ThanksLIVING 2017!

Saturday October 7 2017, the 3rd Annual Thanksliving event at Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary.

Nature’s colors were an incredible hue of crimson golds, rusts and burgundy’s. And over 200 supporters were able to witness this incredible beauty of the Sanctuary forests and pristine fields as they converged on the farm for the 6 hour event.

The big day’s preparation started earlier in the week with volunteers arriving each day to erect tents and seating, set up food stations, and decorate with dozens of corn stalks, hay bales and pumpkins. The planning of this event actually starts months earlier and emanates from the creative minds of Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter! They may be know primarily as Esther’s Dads, but they are event planners extraordinaire!

The hard work of the many hands were met by the countless smiles of the guests who arrived from all over including the U.K., the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland, and 19 American States. After registering at the table staffed by smiling volunteers, many kind and generous supporters dropped off an incredible bounty of produce for the Sanctuary residents. Steve, Derek, Reuben and Shelby were out to welcome all and were greeted with hugs, smiles and even a few tears. 

At the welcoming hub, guests arrived to a plethora of sensory delights! From the amazing aromas wafting from the ‘Esther approved’ simmering foods, the flaming outdoor wood fired pizza oven, and a blazing firepit ready with marshmallows for roasting. A humongous main tent was set up in the nearby pristine cow pasture, the cows having been relocated to the north pasture in order for guests to experience the vast expanse of the farm. This tent elegantly housed the main dining area where tables were beautifully laden with fall foliage and pumpkins, and pine planks were placed over straw bales for comfy seating. A smaller adjacent tent housed the entertainment venue and even the cow barn was put to use to house the drop off for used dishes. 

Back in the central greeting area, 8 tents were set up to house the food stations, the silent auction, and the store items including the Esther store, and HEEFS store items, . The silent auction was a huge success with kind donations from Peggy O’Neil of Scentsy burners, Indigo Books gift baskets, ‘Echoes In The Attic’ upcycled Eco handbags, Soup Girl, Arbonne, Matt & Nat, Chef Linda, and volunteers Kim and Dana. Guests also had a sneak peak at the upcoming online auction items, 4 beautiful memory boxes each housing an Esther worn ensemble including a wig, sunglasses, and a photo of Esther. Also a crocheted set of Steve, Derek and Esther! These items are now up for bidding on eBay at this link,

For the first hour guests mingled and snacked on vegetable samosas, butternut squash soup with coconut milk drizzle and toasted pumpkin seeds, and freshly picked corn on the cob, coated with dairy-free butter or chili lime mayo. Vocalist Andra Henderson entertained with her beautiful voice accompanied by her keyboardist. 

After the filling appetizers, guests converged on the pasture tent where emcee and Board member Krista Hiddema welcomed all and outlined the days itinerary which included 2 grounds tours, each one led by a Dad who offered up endless fascinating facts about all of the animals. The residents were very excited to receive special thanksliving bounties of pumpkins, fresh produce, hay and treats. New arrival tiny piglet Tammy, elicited countless squeals of delight from the throng, she is just such an adorable package of cuteness.

One of the highlights of the tour was the opening of the new Memorial Trail through a section of previously uncharted forest. Winding its way through picturesque old growth, beautiful engraved stones were placed along the wood-chipped path, signifying the passing of previous HEEFS residents. Many of the visitors shed tears at Bear’s memorial stone which was placed in front of the lone apple tree which magically grew among the many pines, cedars and maples. A meaningful gesture as Bear loved apples. Even the 3 piglets who were part of the litter of 8 born to mama pig April back in April 2015, and who passed just days after their birth were recognized. The trail itself was a fitting tribute to the souls lost. Also a reminder how to Steve and Derek every life matters. They never forget.

The hour long tours eventually converged back at the barn where a group photo was taken. At this point Steve and Derek headed to their backyard hoping to coax Esther outside to greet her many adoring fans. Esther would have none of it, and peered outdoors from the comfort of her mattress, taunting her fans with her looks of diva disdain. Despite their valiant efforts to persuade the Queen to venture out, Dads realized Esther would do so when she was good and ready, and guests headed back to the main tent for a cooking demonstration by Chef Linda. This was followed up by a few words from Steve and Derek but just as Steve was starting to finish his speech, a murmur went up from the crowd! Esther had decided Steve’s speech was the opportune moment to grace all with her beauty and presence. This diva truly knows how to make an entrance! 

