Party On, Weird America
February 17, 2011 10:11 AM   Subscribe

The American Festivals Project takes you along on two guys' National Geographic-funded 2008 tour of the "small, hidden, and bizarre" festivals celebrated all over the United States. Through photos, video, and a blog, discover Rattlesnake Roundup, Okie noodling, an American Fasnacht, the Idiotarod, and plenty more.

These whippersnappers stole my dream, but I'm posting it anyway.
posted by Miko (23 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Aaaah, the Idiotarod. The only time I've ever been blackout drunk. According to my friends, I did the following :

1) spontaneously started rapping
2) delivered an impromptu monologue on Missouri history
3) unironically declared myself the Lizard King
4) nearly started a riot on the 61 bus. (which was a problem, because it's kind of a long ride from Red Hook to Williamsburg)

Sadly, video evidence of this does exist; I watch it every once in a while to remind myself why I should never get that drunk.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2011

I used to post about hundreds of such festival events on my old discarded blog
posted by growabrain at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2011

unironically declared myself the Lizard King

You should make this your text message tone.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:40 AM on February 17, 2011

I used to be a stringer type photographer for a small town news paper. I really enjoyed covering the popcorn festivals, the turkey festivals, the pumpkin festivals. All the various towns and villages had something to celebrate. And being from the Marigold capital of the universe, I covered the Marigold festival as well.
posted by Sailormom at 10:42 AM on February 17, 2011

I really like this. My own project idea is to hit all the Carnivals. The most famous of these are the ones in Rio (Mar. 4 - Mar. 9 this year) and New Orleans (you know... Mardi Gras; Feb. 21 next year), but there are Carnivals all around the world, not all at the same time. So I could fly from party to party for a few months, if only National Geographic would fund me.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:43 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I watch it every once in a while to remind myself why I should never get that drunk. BE KING OF THE B 61 BUS
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Last year, the MrsMoonPie and I went to 10 or so weekend-long festivals, mostly hippie-centric small music events, mostly in the mountains around Strasburg, VA. We'll likely do the same this year--it's kinda become our thing. Also bluegrass and barbecue. One fest is run by the guy who does all the lighting for the Further tour, so that's quite a show. We've done Playa del Fuego and Wickerman and others in the past. Next up is Earth Day in April and the Shenandoah Riverside Fest in May. Much fun, and open to all persuasions, if anyone would like to come along.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:54 AM on February 17, 2011

I got to talking to my dissolute uncle about the Okie noodling last Thanksgiving. He was disgusted with the whole process. "Listen here," he said in the voice he usually uses for Obama, "I'm done with it. Couple old boys kept trying to take me out there, and do you know, I finally went and got out there and they were cheating? Had a big damn oil drum stuck underwater in the creek bank, and they were out there salting it with catfish for the big deal next year. Dumbest business I've ever seen." He went on to tell a story about the time the same two guys used a damn salt lick to hunt deer, shaking his head at the stupidity of damn rednecks generally.
posted by ormondsacker at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Also, allegedly I went into great detail about my past psychedelic experiences, going so far as to detail my interactions with the Panther Shaman beneath the Jeweled Dome. Apparently, it has a very pleasing checkerboard spiral motif.

Yeah, that probably didn't need to happen.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:58 AM on February 17, 2011

Great blog, growabrain.
posted by Miko at 11:03 AM on February 17, 2011

So, next year's Idiotarod, team Metafilter?
posted by theora55 at 11:19 AM on February 17, 2011

I love these little festivals. Great post Miko. Ooh lumberjack championships! That's fun too. If I had it to do all over again I'd fulfill my childhood dream to become a stunt man or a lumberjack (same difference).
posted by Mister_A at 11:31 AM on February 17, 2011

I have to say, his write-up of his experience at a Rainbow Gathering is one of the more lucid, well-rounded accounts of such an event I've ever read.
posted by hippybear at 11:59 AM on February 17, 2011

Did they make it to CPAC?
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 12:07 PM on February 17, 2011

CPAC has all the wrong kinds of drugs...
posted by Theta States at 12:24 PM on February 17, 2011

oh dear god, rainbow gatherings. i wonder what would happen if i actually went back. i'd probably feel seriously out of place, even though i went to like 9 of them back in the 90s.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:20 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

i wonder what would happen if i actually went back.

