This post first appeared on August 1, 2018.
If you’re a normal Midwesterner, you have attended or will have attended a festival this summer.
If abnormal, you saved lots of money. And added years to your life.
Still, we who joyously hand over cash and longevity wouldn’t miss these hometown Mardi Gras for anything.
Not long ago, I helped staff a booth at the Blueberry Festival in Plymouth, Indiana, my former hometown. Not a novelty. When we resided in Plymouth, I sold soft drinks to fund my children’s activities. I also joined most of the town’s population (10,000) in parking cars that annually brought 350,000 people to the party.
This time, however, I signed books I’d written, including The Return of Miss Blueberry, set during this festival.
Yay! I didn’t sink into melting asphalt. Nor did I, like dozens of stand owners, hover over sizzling stoves. Instead, I perched inside the souvenir/information booth, yakking with old friends. I even met Miss Blueberry, whose golf cart graced the park.
My privileged position, however, brought new challenges.
If you stand behind book stacks, people think you know something.
Thankfully, after 28 years of Blueberry Festivals, I could answer the Number One Question: “Where are the bathrooms?”
When 350,000 people need to go, they mean business.
“Paid restrooms across the covered bridge,” I recited. “Free portable johns near Jefferson School.”
By the 177th inquiry, a tiny inner voice whispered, “For this you achieved an English degree?”
I quashed it (See, the degree didn’t go to waste.), glad I could, um, serve humanity.
Question Number Two: “Where are the blueberry doughnuts?” The seekers’ eyes mirrored the restroom hunters’ urgency.
Yes, people came to scream themselves into spasms on carnival rides, to applaud bands, crow in rooster contests, paint faces, reenact battles, cheer Little League, rassle pigs, and test testosterone with sledgehammers and souped-up tractors. They scoured craft tents for quilts, stained glass, handmade furniture, John Deere china and marshmallow shooters.
But whether attendees wear polyester shorts, Amish attire or tattoos with little else, food sends them to festivals. All year, everyone dreams of favorites:
- Corn popped in an enormous black kettle.
- Thanksgiving-platter-sized tenderloin sandwiches.
- Deep-fried elephant ears, butter, Pop-Tarts® and Kool-Aid.
- Plus, all things blueberry: doughnuts, pies, sundaes.
“If you buy here, neither of us starves!” read one stand’s caption. Watching the line at his window, I doubted any danger of either.
Back to booth duties. I was not only expected to know all, but to locate all: lost eyeglasses, car keys, phones and preschoolers.
I also was to ensure good weather for the hot-air balloon launch.
I had no idea that booth would grant me such cosmic power. But that’s what festival magic will do for you.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What is your favorite festival and why?