Tag Archives: small town

‘Weird things are already happening’: Byronfest 2016

This is the latest post on my town’s annual festival. See posts for Byronfest 2014 and Byronfest 2015.

Carnies at repose.

Carnies at repose.

Before Byronfest 2016 had even begun, my friend Nina said a Greek food booth’s proprietor had brought a tin can of olive oil from Greece as a gift for one of the festival’s organizers. Nina said, “It’s 11:30, and weird things are already happening.” 8 July.

Festival goers.

Festival-goers.

Surveying the food-booth line-up, my wife said, “everything about this says gastric distress to me.” 8 July.

Crusty weiner.

“Is that someone’s crusty weiner?” I asked as I sat down next to my wife and our friends.

Nina said she normally doesn’t respond to a certain angry friend, but she had responded the night before. “I got mean back — it was the WHISKEY! [she whisper-shouted, and then paused] and maybe the Rumple Minze, too.” She’d puked Saturday morning. “And THEN you ate crab cakes?” from a festival food booth, I asked. She said, “I felt like a DREAM after I threw up.” Also, her dad had tasted the crab cakes and he’s fine, she added, quoting him: “‘Well, it’s not the worst one I ever had.'”

Someone with the band Amperage asked the few fans sitting in the noontime sunlight Saturday, “has anybody every heard of a band called AC/DC?” which question was not answered, so the band guy said,“we’re gonna play it anyway, even though they suck, apparently,” and he laughed. 9 July.

Drew Baldridge

Performer Drew Baldridge and his crew as they launched into a medley of songs celebrating lady-butts: “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and “Baby Got Back.”

Drew Baldridge said these things from stage during his set: “This is so much FUN, y’all!” and “I have a brand-new album, y’all — SO exciting!” A few minutes later, his band played a bit of “All About That Bass.” Later, when Drew sang “Friends in Low Places,” I realized that I remember hearing that song at high school dances back before Drewwas even born. I felt old.

Is anybody in the crowd from Byron, asked a singer with the band “Whoa Nellie” at about 4 p.m. Saturday. Then, “can you walk home from here? Then head over to that beer tent, please,” he said. 9 July.

crowd

Edge of the crowd of fans at Saturday night’s Drew Baldridge concert. I had fun saying his name as my neighborhood’s kids would have said it: Dwoo Bawdwidge.

Nina said of the crowd hearing Dwoo Bawdwidge, “this is good people-watching. Lotta crop tops.”

One of the people working the festival to earn community service hours said, of the beverages on the reefer truck, “the beer I’d give away. The Pepsi I’d guard with my life.” 9 July.

A can of America with Mexican food.

A can of America with Mexican food.

Saturday afternoon, I heard over the walkie-talkies used by festival organizers that there was a child who’d lost his mom. The mom’s name was Anna, and the child’s name was Gabriel, we heard. “Does Gabriel know his last name?” asked one organizer. Gabriel did, and we were told his full name, and a few minutes later, we were told that there was a mother and child reunion. “Yay!” walkie-talkie’d someone at headquarters. 9 July.

Linden tree

Linden tree at the edge of festival grounds Friday night. The building on the lower right is city hall.

“You sound familiar,” I said after first hearing my wife’s voice as the voice of headquarters over the walkie-talkies. “I’d better,” my wife said. Saturday 9 July.

Later, when I went to headquarters, someone there said I take notes on everything. No, “just when people say stuff,” I said. Then my friend Becca said I should write that down.

Goldfish in stroller

Goldfish wedged in stroller

“Stop giving my kids goldfish!” one festival-goer said she told, or felt like telling, one of the carnival booth workers. 9 July.

“Could I have an officer [go] across the street from McDonald’s to talk to a lady about a situation?” asked someone on the walkie-talkie. My wife said she heard people in headquarters debating what “situation” could mean. A naked 70-year-old might qualify as a situation, someone said. 9 July.

Feats of strength.

Feats of strength.

When my friend Becca, whose husband is a sheriff’s deputy, was offered an alcohol beverage, she declined by saying, “I don’t want my own husband pulling me over. It’s such an awkward thing.” Saturday night.

Chamber of Commerce beer tent.

At the Chamber of Commerce beer tent Saturday night. Earlier, I’d heard one festival official tell beer tent volunteer servers, “You’ll probably have your friends come up and try to get a beer for two tickets or three tickets — tell ’em that they’re cheap-asses.”

“I don’t criticize the help, unless it’s you,” said one festival committee member to another, who’d just teased the volunteers. 9 July.

