, one of the things the monks of St. Andrew’s Abbey have been grateful for is the number of friends that have been so generous over the years in both time and financial aid. Among these friends, none have been more loyal or generous in the giving of their time and assistance than those who have worked, organized and helped at the annual Fall Festival. The entire community has firsthand experience of the generosity and hard work of so many oblates and friends of the Abbey; so great an outpouring of love and concern for the monastery and its monks. The friendships and sacrifices that our festival friends have made, the sense of family that has developed over the years, has nurtured all of us.

Having said this, a major factor has arisen these past few months that has caused the monastic community to do some serious rethinking about the festival: the grave economic situation. It takes a formidable outlay of cash to put on the festival every year: the tent rentals, the sanitation expenses, the security expenses are among the significant financial outlays. There’s a gamble involved every year, hoping that we will make enough to cover the expenses and still make a profit by trying to keep overhead down. This year we really don’t have the funds to take the gamble; prices are increasing and there’s no guarantee that we will be able to make even enough to cover expenses, let alone make any kind of profit given the grim economic picture.

After prayer, discussion and consulation the monastic chapter overwhelmingly decided that it is in our best interest to take a one year hiatus from the festival. The purpose of this, in these difficult financial times, is to re-vision, re-imagine, and re-new the festival and the original feeling and character of the artistic and spiritual that typified earlier, smaller festivals.

Be assured we will do our best to use the time to make the festival a true sign of joy and creativity in a world so desperately in need of both. Pray for St. Andrew’s during this time of re-thinking and renewal. And always be assured of our thanks, and above all, of our prayers for all of you.

The Monastic Community of St. Andrew’s Abbey