Each successive year brought new challenges, often unanticipated – from finding the lower gym full of school supplies on the opening night of the festival to complying with abrupt changes in the fire regulations. One notable challenge was being notified just two weeks before the 1994 festival that the main gym would be closed to install a new floor. Each time the NOMAD volunteers pulled through. In that last instance, the program committee adjusted the dance schedule to various large hallways around the school, and the dances were saved.
During our time in Newtown High School, the festival date was always subject to the school’s football schedule, so we landed on a different weekend each year.
Early on, NOMAD was mostly dance and its related music. That changed one summer when Fran’s husband Chip was hired to play a wedding. During the break, Chip and Fran spent time with Sandy and Caroline Paton, traditional singers and owners of the Folk-Legacy record company, who were also performing there. After hearing the concept of NOMAD, the Patons attended the next festival. They were so pleased that they shared their performer mailing list with the program committee, and in 1992 the “right hand side of the grid” was born. At this point, we were running eight rooms for programs.
In 1993 we started the “red hot” Friday evening dance for early festival attendees. The Friday evening event has continued to this day and has expanded to include song sessions as well.
Ed Potter, John Foley and Fran developed a set of by-laws, and we were accepted under the umbrella of the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) as a 501(c)(3) non-profit group.
Chip was the silent partner, supporting us in so many ways ranging from organizational skills to developing the festival booklet and giving us valuable ideas from his years of experience with major dance festivals and desktop publishing. In January 1997, Chip suffered a major stroke. It was just after the 9th NOMAD Festival, and Fran and Chip left NOMAD to deal with his catastrophic illness. The faithful volunteers – committee heads and others – pulled together to see that the 10th anniversary of NOMAD was a success. This festival moved to Newtown Middle School due to major reconstruction at the high school.
When we returned to the high school two years later, we found that the floor-plan was not as user-friendly to our events as it had been, and eventually the committee planned to move the festival.
A great deal of searching for just the right school brought us temporarily to the Hill Career Regional High School in New Haven, and the next year to New Haven’s Wilbur Cross High School. We’d had our eyes on Wilbur Cross for some time, but were unable to move there previously because the school was undergoing extensive renovations. Now we are settled comfortably in a festival-friendly facility in a fabulous neighborhood.
The final chapter of the History of NOMAD has not yet been written, and we expect that it will not be for a long time. We are still tinkering with the layout of the festival in our new home, trying to make NOMAD even friendlier and more accommodating to our performers, volunteers, vendors, and all of our loyal NOMAD attendees, so many of whom return year after year.