In and out of the crowd

I live close to a big music festival which anyone local knows as Musikfest.  It’s been going on for 35 years now.  I’ve gone every year for about half that time, or a little less.  My cousin would come to stay with my brother and me for many of those years, when we were still talking.  Then we’d all go together.

I’ve seen a lot of great musical acts and met a lot of interesting people.  I’ve eaten a lot of different kinds of food, drinks and enjoyed the artisan vendor tents.  I’ve gotten some cool stuff at those tents. I also bought a bonsai tree about four years in a row.  They never made it to the next year.  I finally gave up out of guilt for killing something that was so beautiful and that someone spent 5 years training.

Those are the good experiences (except for the bonsai), and why I’ll keep going. There are downsides to it though.  In fact, many locals make it a point to stay away.  There’s the parking. You either have to pay $10 or park very far away and walk in. It has also gotten to be rather expensive to eat and drink. The music is still free, which is great, but who doesn’t want to eat or have a drink while they’re there?

Of course, the biggest factor is the crowds. Some people just don’t like being in a throng of people. I have to admit, there’s a lot more rudeness than in years past, especially talking during a performance, so you can barely hear the band.

Festivals are a showcase of human behavior, both good and bad. I have to be in the mood, but I do like going into the crowd sometimes. There’s a certain energy and a sort of primitive communal spirit of gathering around a small venue stage or street performer, like the minstrels of old, or the storyteller around a fire back in early human history.

I’ve seen people spontaneously dance with strangers, interact with the band members after the show, someone giving a stranger a food ticket or two when they’re short, and help someone when they’ve fallen.

I particularly like a South American group called Runa Pacha that’s there every year. I always find time to sit on the grassy bank by their set-up and listen to the pan flutes, guitars and traditional Native American drumming. As other people join me in a moment of respite on the grass, I imagine myself being high in the Andes or on a cliff top overlooking the sea. It’s so relaxing and refreshing.

So, I get both sides of the argumnt. Sometimes, I’m kind of done with the crowds and ready to get home by the time the night is over. But I like to go to take in some music and do some people watching, and enjoy the charm of the historic district and closed streets full of fest goers looking to have some fun with friends and family for a moment of our busy lives.

As for tonight, I’m perfectly happy sitting on my deck writing this and enjoying the night air. For tomorrow, I ‘fest’.

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