Joy Contemplated

Published by 8 Comments

Another Year of Sleepy Hollow

Since we’re short-staffed this year, (who isn’t?), I spent a lot of time up at our Sleepy Hollow event, and even when we found someone to fill in for me, I had trouble staying away from the place. I’ve written about this before, but I might not have explored why it’s been an emotional magnet for me, why the event, and the place, feeds me..

There’s a text I would send, if it would make any difference.  It goes like this..

“Saw an old man out walking today–fighting back tears. I asked him why he was emotional.  He pointed to his blue-tooth headphones. ‘Moon River,’ he said, ‘Moon River.'”

For someone who hosts big public events, for someone who spends a lot of time thinking about hospitality, I’m basically an introvert.  I don’t really understand spontaneous joy.   I don’t understand the very people we seem to attract as a business.  I live in awe of people who are not self-conscious, the kind of people who can spend hours on the phone with each other, the kind of people who can dance, and not care if anyone is watching — the sort of people who don’t care if their jokes fail–the sort of older sisters who can mess up a story and know they are still loved.

On the last few nights of Sleepy Hollow I saw families dancing with each other, urging each other on in the pumpkin pie eating contest, and “sashaying down the line” with an exhilaration that can’t be faked.  Each night, there were moms and dads who thanked me for this experience, but — watching it take place — I found it to be a kind of joyful mystery myself.  Who really knows where that honesty of the moment comes?  Who can explain where giddy, eleven year old girls get their high spirits, or why teams of moms welcome a newborn not just into the world, but into the dance itself?

“This is your first ice cream..”
“This is your first square dance..”
“This is your first time dancing in your dad’s arms, to the sound of a fiddle.”
“This is ‘Watching the River Run’ right here.”

I might think about it too much.  Maybe you just let this happen, but I’m not sure — these days — it even gets to happen as much as it should, and it might speak to a picture I saw the last evening of Sleepy Hollow that had me giggling and weeping at the same time.

We run a business where we say, “it’s time for the apple-bobbing contest!”  One of our farm hands or colonial maids hands you a cored apple with a string through the middle and you pair up and try to eat it without your hands.

It’s just a game.  It’s just a little challenge.  But in the world of endless digital entertainment, and worry, and schedules,  sometimes you don’t even have conversations, much less games with each other.

It was the last Sleepy Hollow night of the year, eighteen events completely sold out, and I saw a girl with a face as sweet as Shirley Temple’s, pigtails and all, holding an apple up for her dad and brother.  She couldn’t stop giggling if she wanted to.

Joy.  Pure Joy.

“If nothing else,” I told Mary.  “We get to see that.”


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This post was written by Jim Riley


  • Pamela Johnson says:

    Hi Jim Riley,
    Thank you for all the memories our children shared & now grandchildren. I need to get there before the snow falls. If I lived closer I’d apply for a job . Your stories wash over me with fond memories in my head/heart. Thank you for choosing Freedom, Faith & God. God Bless you and your family.
    Pam Johnson
    M.V., CA.

  • Maureen says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Mr.Riley! You express them beautifully, and reading them brings back fond memories of family gatherings when I was young and “giddy” myself! May the Holy Spirit continue to bless and inspire you for your work well done!

  • Linda Weber says:

    Thanks for sharing these precious moments.

  • Nathan Kays says:

    Thanks for the weekend at your farm. I filmed a YouTube video and introduced myself to you during it. We have had conversations via messenger prior but this was the first meeting u in person. We may share differentiating thoughts on some subjects but we share similar thoughts on simplicity and joy as well. Thanks again and nice meeting you.
    Nathan Kays

  • Kim & Kenny Snell says:

    I definitely see why sleepy hollow was record breaking ..we experienced it for the first time & loved it but then again everything you put on is first class! From your wonderful, professional cast to all the behind the scenes employees as well! We always know no matter what it is we leave there with such a great feeling which more than ever means so much in these crazy times. Thank you Jim for always taking time to chat with us and keep fighting the fight! This is from the “Rockstar” & his wife haha

  • Esther Leon says:

    Thank you so much for the best time. It was fun, filling, and a real blessing for us all. This was my families first time and we all fell in love, especially the grandkids. We are making this an annual event from now on, with the addition of more family members. I want everyone I know and love to experience this fun joyous event.
    Thank you

  • Peggy Sue Lansing says:

    Just got to experience our first event and meet you last night! I’d been asking to attend for awhile as a birthday present as I much prefer family experiences over gifts! We loved it and much joy and giggling was heard throughout the evening! Our little 4 month old grandson was enthralled!Thank you so much!!!❤️

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