They'll be someplace in WA state this year. Nobody knows where yet, of course... I'm threatening to go, since they're in my backyard more or less. I went to several in the 90s, and kind of miss it.
posted by hippybear at 1:32 PM on February 17, 2011

Yeah, sadly what keeps me away is things like basic sanitation. Open shitters and dogs pooping everywhere == not healthy. Also, I remember working in those kitchens, and I'm not really sure I would eat at them again. I pretty much always got at least a case of the sniffles at gatherings. Also, for all their rhetoric about the environment, a Rainbow Gathering is probably the worst possible thing that could happen to a national forest. Those places are meant to be preserved, not lived in!

When I went to Burning Man for the first time, I couldn't help but compare it to rainbow gatherings; in fact, I talked so much about it, my playa name became Rainbow Jay. I'm far more likely to go back to Burning Man; in fact, I'm probably going back this year. In some ways, Burning Man is a much better festival : sanitary porta-potties; better relations with the LEOs; exponentially more environmentally friendly; incredible art installations and other "happenings", cleaner, less-sketchy people; no a-camp.

But after reading that article, there is a part of me that sort of longs for Rainbow. Burners are generally responsible people with real (sometimes well-paying) jobs. At Rainbow, you get a lot of people who genuinely live outside of society -- for better and for worse. There's also a certain innocence about the whole Rainbow thing -- so idealistic. There's the whole communal aspect that's completely missing from Burning Man : at Rainbow, everybody pitches in; Burning Man is kind of the libertarian opposite of that.

It would be really interesting to go back, having lived and changed and grown over the last 10 years. But I'm afraid that it would just make me feel old.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:01 PM on February 17, 2011

Yeah... I've always just managed to hook up with a crowd that generally lives kind of close to the land anyway (Faerie Camp, usually staffed heavily by Short Mountain Sanctuary folk), so they're pretty good about basic hygiene overall, and very careful with things like drinking water and such. I always go with the attitude that I'm going to have to work hard for my keep, and that's never failed me yet.

Mostly I miss that communal thing, and the really strange bits of random magic that happen in such an environment. And there's nothing like going to some of the discussion circles if you want to have your head spinning with hippie rhetoric of many sorts.

And I can say, having helped with the restoration crew from the gathering near Taos in the 1990s, and having revisited the site myself about 10 years later... there's not much sign of anything close to "the worst thing possible" having taken place there.
posted by hippybear at 2:17 PM on February 17, 2011

Apologies for the derail: Afroblanco, the intent behind national forests is to preserve them for human uses; wilderness areas are the ones protected from humans (which is why we need more wilderness, but anyway...). Among the many things you can do in a national forest, mining is one of them, and in my experience that's pretty much the worst thing possible (maybe tied with clear-cut logging...maybe). Tens of thousands of hippies can't even come close to that kind of damage.
posted by hackwolf at 2:25 PM on February 17, 2011

Okay, maybe "worst thing possible" was a bit of hyperbole. But seriously, 10-20K hippies (some of which are not as conscientious as you would like) and their dogs shitting in the forest, crunching down trails, parking their cars and scaring off the animals. Again, I'm comparing this to Burning Man, where people are SO conscientious about "leaving no trace" that every year the Bureau of Land Management invites them back.

As a teenager, I always scorned the buzzkill rangers trying to fuck up our gathering, but in retrospect, yeah, they were kinda right. No respect though for the fucked-up redneck ass local cops we'd have to deal with, who pretty much saw us as an opportunity to fill their coffers and practice their 4th amendment violations.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:36 PM on February 17, 2011

I do have to say... comparing the Sturgis writeup with the Rainbow writeup is interesting. Since they're both kind of places that bring lifestyle people together once a year for a couple of weeks to be with their own tribe, it's a pretty good study in contrasts.
posted by hippybear at 2:36 PM on February 17, 2011

AB, I give the BMORG some points for the good sense to have their thing in a less sensitive space - alpine ecosystems are a hell of a lot more delicate than alkali lake bed - but given that BMORG is charging $300/head and the Rainbows don't charge a cent, I think the gathering comes off pretty well in comparison. Although, I say this as somebody who's been to Burning Man a number of times and the Rainbow Gathering not at all, so maybe I should shut my trap.

Oh, neat, they did one on Speed Week too! Nice find, Miko!
posted by hackwolf at 9:10 PM on February 17, 2011

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