“We’re going to Disneyland in four days. We’re NOT going to Byronfest,” said Caitlyn Two Waitress about her son wanting to ride on carnival rides. 10 July.

A neighbor's feet with goldfish in a box.

A neighbor’s feet with goldfish in a box.

A singer with the band Soap Stone explained his band’s name this way: “‘Soap’ like you lather with, and ‘stone’ like you might chuck at people.” 10 July.

After learning how much beer was consumed by the servers themselves at the Lions Club beer tent, the beer distributor’s representative said, “How were you volunteering?” 10 July.

‘I guess we’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll’: Byronfest 2015

Exactly seven minutes into this year’s Byronfest on July 10 (see details from last year’s here), I saw and heard a ponytailed dude shouting a lot of F-words at another dude near the Carnival stage where the ’80s cover band Sunset Strip was soon to perform. Rumor had it that the fight had caused the band to break up and be unable to perform. But a person in position to know told me that the fight was between a stage hand and the merchandise guy. The show went on. (Someone else who also heard the fight claimed that “I slept with her; I been sleepin’ with her” was also shouted.)

Gorillas, bears, minions, pikachus, Scoobies.

Gorillas, bears, minions, pikachus, Scoobies.

The morning before the party started, one of the fest organizers saw me walking near the Century bar about 7 a.m. and he shouted at me, out his truck window: “Goin’ to the Century for shots before this shit starts, or what?”

Saturday rain, from under the Lions Club beer tent toward the Festival Stage.

Saturday rain, from under the Lions Club beer tent toward the Festival Stage.

I spent most of my Byronfest as a volunteer fetching beer, “Ritas” (Lime-A-Rita et al), and other beverages, and counting the distributions. A Byronfest organizer saw me drinking a bottle of water Friday evening and said to me, “Hey, you’re the beer supervisor, not the water supervisor.”

Kashmir covered Led Zeppelin songs Saturday night.

Kashmir covered Led Zeppelin songs Saturday night. “Robert Plant” seemed to be wearing a wig.

In their cover of “Moby Dick,” Kashmir’s drummer played a minutes-long drum solo, which involved both a timpani and a gong. I heard the whole solo, but I think I zoned out and my attention wandered a couple times.

Carnival reflected in the city building's west side.

Carnival reflected in the city building’s west side.

I heard a carnival barker trochaically yell, “STEP right UP, ya WIN.”

Phone checking in parallel, Saturday, under the Lions Club beer tent.

Phone checking in parallel, Saturday, under the Lions Club beer tent.

One of the Byronfest organizers asked me to fetch beer from the locked reefer while she borrowed my keys to get ice from the locked ice trailer. I said I’d just go with her to get the ice because if I gave her my keys, I’d have nothing to do but stand around and look pretty. She didn’t laugh.

Zipper.

Zipper.

My wife and I ate dinner at a restaurant just outside one of the festival entrances. “Look,” I said to her at 7:52 p.m. Friday, “people keep showing up to this thing.”

After I took this picture, I was told that this portable stage is licensed in Canada because great taxes would be paid to license it in the U.S. I don't have any reason to believe, or not believe, the stranger who told me that.

After I took this picture, I was told that this portable stage is licensed in Canada because great taxes would be paid to license it in the U.S. I don’t have any reason to believe, or not believe, the stranger who told me that.

I also brought soda to the local high school’s Key Club’s soda-selling tent. The advisor, who was in his first year, asked me whether I knew anything about another vendor who brought over a bucket of shaved ice and offered to trade it for free pop. I did not. Eventually, I was told, they made the exchange.

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Friday night, I witnessed local TV anchor Whitney Martin take several attempts to throw a softball at the dunk-tank target before she ran up and pushed the target by hand and dunked a dude.

Magic Dave! Magic Dave asked me Saturday morning whom he should see about getting an extension cord to his performance location near his Magic Dave van. I didn't tell Magic Dave,

Magic Dave! Magic Dave asked me Saturday morning whom he should see about getting an extension cord to his performance location near his Magic Dave van. I didn’t tell Magic Dave, “Magic Dave, if you’re magic, why can’t you conjure your own electricity?”

Magic Dave brought my friend’s son up to participate in a trick involving red, white, and blue handkerchiefs becoming a U.S. flag. When Magic Dave finished the trick and said, “that really is the American flag,” the boy heckled from three feet away, “No, it isn’t!” My friend said his son had just seen the same trick done by a birthday party magician.

The reefer trailer for beer storage reflected in a serving table.

The reefer trailer for beer storage reflected in a serving table.

