By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
BRIDGEWATER — The town is studying a noise ordinance after neighbors complained of a Route 100A “party house.”
A Vermont law allows state police to start shutting down loud parties and fining people up to $50 for “unnecessary and offensive” sounds between sunset and sunrise, but that hasn’t been enough to quiet the sound Cecelia Ryker hears next door at a community called PYNK (People You Now Know).
“I know that the Vermont thing is to let everyone do what they want to do and live with it,” said Ryker, who is considering retiring in Vermont. “We’re trying to figure out what, if anything, we can do.”
Another neighbor Bob Kancir hears the noise, too.
“I moved up here to the country, I moved up here for peace and quiet. I moved away from the loud noise,” Kancir said.
“We’ve tried to be reasonable and have tried to talk it out with the owner,” he said.
“He offered to buy my house,” said Kancir. “His goal is to buy up the whole valley.”
But Kancir doesn’t want to leave.
“We like it here, we moved here,” he said.
Like an elite camping retreat, PYNK started nine years ago, when leader Cheni Yerushalmi was looking for a community halfway between Woodstock and Killington, where he skis. There were 30 guests the first year at PYNK, now there are more than 200. They come domestically and internationally, from places like Brazil, Normandy, Spain, Amsterdam and Australia for one giant weekend celebration in August. They are life coaches, motivational speakers, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, developers, students and retirees. They range in age from newborns to 60.
“All these people are leaders. That’s kind of what’s amazing about it,” Yerushalmi said. “We created a community of leadership where people are given the opportunity to take on projects and to lead a variety of different endeavors.”
The PYNKers co-own two pieces of land in Bridgewater — a total of 21 acres which has four bonfire pits, a house they call “the Cabin,” a giant 22-foot “sacred” teepee and a separate farmhouse. The property is worth about $825,000, according to the grand list, The annual weekend party costs $50-$70,000. All PYNK members split the cost and the time to build their retreat. T-shirts are sold separately.
On a recent Friday, they were preparing for the annual party.
They built teepees in the shallow stream, strung together with Christmas lights, with hammocks dangling below. A bar called the Creak Side Café would serve drinks into the night. A row of hay bales (the dinner table) stretched far into the distance. It would be where all 200 people would eat under the moon to the sound of violins and congas.
There were leather seats and couches outside beneath a tent, near a massage station and a group of glittering, half-naked bodies.
Brian Oreck built what looked like a jungle gym for adults — a wooden structure with two stories of hammocks (enough for 100 people to relax). They called it “The Love Matrix.”
They are connected by music, specifically electronic dance music, that’s so loud that the glass cups are kept in a box, separate from where the music plays in the living room, so they don’t break.
“The entire house shakes, it vibrates. It’s amazing,” said Jason Michael Wallace, a motivational speaker who is part of PYNK. “If you are anywhere within a one-mile radius, you’ll feel it.”
Yerushalmi grew up in Israel, before moving to the United States when he was 11. His brother, who had a genetic disease until he died at age 19, needed better medical care.
“I didn’t really have a strong family,” said Yerushalmi, whose parents are in the midst of a divorce that’s lasted 15 years.
So he created a family.
Yerushalmi, a start-up consultant in New York City, is known for his success in building communities. In 2001 he started a community office space in the city. In 2012 he co-founded the Sunshine Bronx Incubator, which connected 400 entrepreneurs with resources to launch their businesses.
PYNK is modeled after the Burning Man Festival, an annual festival that thousands of people, including celebrities, attend every year in Nevada.
Unlike Burning Man, PYNK is not advertised. Unlike Burning Man, you have to be invited to PYNK. To be a PYNKer you have to be a giver, health-conscious and selfless.
Through conversations, the leaders weed out who is appropriate for the community.
Wallace, a motivational speaker, who lives in New York City, was invited seven years ago.
On this day, he wore short shorts, pink shoes and a handmade robot helmet (a gift from a friend) that said “Mr. PYNK.” He wore no shirt.
“People jokingly call me Mr. PYNK and it’s because I’m just so in love with this idea,” Wallace said.
What happens at PYNK is hard to describe.
There’s a set-up committee, an orientation committee, a music committee, art committee and welcome committee. There are ceremonies and rituals and all-night dancing.
Everyone wears a handmade necklace that says his or her name. People dress in bohemian costumes. They sleep together in hammocks. There are performances throughout the day, such as exotic dancers and people who light hula hoops on fire. They dance to EDM, like that of DJ B3, all night.
There is no itinerary.
“People just go on feeling. Things just kind of work out the way they’re supposed to,” Wallace said. “To be honest people are not the most sober.”
The house they call the “cabin” sleeps 30 people. Inside is a room of giant beanbags where they are overhead lights that change the color of the entire room. They are set on red, but can change from green to blue at the touch of a button.
“To be honest some people don’t sleep,” Wallace said. “Everyone just experiences it how they want to experience it.”
The event is a celebration of friendships.
The PYNKers don’t shake hands, they hug.
“Our community is bound together by shared values of inclusion, generosity, environmental responsibility and mutual respect,” the website says.
They bring their skills in the professional world to the community.
Top chefs, such as Jenni Leigh, Malcom Hood and Noor Elashi, make their meals.
“You bring whatever gifts. You come to this community and this is where you share it,” said Josefina Bashout, a life coach and holistic healer from Los Angeles.
There are smaller events throughout the year.
PYNK had an event called Cabin 54 in the spring, named after the Studio 54 nightclub in New York City. The cabin was turned into a disco for a 1970s party. There was a bohemian brunch during the day with elaborate costumes.
When PYNK isn’t there, the organization rents the site for weddings and other events for $300-$500 per person.
PYNK has tried to appease the Bridgewater community. PYNK hosted a community day the Wednesday before the event. They’ll do the same again next year.
They don’t open the doors when the music is playing now after people complained about the noise their first couple years.
Yerushalmi has gone door to door to talk with neighbors.
“They’ve all been telling me, you really dialed it in,” Yerushalmi said.
This article first appeared in the September 15, 2016 edition of the Vermont Standard.