Summerfest 2010 (Festival Review)
Article ID: 14130
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 22nd. 2010
Times Viewed: 5,031
This year, after twenty years at the Brushwood Folklore Center, the 30-year old Starwood Festival moved to a new location (at Wisteria in Ohio) . For the last few years, Brushwood has held Starwood immediately following Sirius Rising. Though Sirius Rising began as an event to create some fun and interest in the week before Starwood, it gradually grew to become bigger than Starwood and to have a fairly intense magical and elemental focus. This year, Summerfest was created as a festive event to follow Sirius Rising, with a focus less on spirituality, and more on the arts, relaxation and having a good time.
This year was both a fortunate one and a difficult one to have some changes at Brushwood: fortunate because the rainy July weather we’ve had there in the last few summers gave way to hot sunny days and pleasantly balmy nights. Nice change! (Though we did have gale force winds, a tornado in the surrounding area, and torrential rain resulting in flash floods by the end of the second weekend) . Difficult, because Frank Barney, Brushwood’s owner and founder, was recovering from a series of surgeries to treat his Parkinson’s disease, thus placing a lot of stress on his family and the staff.
But everything seemed to go really well and I think a lot of people enjoyed a relaxing week. There were some great performances every night at the Main Stage. We had a Bardic Stage on Monday (hosted by me) , which was intended to be around a fire, but it worked out pretty good to have it at the stage. Bonus: my brother Dan showed up for a night and performed a set along with all the other performers who signed up! That night we also enjoyed neo-hippie rapper River Breitbach and his band Evelyn, (including family members Jackson, Maple and David) .
Tuesday gave us the incomparable song styings of jazz chanteuse Phat Man Dee and the Liquitones, followed by the Waterband. Other performers through the week included Peter Janson, drum wizard Jim Donovan and Drum the Ecstatic International, Boston-based trance band Incus, The Empty Hats, Telling Point, and female harmonic ensemble Barely Lace. The musical offerings were very diverse! The sound and lighting crew (Roofy, Bob and Todd) did a great job every night. I did not attend concerts every night because I was also enjoying hanging out with good friends I only see once a year! But it was also easy to hear the wonderful music from throughout the campground.
Summerfest tried to employ a number of different “paths” or tracks in their programming, and I have to admit I found this a bit confusing. Some of the workshops seemed to overlap categories (which included music, art, rest and relaxation, or mind, body and spirit, among other categories) . I did enjoy the fact that the schedule was less jam-packed than it usually is during Sirius, and the evenings less structured. But the multiple “paths” seemed like an attempt to over-organize things when the workshops and talks spoke for themselves. But overall I liked the selection of workshop offerings and hope it can continue to include plenty of arts-focused subjects and plenty of “hands-on” teaching.
The Summerfest bonfire was built where the Sirius Rising bonfire had been burned the week before, so it was a good deal of work to make that happen. The structure of the Summerfest fire looked a bit like a castle. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to get this fire built, fire designer Jason Isla and the Fire Tribe, including the crew from Chicago who pitched in mightily and helped continue to groom the smoldering fire site after Saturday night! The theme of the firs was “Carnivale” and quite a few people showed up wearing masks and other festive garb. I had been aware there was supposed to be a mask-making “tent” for people to make their own masks during the week, but this never materialized for some reason. At midnight we sang Hay Birthday to Frank Barney, who listened from his house at the top of the hill (here is hoping he will be able to join us at the firs next year!)
I did notice an interesting phenomena that seems to be happening more and more each year: lots of people at the bonfire for the first few hours, but then drifting away to spend time at fires in the Roundhouse, in the Didge Dome, or just their own campfires. I remember when people would hang out at the main bonfire all night, bringing blankets and chairs, dancing and celebrating, working magic, drumming, singing, romancing one another, etc. until the wee hours. I’m not sure why people drift away, especially this year when the weather was so ideal. I heard more than one person comment on this, and some suggested maybe the bonfires be made a bit smaller. Another suggestion was to make the bonfire lighting itself more spectacular, if the fire was going to be smaller and shorter in duration. Maybe as the community matures, we seek a more intimate or comfortable experience from “bonfire night.” It does seem wasteful to burn so much wood if there are only going to be a handful of people still there by 2 am (when I counted them there were about a dozen) . Just wondering if it might be time to rethink the scale of this momentous endeavor, which always has so much work go into it every year.
There were some other interesting high points to the week: like on Wednesday when we set the Guinness World Record for most couples hugging! A really creative and fun event, perfect for kicking off a new festival. We also had the Annual Whiffle Ball Tournament (played later in he day than usual because of the heat) , and a few random rituals and parades not on the schedule. I noticed an unusually large number of voodoo rituals and processions this year, which puzzled me somewhat as most of them were not in the schedule. I found myself wondering if there was a special reason for so many of these processions, which are always fascinating to observe. On Saturday night
Starting a new festival is always a risk: will people attend? Will there be interesting workshops, performances, etc.? One comment I also heard from a number of people was that they thought Summerfest could have a better, more descriptive name. “Summerfest” to some felt too much like a music event or a tailgating party. I heard a few people mentioning other ideas, like “Summerwood” (although maybe that is too much like Starwood?) Because so many people in recent year have been staying at Brushwood for two weeks of festival in July, this year was no different, and roughly 400 of the attendees at Sirius stayed for Summerfest. The total ending attendance was around 750, so hopefully this is a good sign that the event will continue to attract attendees. I did hear that the remaining vendors and merchants did not feel like they were as busy as during Sirius, and certainly less busy than during Starwood (I think the food vendors experienced this because more of the Summerfest attendees were campers who were doing their own cooking) .
All in all, it was exciting to have a new event at Brushwood, and to have it be an event that allowed so many hard-working members of the community to have a chance to relax and have some fun. I look forward to seeing Summerfest find its shape and become a memorable event.
Location: Jamaica Plain, Florida
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