I wore a walkie-talkie during Byronfest. In a short duration, I heard: 1. a request for wasp spray to be brought to a ticket booth; 2. that some patron had put an admission wristband on too tight and wanted another; and 3. that an older gentleman wanted to bring his Coke onto festival grounds when signs clearly stated that no outside containers were permitted. But this man was the designated driver, and “he’s a veteran,” said the radio voice. I didn’t hear whether there was a dispensation.

At the parade Sunday, this blue-haired clown shouted,

At the parade Sunday, this blue-haired clown shouted, “How’s the party over here?” as he drove.

The parade announcer, seemingly reading from a script, described that there was a dunk tank fundraiser for a local preschool, and he encouraged the crowd to “go dunk Pastor Randy!”

Mo Pitney's Saturday night show. His vocal twang was strong for someone who grew up in Northern Illinois.

Mo Pitney’s Saturday night show. His vocal twang was strong for someone who grew up in Northern Illinois.

“In your arms, I’ve had the best, and I think the world should know,” sang a skinny dude I think was rising country star Mo Pitney during what looked like a practice or sound-check Saturday morning. I heard that line and thought, well, yeah, that pretty much sums up why anyone would ever write a love song.

Selfie with baby, foreground, and state's attorney, background.

Selfie with baby, foreground, and state’s attorney, background.

“I guess we’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll,” said the lead singer of the band Prowler at their 11 a.m. performance at the Festival Stage. He also said something about waking up the citizens of Byron. He said this to a dozen or so audience members.

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A light rain Saturday afternoon lasted ’til about 8 p.m.

This person held up the parade for at least 2 minutes as she photographed.

During the “old tractor” section of the parade, this photographer held up the entire procession for at least 2 minutes as she pressed buttons or something.

A friend of mine who also volunteered for Byronfest noted that one food vendor wore an apron that read, “Eat Dawn’s Taco.” These tacos were “deep fried, and they were good,” my friend said.

Hanukkah card, anyone?

Before the holiday season gets too far past, I’m posting these photos of the greeting card aisle from my rural-town’s drugstore. Specifically, I’m posting photos of the Christmas card section:

Snyder Pharmacy, Byron, Illinois, 6 Dec. 2014. Look carefully, all the way to the left, for Hanukkah cards.

Snyder Pharmacy, Byron, Illinois, 6 Dec. 2014. Look carefully, all the way to the left, for Hanukkah cards.

And, down at the very end, a closer-in shot of the entire Hanukkah card section:

Note that the entire Hanukkah is all-but-hidden behind another Xmas display.

Four choices! Note that the entire Hanukkah is all-but-hidden behind another Xmas display.

What I’m debating: Whether it’s better for there to be a pathetic selection of Hanukkah cards, or none at all?

Byronfest 2014: A small town parties down

A creepy carnival frog watched the fest over the police building.

A creepy carnival frog watched the fest over the police building.

“What is Byronfest known for?” asked the lead singer of the band The Stevee Nix during the band’s opening-night set.

“Brilliant stage banter,” I snarked to a fellow volunteer standing next to me.

“I wanna taste every booth here tonight,” continued the lead singer, then “Relax; go to it,” he Frankie Goes to Hollywooded. The band then covered “Jump Around” and one, and only one, middle-aged white dude did just that.

Byronfest is the community party for Byron, Illinois, a town about 100 miles west of Chicago. This year’s events started on Friday, July 11, and the festival included live bands, beer tents, carnival rides, a children’s play area, a bean-bag tournament, and “Taste of Byronfest.” I served as a volunteer this year, assigned to keep track of inventory for the beer and soda concessions. This task required me to attend for much of the festival’s duration, but also allowed for some time to just walk around and watch and listen.

The creepy frog, closer.

The creepy frog, closer.

Barely out of earshot from The Stevee Nix band, a magician on a stage that had folded out of the side of a truck pattered, “What’s that smoke? Oh, no! Oh, no! This went REALLY bad,” as he produced what looked like a burned shoe. He then grabbed a “first aid box” to fix the shoe, inside of which box was another box, a purple one, from which the magician offered the boy on his stage three replacement shoes. Then he pulled out the fluorescent green shoe that matched the boy’s other shoe. Audience members applauded. “Were you worried about your shoe at all? … So was I,” said magician.

A couple minutes before 7 p.m., the guy who trained me in my volunteer position last year told me that I should “start finding your replacement now” and he laughed.

