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Trip Report - Eastern Naturist Gathering - August 19-25, 2002
Eastover Resort, Lenox, Massachusetts
Mrs. Oldtimers and I have just returned from our fourth Gathering at Eastover Resort, and once again, it was exactly what we expected - a good assembly of events, a hospitable Eastover staff, and a fine organizational effort put forward by the staff of The Naturist Society (TNS). Eastover converts itself from a textile resort to a clothing-optional one or the six and a half day gathering each year. Thus, you find all the amenities found in traditional resorts of their type.
We arrived on Wednesday afternoon, August 21. The Eastover registration process is easy and hassle-free, especially if you have stayed with them before, and within five minutes of entering the grounds, we had our bags stored in our room. Shortly hereafter, we were enjoying nude recreation on an 82F/27C sunny day.
Workshops, seminars, and games were continually scheduled during the day, and I chose to attend one on planning for the challenges of aging. Mrs. Oldtimers chose to lounge by the pool. At the end of the afternoon, the TNS officials conducted a welcoming assembly at poolside, and told us what we could expect for the remainder of the week.
During the Gathering, you will find a variety of activities. The seminars and workshops deal with a potpourri of subjects, from support groups and personal development sessions to crafts, hobbies, massage, and political action forums. Nudist film has also become a tradition at the Gathering, and a film from decades past was shown in the American Heritage Room every evening. It might be noted that a large collection of artifacts and memorabilia from the American Civil War conflict is displayed in that room. Some claim that Eastover has the largest privately held collection of its type outside of the southern states.
There is also a daily kidsí activity program conducted by the Eastover staff. Daily historical tours of the grounds are also available. In a short trip report such as this, itís impossible to mention every feature and offering of the resort, but there are all sorts of recreational opportunities available - archery, horseback riding, and skeet shooting, to name just three.
Each of the four nights offered some type of entertainment. Wednesday night found us dancing to the house DJ in the Tally-Ho, a large barn converted to a dance hall. Nude dancing is permitted, and becomes almost a requisite, as several hundred dancers can generate a considerable amount of heat in short order.
On Thursday, the evening program expanded. A troupe from the TNS Opera-Musical Theatre SIG performed 'Naked Klezmer', a musical production featuring songs in Hebrew, English, and Yiddish, with a definite kosher slant on music, culture, and of course, humor. Having been raised in a gentile family in the jewelry business, I was still heavily exposed to the culture in my youth and appreciated the show. This event was followed by a DJ dance which was still going strong at our midnight departure.
Friday brought a large number of people out for the weekend, and we were finally united with a number of old friends from different locales. We also met new friends, and in the evening reconvened in the Tally-Ho for the 'Star Search' talent show - where any naturist can volunteer to be a star. This was followed by yet another DJ dance, and those who wished a quieter entertainment experience could retreat to 'The Stalls'. The Tally-Ho barn was part of a working farm at one time, and the former horse stalls have been converted to booths with tables that can seat a large group. This creates a unique cabaret, with each stall seating up to sixteen people. Stan and Louie, the house duo, ably provided live entertainment in the stallsí area for singing along and dancing.
Saturday was highlighted by two events. The first was the TNS Town Hall Forum in the American Heritage room. It afforded TNS members the opportunity to ask their leadership some pointed questions, and also to make their comments known as to what they want to see at future Gatherings and Festivals. The second was the NAC drawing for the trip to Grand Lido Braco, followed by a dance with a live band.
I was pleasantly surprised to find attendance somewhat sustaining its levels of past years. It was reported in the Forum that the registration level was approximately 550. This is a rather positive indication of the Gatheringís continued success, given the state of the economy and the fact that the week runs into the start of the school year in many places. The weather also was poor for most of Friday and rotten on Saturday, which undoubtedly affected walkup registration. On the other hand, Eastover has a sufficient number of indoor facilities, including meeting rooms, a large sauna and indoor heated pool, so everyone there just went indoors and carried on.
The resort offers a variety of lodging and meals plans - you can stay in a room for two with a private bath, as Mrs. Oldtimers and I prefer, and take the full meals plan in which three buffet-style meals are served each day. For lower cost, you can share your room with others, or rent a bed in the mansionís dormitory. There are also options for those traveling in RVs or vans, and those who choose to tent. You can purchase the meals plan and let Eastover staff do the work for you, or you can prepare your own food at your tent or RV site.
The resort is a BYOB (bring your own bottle) establishment, which means that alcohol is not available for sale on the property by the drink. On the other hand, it also provides those who choose to imbibe with an economical option. For those who donít use alcohol, fountain soft drinks are available at the Tally-Ho and other locations at the resort at no cost.
When the sun does shine, Eastover visitors will appreciate the natural beauty of the Berkshire Mountains all around them. For those who wish to venture off of the grounds, there are various restaurants in the scenic towns of Lee and Lenox.. Several museums, including the Norman Rockwell Museum, are nearby.
There were some improvements at ENG 2002; the nightly pizza servings in the Tally-Ho had been dropped in 2001 but returned this year. Overall food service and quality was somewhat better than it was last year. Lines were shorter, food was plentiful and when the supplies ran out, the staff was far more responsive at replenishing the serving trays.
There were some minor disappointments along the way as well. While live music had been touted in the preliminary agenda for both Friday and Saturday nights, we only had a band one night (Saturday) and it was not the outstanding Higgins Brothers house group that we had hoped to see. Some complained at the Town Hall that there werenít enough fun events on the daily programs, but TNS officials correctly advised us that it is up to the members to plan sessions and workshops. And, much to the dismay of some, the traditional Sunday morning Closing Friendship Circle was dropped from the program due to time constraints.
Personally, I had the good fortune to finally meet up with fellow NetNuder Sus5an on Saturday, but missed linking up with Inspector Joe, and particularly was saddened by the absence of Jan C and the Toronto gang. They could not be at Eastover due to business commitments, and they were conspicuous by their absence. We missed the mudslides that she mixes, there was no one around to organize the traditional street hockey game, and I couldnít bore her business partner with the same University of Waterloo jokes.
But, all in all, it was still a good take, and Mrs. Oldtimers and I hope that TNS decides to return the Gathering to Eastover in 2003 for a sixth year. We hope to see many of you there!
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