Guests hurried to Esther’s yard where she posed, snorted, peed, and lapped up fresh pumpkin and dinner to the delight of all. Steve and Derek answered questions and even Cornelius strutted around the yard preening for photos and keeping a close watch on Esther. When he headed over for a hug and cuddle with Steve, everyone’s hearts melted just a little bit more. As the crowd slowly dispersed back to the tent for dinner, Esther did an about face and promptly returned to her bed in the living room.

As for Shelby and Reuben, they were of course camped out by the food tents lapping up every morsel that was offered to them and posing for pictures. Reuben especially was a big hit with the children, his soft brown eyes eliciting smiles and cuddles, letting all fawn over him, his gentle nature an automatic draw for the tiny ones. 

Of course for many guests, in addition to meeting Esther, her dads and of course the Sanctuary animals, the highlight of the event is always the feast! In prior years an Esther-approved traditional thanksgiving meal was done. But this year it was changed up with new delights including the mouth watering wood fire pizza, Caesar salad with homemade garlic croutons; Italian bella meatballs, mushroom ceviche, roasted beetroot salad with artisan sunflower chevre over fresh greens, root harvest salad with black rice, penne pastas with marinara sauce and alfredo sauce with sunflower Parmesan cheese, roasted maple salted jalapenos. And for dessert chocolate, key-lime and New York cheesecakes, cupcakes galore, and ‘Delectably Dutch Poffertjes’, tiny sugared pancakes that were melt in your mouth delicious. For Steve and Derek this event offers the one meal a year where they do not have to share with the large pink one staring at their every morsel. But, within the hour Esther caught a whiff of the incredible aroma of the pizzas baking in the outdoor oven and promptly pranced back out into her yard, obviously hoping someone would deliver her a slice!

Diners were entertained by the incomparable Ellen Reid of the Canadian rock band ‘Crash Test Dummies’. Her beautiful keyboard and vocals were accompanied by musical artists Bill Bartlett and Peter Lebuis who lent their talents to a vast array of songs including one written about turkey Cornelius! And before guests left for the night, a live auction was done for an apple pie baked by staff member Allison Watt who is famous for her mouth-watering apple delights. A rousing bidding war started with the final offer of $500.00 resulting in Ellen Reid herself taking home the tantalizing creation. It was a fitting end to a very successful day.

And Thanksliving would not have been possible without our kind sponsor Daiya who provided the cheesecakes, creamy Caesar dressing, and the mozzarella styled shreds.

-Extraordinary Chef Linda DelPizzo of Esther’s Kitchen,
who travelled from the U.S. and spent countless hours in advance developing recipes, grocery lists and then creating the scrumptious foods 

-cooks Susan, Gilda, Vic, Glen, Marika, and Sheryl 

-dessert creators Linda Lamont and Andrea Querido.

-The local farmers who provided the freshly picked produce including Allison's Farm Market in Georgetown, Andrews Scenic Acres-
Atkinson Farms-Instagram @farmsatkinson,and the Georgetown Farmers Market vendors-

-The Georgetown Rotary Club for their kind donation of the giant party tent,
Instagram@rotarygeorgetown, Rotary Georgetown

- volunteer Rachel Douglas who organized the silent and Ebay auctions 

-All of our incredible volunteers who spent the last week as well as today preparing the farm for this memorable event

- The animals without whom we would not be here today!

It was another incredible event at Happily Ever Esther. And it always comes back to one not so tiny mini-pig whose smile continues to change the world ever single hour of every single day. Because of Esther this Sanctuary exists. Because of Esther the residents of HEEFS will live out their lives knowing nothing but peace and love until their natural demise. 

It's sometimes difficult to remember that there are people in this harsh world making a difference and showing compassion and love for all beings. Steve and Derek are two of those people. They adopt a position of kindness and compassion to all and that is what ultimately helps the animals. Every encounter is an opportunity to share their philosophy, and they lead by their example. By the wearing of their hearts on their sleeves, Steve, Derek and their entire Wonder Family have touched more people than they will ever know. They were the first pebble in a pond that is rippling around the world and these ripples continue to elicit waves of compassion. It is a joyous thing to witness and be a part of!

Happy Thanks-LIVING everyone!

Article by Kim Rushnell
Photographs by Andrea White and Kim Rushnell