At the second stage, the Festival Stage, the Prime Time Live Band is singing “and I ran, I ran so far away.” I actually started writing this line in my notes before he sang it, but by the time I had put the closing quotation marks on it, he had sung it.

I smelled something like ginger coming from one of the festival-goers near me.

We’re the Prime Time Live Band, announced the lead singer, who continued, “Does anybody know that? Prime Time Live Band!”

A creepy-bee ride.

A creepy-bee ride.

A female singer starts into that “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” song, and when she sings, “You’re not the one for me,” I snark (only to my notes this time), “the feeling’s mutual.”

Two married, retired high school teachers are talking to the current high school teacher who is supervising the local high school’s Key Club’s pop sales. The retired male teacher wears a baseball hat with “MR. PORK CHOP” and red pig outline-shapes on it.

About 7:12 p.m., I saw two of my own former students (from a neighboring town), 16-year-olds S. and M., and I told them to stay away from the beer. Then S. asked me to bring her some. What did I JUST say, I said. Then I said I’d stop yelling at them since we’re not in school. S. told me that she asked M. to stand in front of the portable toilet S. was using so no one would tip it over.

7:14 p.m.: The sun came out from cloudy sky, the first sunlight of the Byronfest, now 2 and a quarter hours old. The Prime Time Live Band sang “tonight’s gonna be a good, good night.”

Over the walkie-talkie radio I got to carry (which radio-privilege is half the reason I volunteered, I told someone), I heard a voice ask what beers were available at one of the festival’s two beer tents. The same beer that’s at the other tent, I said. Hearing no response, I figured that that answer was satisfactory.

Later on, I saw and spoke to the teacher I had for 11th grade trig. 23 years ago, which teacher didn’t seem to remember me, but as a teacher myself of fewer years than that, I didn’t expect him to.

Byronfest-ers.

Byronfest-ers.

The Stevee Nicks lead singer asserted a claim that he himself was “bringing sexy back.” At the other stage, “Where do we go?” Axl’d the singer of Prime Time Live Band.

“You’re gonna die laughing,” said a woman to a ticket booth operator. A woman next to the speaking woman had a tramp stamp vining out of her shorts.

8:46 p.m. Moments ago, I saw a little girl carrying a little-girl-sized stuffed prize.

I also saw a young woman who had a tattoo running vertically down her entire spine. Later, I saw that it was a tattoo of all words, a sentence that began between her scapula and ended near her coccyx. I didn’t get close enough to read this sentence. Another young woman had a short paragraph of three lines or so tattooed above where an anatomist would find her kidney.

A voice, from festival headquarters, on my radio asked, “Do you need tickets?” A male voice answered, “We need a vacuum cleaner. Over.”

Servers at one of the beer tents. The "Mike & Joe" band is in the background, on stage.

Servers at one of the beer tents. The “Mike & Joe” band is in the background, on stage.

Passing by me was a young man wearing a shirt with the words “American Menace” in a gothic font.

To avoid confusion with Bud Light.

To avoid confusion with Bud Light.

By about 4 hours into Byronfest, I’d seen both Jessica, a teller at the drive-thru window at the Byron branch of my local bank, and Jenna, a drive-thru teller at the Stillman Valley branch of the same bank, 4 miles east.

9:25 p.m. A new band, AudioDrive, claimed to be “hot-blooded” and challenged the audience to “check it and see.”

A 50-ish woman with two crutches and a cigarette, glides (easily enough) past our seating spot on Walnut Street. My wife starts to put a melody to “Two Crutches and a Cigarette.”

My wife, a local business owner, tells me, “I’m sponsoring something — I just don’t know what.”

Detail of one of the spinny rides.

Detail of one of the spinny rides.

AudioDriver covers a Poison song.

At the other stage, a band called “Mike & Joe” cover “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life” and then “Mr. Jones.”

“White people on the move,” I said to my wife, of people trying to get around us from their seated positions. “Scariest words in the English language,” she answered.

I see two people from our Byron neighborhood standing next to two of my uncle’s friends who live in Stillman Valley, about 4 miles (or less, to their house) away. “Our worlds are colliding!” I said to my wife. “It’s a pretty small world, Stillman to Byron,” my wife said.

10:18 p.m. From the festival stage, AudioDrive plays a song I haven’t heard in years, “Wait,” by White Lion. I hadn’t missed it.

SATURDAY, 11:27 a.m. The work crew volunteers seem to be sweeping out puddles from this morning’s rain. “Here’s a broom. There’s a puddle. Make it wider,” I imagine were their instructions.

The festival stage area outside of one beer tent, early Saturday morning.

