Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Clearwater Photojournal: Part 1 


Arrived on site by 2. Stepping out of four hours worth of air conditioning the world was hot and hazy, the kind of weather that kills your spirit, but we made it through.

After checking in at volunteer reception, set up camper, including -- bonus of bonuses -- electricity and water hookup, only to find that we'd put ourselves right across from the Night Owl Camping sign. No time to move, though; Darcie's shift in the Communications tent ran from 4 to 8. Willow and I explored the playground, had a beer back at the tentsite with a new friend and neighbor Chelley, and met Mommy for a chicken-and-bean supper at the volunteer food tent.

Later, Chelley and I toured the grounds, stealing leftover chicken from the walk-in before heading back up the already grueling hill in the darkness just before my own midnight to four a.m. shift. I brought books, but never opened them; though not one person called or radioed in all night, discursive and deep chitchat with covolunteer Paul and the other folks, and constant visits by the coffee goddesses Chelsea and Margot, kept me busy until the wee hours.

Walking home I startled two deer on my way up the hill -- the first silhouetted against the predawn sky on the dunes, the other jumping right out in front of me before diappearing into the darker underbrush -- and resolved to bring my camera with me on the morrow.


On our way down the hill from campsite to festival site the next morning. Darcie had to work at noon, so we had some time to meander together. I was pretty groggy, having slept from 5 to 9, but I remembered to bring the camera.

The wagon was a bitch to pull, but easily worth it.

Alex, a friend and an ex-student long since graduated, now a shift manager for the best festival whole-foods veggie burrito stand around. We bumped into her while stopping in on Darren at festival fave Java Hut for a much-needed latte. Willow took a shine to her immediately. She's cool like that.

I went to put a blanket out by the main music stage before the crowds came in -- one of the perks of volunteering is that you're there first -- and when I returned, Willow and Darcie had found the playground again.

Willow was ecstatic to find a play structure where she could navigate every step. She later described "going round and round on the slide" as one of the highlights of the festival.

After a couple of trips up and down, we managed to pull Willow away, and wandered around a bit more, checking out the festival. The heavy rains the year before had cost the festival serious cash: that, and a concern that the focus on environment and alternative energy was being lost in the mud and music had caused a total redesign of stage areas and setting. It was nice to see the lay of the land, but the design wasn't a total success, I think, as we never made it back to the juggling area or the beachfront after that morning -- once the festival started, the whole area just seemed too far off the beaten path.

Before we left the juggling and beachfront, though, Willow found another playground.

While we played, Pete Seeger walked by, seemingly in the midst of an interview, and likely on his way to his sloop Clearwater, recently named America's Environmental Flagship. Pete's 85, but he doesn't look a day over seventy, does he?

Crossing back over the main stage and into the bulk of the festival grounds proper, some mellow bluegrass and a quiet crowd drew us down to the water for a spell.

The first few hours of a music festival, before the bulk of bodies has begun to crowd the air, are always the most mellow; Willow was happy to sit quietly and rock to the music. Little did we know this was the only time she'd be so willing throughout the festival.

Jabberwocky, the mellow bluegrass band. They all look so young, but I think I'm just getting old.

The crafts area next. Small, and filled with the usual stuff -- t-shirts, shea butter, ceramics and beaded jewelry, mostly.

Darcie tried on a dress, but the purple lines accented her bust funny, so I promised I'd dump the pictures. Sorry, honey -- couldn't resist.

Finally, Darcie went to work, and Willow and I were on our own for a while. I had high hoped for some blankets near stages, listening to music, but the set was too loud. We tried twice, but even with newly-retrieved earplugs the second time around, Willow could only lie on the ground and moan.

I did manage to sneak off and catch a few minutes of Kris Delmhorst, with special guest Mark Erelli, before her set was done. Thanks to Darcie for watching Willow while she worked.

