So I went to a Folk Festival for the first time in my life this last weekend. It was a wonder-filled experience for me. For one thing, I had to take in everything for the first time. I’ve been to fairs and festivals of different natures, but this is clearly its own event.
There is, first of all, a “look” that festival goers have. They’re planning to be there all day, outside, plus they’re music enthusiasts. If you don’t look at least partially like Ozzie Osborne at the beach, you have no business being there. I saw more round sunglasses on older, long-haired men then I think I ever have. I saw short dresses with leggings so women could sit on the ground, bare shoulders, and sometimes bras, to let the sun tan away the winter whiteness. I also saw the whiteys-turned-red wrapped in enough blanketry to make a desert nomad jealous. If you don’t have round sunglasses, just plain BIG ones will do, or those $1 ones you get at a kids store. Shoes are optional.
Once you have the “look,” you a free to enjoy the festival. In England, if you’re going to have a festival you need food trailers. But not just one. You must provide exactly one of all the following (I know because I hit another festival the week previous and one more yesterday): a fish-and-chips trailer, a Chinese/Thai trailer, a Greek trailer, a Mexican trailer (I did not have the courage to try European Mexican food), a Pizza trailer (optionally separate from the Italian trailer), a burgers & chips trailer, and a vegan trailer (sporting more falafel and hummus than you can shake a stick at, as long as the stick fell from a tree naturally and wasn’t cut from a tree). These assembled you only need a healthy line up of beverage trailers (it seems a 70-ale minimum is required for a self-respecting festival).
Then you need festival booths. Now in Renaissance festivals you need booths that sell medieval things. In family festival you need booths with games. At a Folk Festival you need booths with weird stuff in them! I saw the predictable music booth, with CDs and musical instruments. But the rest of the shops amounted to: an animal onesie booth, funky hats booth (complete with druidish flower circles for maidens), henna tattoo booth, magic tricks booth, random toys and garden thingies booth, incense booth, and more funky hats.
Everyone was sitting everywhere. It was difficult to find places to walk besides behind a large congestion of other people trying to find places to walk. Everywhere you could hear music of some sort or another. In the lucky places you could hear two musics clashing. There’s the Big Stage, where screens and additional speakers out on the lawn help you see what’s happening in the Big Stage Tent. There’s the Medium Stage where you have to stick your head in yourself if you want to see what you’re hearing from outside the Medium Stage Tent. And there’s the Little Stage that you can’t hear, and have to walk around following signs to find, so you can go in and hear one person on a folk instrument playing something in the Little Tent. But the good news is that on the way you passed another funky hats and umbrellas booth!
-My wife and I sat on the lawn and watched the big screen for a while; close enough to enjoy the music, but not close enough to properly hear the words, or the banter between songs; (this gives you permission to talk whenever you want, and only pay attention to the music at your leisure);
-We were in the “trying to shake our winter-white” category of Festival goers;
-We ate our Greek chicken kebab from the Greek trailer;
-We tried on a funny hat each;
-We poked out heads into the Medium Stage Tent to see the great music we heard;
-We bought a CD from the Medium Stage Tent Band;
On the whole I’d say score our festival experience as: Rather Successful . With more prep I could probably have brought an appropriate hat, and round sunglasses, but I didn’t know in advance. If I went again I’m sure I could “festival” with the best of them, and maybe bring my score up to Very Successful, or even Expert Festival Goer, but it was pretty good for a first timer. I didn’t get all the correlations, like the animal onesies, but I’m sure it’s related to music somehow. I know it must be because at one point two girls dressed as enormous bats walked by as stilts, screeching annoyingly at festival patrons, flapping their bat wings. Everyone seemed to take this very placidly, and so I can only assume it is normal. I guess animals must have more appreciation for music than I realized, and the definition of “folk” is a bit broader than I thought. But again, I’m a first timer.
I think next year I’ll go as Ozzie “Chewbacca of Arabia” Osborne, with bare shoulders, and no shoes. I’ll eat falafel and try a couple of ales. I’ll sit on the ground like a gypsy, and get a henna tattoo. Maybe I’ll win a prize…