There are many images from the Festival in Prague, 2013, which can portray or symbolize the whole week for us. But this one above, a photo of a young girl giving all what she has to fill the song with rhythm and beauty and perform the best music she knows, is so typical for the Festival. It is a stage for young people to try out their talents, to present the cause of their engagement and passion, to demonstrate the power of the local Ten Sing Choir, or just to be one of the thousands in front of the stage to enjoy and scream and dance and sing – LOVE 2 LIVE!
This is another image quite typical for the week we just have experienced and lived together – a good friend marching towards you in rain and shadows and wind, eager to share the good news – yes, there is coffee served in the next tent, come on! That coffee just saved me from a terrible cold, Bob! Thank you! Friendship and rain and coffee, or Crepes and Coke, or potatoes and Pizza!
And this image! The Festival is probably the best place in the YMCA world to meet old friends and catch up and renew the friendship!
Or this image! The Festival is one of the best places in the YMCA world to find new friends, like for example 220 Change Agents coming together at the Festival for the very first time. How I enjoyed the training together with these excellent representatives for the young leadership of our YMCA movement world wide! I felt like a circus horse back in the arena again. Thank you, Change Agents!
Or this image! The Crowd finding their way to the Main Stage late evening, ready for a fabulous evening show.
It is building up to the last evening final show, and the whole Festival site is excited, preparations are ongoing all over the area, in tents and on stages, in sports fields and in the swimming pools, and above you see how preparations are taking place in the scout tent, where the fire is burning and ready to receive sausages and burgers and what have you!
Up in the trees, where our Swiss friends live, the expectations to the final show are sky high, and the higher you climb in this fantastic habitat in the trees, the more intense is the excitement. Can you imagine that over and above the stairs we can see on this photo there is space for 140 young people to live day and night! They serve coffee and soft drinks up there in the trees, they have their own jacuzzi in the trees, heated from a stove below. This is not a place for those among us who enjoy sleep walking. (Safety is extremely good, though, do not worry!)
The showers are not working, because people are elsewhere to make themselves look beautiful and smart for the evening show. Excitement is building all over the place.
Even the angels come early to try and find a good place close to the stage. This was a particularly tired angel, he must have been flying a long distance to come to us, because he even needed help to get up to a plateau 20 cm higher so that he could see better, even if he was taller than most of us earthly creatures.
Rain does not stop us at all. We are used to it, and we just hurry a bit more, so that the rain takes longer to soak us completely wet. But through rain and storm we march eagerly to watch the final show, the last evening of the Festival in Prague 2013.
To help us calm down and find peace within, there are helpful hosts in the many tents serving refreshments and coffee, and to make the excitement bearable, we look for a nice, warm cup of tea or coffee or even chocolate for those of us not particularly focused on calories and body fat. How grateful we are to Ken Montgomery and his armies of refreshment serving hosts. What should we have done without them? We do not take notice of our pocket money pouring out of our pockets and in to Ken’s money boxes, and from there to the Festival income box. Our nerves calm down and the accounts of the Festival calm down and Ken is smiling….
And then finally the final! The last evening show has started, and in the bright, shining lights the winners of the Y’s Talent Show from the Netherlands. They were at the Festival in 2008 as well, but this time they went all the way to the top and won the prize! Congratulations!
The programme is building and building and going from one highlight to the next, and finally come the Change Agents on stage, this time all 220 of them, and a few of them look very much like the good old Village People and the YMCA song is thundering over the Crowd. But only the first lines. Then the music comes to an abrupt ending. And now the Change Agents song is thundering over the Festival Site.
and here to the left you can see Michal Szymanczak and Eva Tschornova from the YMCA Europe Steering Committee for the Festival smiling and shouting, They stand there as symbols and representatives of our very, very generous hosts from YMCA Europe. They made us from the World YMCA feel so included and welcome and they certainly gave us space enough to test our concepts and present our visions.
Now the whole Tower is in fantastic use, all the 220 Change Agents are waving to the Crowd and playing with hundreds of balloons.
The Crowd is doing the same, and even Mother Earth is smilingly and very colorfully mixing herself with the other balloons and playing together with all of us.
The balloons are skyrocketing and disappearing in the dark night above Prague and hopefully bringing with them sounds and colors and smiles and memories from this fantastic youth Festival of the YMCA.
Quite simply the YMCA. We may be in the World or in Europe, we may be Americans or Russians or Chinese or Africans. We may come from Asia and Pacific or from Latin America and the Caribbean, or we may come from the Middle East or Canada. Still we belong to the same YMCA, and the collective image of the YMCA is what shall shine inside us and above us and around us. This is the YMCA that unites us and binds us together in the strongest NGO family in the world.
The balloons are all gone, the lights are closed and the site is dark and we are all very warm and happy and very tired and satisfied with the week. Here a sailor in Prague, not so common, since Prague is far away from the sea, but this is really more of a musical sailor and a very happy Executive Secretary for Youth Empowerment and Communication at the World YMCA, Romulo Dantas, saying good bye to the Festival and the Change Agents and the 5000 fine participants. God bless them all and keep them safe as they are traveling home today.
This Festival is already history, but a history imprinted in the hearts and minds of 5000 young YMCA leaders from 70 countries on all continents. It was life changing and life fulfilling. And please read the Mission Statement of the Prague Festival, the YMCA Europe Festival 2013!