The festival stage area outside of one beer tent, early Saturday morning.

My contact at one of the beer tents tells me he’s sold beer twice to the same two women by 11:37 a.m.

I told my wife about a guy I saw Friday night who, on finding the portable toilet near his beer tent to be occupied, went behind the portable toilet for a minute. Did he really pee on the pile of firewood I had noticed back there?

Walking past the bags tournament, I saw one guy holding his head, experiencing the agony of defeat at the bags tourney.

What I learned from the pavement hear the kids' area at Byronfest: Emmy likes, or hates, Tom.

What I learned from the pavement near the kids’ area at Byronfest: Emmy likes, or hates, Tom.

Byronfest Manager Sarah told one of the work crew to “scoot” around a fence gate. I decided “scoot” is a terrific supervisory verb.

Getting breakfast at our usual diner, our waitress, who graduated from the Byron high school herself a few years ago, said Byronfest is like a high school reunion for her — not necessarily a good thing, she implied.

Said one person at the Festival Stage’s beer tent, to a newly arriving volunteer: “You gotta drink your mistakes.”

At the Gateway Club, where there is free food served to Byronfest sponsors, an adult woman said of a little girl’s Tootsie Pop that “it’s just got [some] frog on it,” referring to some fuzz from a stuffed frog.

One man said, referring to his pregnant wife, “We got another one to fire out August 9th,” as if a child were an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Volunteering is hard work.

Volunteering is hard work.

9:10 p.m. I heard the second version today, one by each of two bands, of “Take me down to the little white church.”

A girl of about 13 years said to a younger kid, “I been to a festival a few times in my life.”

My wife had seemed to be enjoying selling raffle tickets for a local charity, I told her. “I could SEEM like I’m enjoying a lot of things,” she said.

Before the rain Saturday night.

Before the rain Saturday night.

At 9:10 p.m., we were seeing lightning over the festival grounds. The band that had started about 9:00 quit playing about 9:20. I took shelter inside a garage at the city building, and others came in, too. At 9:26, a dude suggested “wet t-shirt contest” and he laughed. A seemingly drunk guy told me, while slurring and lisping, that he had come into the garage “to make some decisions.”

By 9:35, my wife had brought me into the city building and upstairs, away from the storm. “The rain has now hit,” I heard someone say. Out the window, I saw flags on the “Power Slide” carnival ride flapping hard. A lady answering the headquarters’ radio left when her shift ended at 10, saying, “It’s been a slice, guys.” Byronfest was scheduled to continue til midnight, but had been weather-canceled by 10 p.m.

SUNDAY at Byronfest, no admission buttons are required. “How are we gonna keep out the riffraff?” I asked my wife. “We aren’t,” she said.

Local color.

Local color.

One Key Club soda-seller to another, focused on people they saw behind me as they ignored me handing them my payment, “I don’t know if they’re still dating so don’t say that.”

I sat under one of the food-eating tents to calculate my beer inventories. I heard a boy talking to his peers as they were walking past the tent say something, and then a woman said, “What number did you assign me?” The boy answered, “Second — you’re my second mom.”

Also under the tent Sunday afternoon, a man walked in with a girl of 4 or 5 years who had a Spiderman-design painted face and said to a woman, “You should see the large mouth [bass] she caught. She caught the same fish, like, 9 times!” The girl had apparently been catching mechanical/toy fish at the kids’ area pool.

The dog Coco, who spent much of Byronfest tied near a beer truck. "Coco's had the best three days of her life," said Coco's human.

The dog Coco, who spent much of Byronfest tied near a beer truck. “Coco’s had the best three days of her life,” said Coco’s human.

A community message about wrestling

So, every day I drive by a fence, near my town’s schools, into which have been pushed some cups in order to produce certain words and symbols. This photo below, taken last Friday, shows one cup design that has endured for a few weeks.

fence_wrestle_first(This picture doesn’t show the “R” that completed the “FO” to spell “FOR”.)

As a mischievous sort, I have often wanted to stop my car and rearrange the cups to spell something more interesting than a banal pro-wrestling message.  But I feared a backlash from my community members, particularly those who took the time to cup-spell things out.

But someone didn’t feel that same compunction. The day after I took the photo above, my wife took this one —

SAMSUNG— which isn’t my particular flavor of humor, but I appreciate that someone took the opportunity to be creative.

Hours later, the fence was revised to:

fence_wrestle_thirdand the figures seem to have shorter arms and Ken doll genitalia.  I also notice that the message now seems less banal and more abstract — how does one “get,” or comprehend, wrestling?