The less said about the next three hours, though, the better. My feet were beginning to blister over, and Willow took some time getting used to the heat. The roasted corn we bought for lunch was too hot, and the crowds were growing fast. My apologies to Darcie for continuously asking her to watch Willow for a few minutes while I regained my sanity. It was really, really necessary.

Luckily, a substantive children's activity area had begun to sprout up around the main playground; Willow spent almost an hour playing happily with other kids in a table filled with birdseed and sand toys, and I got to catch a bit of the Zucchini Brothers at the kid's stage out of the corner of my ear.

Animals also helped fill the time. One of the exhibitors in the activists area had brought some rehabilitated birds, including the above barn own, to show kids and families how fragile our ecosystem was.

Willow and I also got a big kick out of the fishtanks in the Hudson River discovery area. They even let us touch a flounder-like beastie from the river. It was squishy.

Near the end of her mother's shift, desperate and cranky and sore from pulling the wagon, I brought Willow to the dance stage. She seemed happy dancing (well, running in circles) to Sonando on her own out in the nearby field, so I took some pix.

When Darcie's shift finally ended, I walked them up to the camper for a nap, and headed back out on my own.

Got back to the main stage for the last few minutes of the Nields, but I've seen them so many times before, so no great loss here. The big act, Dar herself, was yet to come.

Before Dar, though, the chair of the Clearwater Organization came on stage to state the obvious to an uncaring crowd. Duh-level infobytes from Bill included a) the festival was reorganized (duh), because b) the festival lost money last year when it rained so much the state park police made them cancel half their acts (double duh), but c) they decided to have a festival anyway (um...how else could we be here listening to you, Bill?).

Dar rocked. It was her first show in six months, but if the energy and vocal consistency of this show are any indication, the maternity leave did her a world of good.

Dar with two-and-a-half Nields; Katrina's daughter helping mommy fix her microphone.

On the way to meet Darcie and Willow at dinner just after Dar ended, I caught a few minutes of the Earthtones, an a capella group who roam the grounds throughout the two day event, surely blowing out their voices for weeks to come in the heat and amp-less setting. Note the heavy Dar crowds in the background.

Dinner was decent, though the same chicken from the day before popped up in the rice, and would later hit the grits and chick-pea mash the subsequent evening. Free food always rocks, but this stuff was way better than the overly vegan, overly recycled "gazpacho again?" falcon ridge food.

Went over to the main stage to see the Lee Boys after supper, sitting way in the back so as not to overwhelm the ear-sensitive kid and spouse.

Willow danced a little more, but got distracted trying to befriend some older girls who clearly weren't interested, so we packed up for the evening.

On the way out, we spotted Chelley, who'd managed to swing stage-gopher as a volunteer gig and had been running around on stage with famous people all day, kicking up her heels by stageside. I don't think she saw us, though.

On the way back Darcie wanted to check out the Chocolate cart, so Willow and I headed back to the dance stage. The crowd was dense and dancing to Entrain, but something about the funk and the drums got to her, and before we knew it she was up on my sunburned shoulders, laughing and scrambling my hair, waving her hands in the air, gleeful as can be by all reports. We danced 'til my neck couldn't take it any more, and then danced some more while a newly returned Darcie tried to take pictures.

Darcie danced a little, too.

Finally, it was time for Willow to hit the sack. I was up for a while with Alex and her friend Mary at the volunteer-only dance -- Entrain again. Hurt my feet up pretty bad dancing up a storm in bare feet, but it was way worth it. The moon was a sliver, clear and crisp over the solar cells in the field as I climbed the hill for bed earlier than usual, ready to try and cram in a few hours sleep before rising at 3:20 a.m. for my second graveyard shift with Paul and company.

And now it's getting late here, too. We spent all day at the mall and then out for supper with Mom in Northampton, a now-weekly event; got a wedding to plan for this weekend, and Darcie's working all day Thursday and Friday. Better get some rest, and finish this up tomorrow while I can.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:35 PM |

Not all are true. Everyone has their own way of thinking but I think they have to reconsider. I like to argue for the most accurate results.

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