Posts Tagged 'folklife'

Festivities: a fast rewind

Spring is always a pretty busy time for us, and I was taking pictures all season with a view toward blogging, so I have the material, but I have not had the hours when I’ve also had the poop to write. So this will be a sort of visual tour of some of the funner things we got up to since April.

At Kelsey Creek Farm. Which way to the long lines?

A cloud of sugar!

It seems like a lot of the photos I have are of Mara running, but that’s good in a way — it means we’re succeeding in getting our older daughter out of the house for the adventures she needs to occupy her very busy brain. Though Mara’s baby sister Emilia is also turning out to be a person who approaches life very kinetically and “hands on”, her tender age means she needs the opposite — lots of naps at particular times, which is why Mara and I have been swashbuckling as a duo a lot lately.

Emilia and a favorite admirer. Photo by Angela.

We did all manage to get to the sheep shearing festival at Kelsey Creek Farm in Bellevue again this year, and even were joined by a very special friend of our family. That was on the last day of April. The day after that, Mara and I got up early and beat it down to the Hiram Chittenden Locks in Ballard, also known as the Government Locks or “Gummit Locks”, where some Morris Dancers we knew were ringing in the May with dances and songs of spring.

Powering up for a day of adventure.

The Morris group Sound and Fury out early for a lark at the locks.

Then Mara and I did Folklife. I wrote about Mara’s first Folklife festival two years ago; it was so fun that first year that we went two days in a row, and both days she ended up getting herself soaked in the wading pool. We went last year, too. This year, Mara and I rode the 16 down to the Seattle Center and met some friends. I spent most of the day blazing a trail for Mara and her friend Gem and Gem’s parents through a crowd of festival-goers that turned up in spite of a lousy weather forecast, and when you spend your day like that, you get to the end of the day and tally up what you did and it turns out to be only about three things, two if you don’t count getting food, and one if you don’t count finding a bathroom.

Mara dodging the fountain's tentacles of water at Folklife.

Down in front, Mom. Five-year-olds mosh to the sounds of The Board of Education.

So we walked around a lot and we heard a lot of music peripherally, but we didn’t really get to hunker down and enjoy a full set of any single act’s music. But that was okay, because kids like to keep moving; they’re grazers. We caught a little of this on the way to here and a little of that waiting for one of us to return from the restroom, a little of something else while standing in line for an ice cream cone. Because of all the crowd-wading, I didn’t get a lot of photos. I didn’t get a picture of Mara wearing the balloon sword and scabbard and helmet that the balloon artists made her (they were the same ballooners that we encountered last year at the University Street Fair), nor any decent shots of her in the wading pool, which has now become a tradition, a checklist item. 

A tribute to the songs of Woodie Guthrie. Some amazing musicians stepped up for this.

Mara and water chasing each other. This happens a lot.

It was like that at the sheep shearing, too. We spent four hours there and really all we did was stand in line for the tractor-pulled hayride, then eat some lunch we’d brought, then stand in line for the pony rides. By the time we’d gotten through all that, they’d finished with the sheep shearing. Not the end of the world, since we saw it last year, but it’s no wonder you come home exhausted. It’s a lot of walking, carrying, and standing in line, and you don’t realize how many hours are going by. 

The tractor was an early contributor to the ruin of the American small-holding farm, but when you look at one of these early Farmalls, you can see the appeal. There was also a Ford, a Deere, and an Allis-Chalmers.

One dizzy pony. No Oscar, but Blossom treated Mara well.

As a side note, the pony rides at the sheep shearing were kind of anticlimactic this year. We had hoped that the same “ponies” would be there this year as last year (they were full-sized horses), in particular the one Mara rode named Oscar. We have talked about Oscar the Palomino ever since last year. But this time they had only very small ponies, and instead of being led around a large ring they were hitched to a merry-go-round that moved in a tight circle, as if they were milling flour, and there was a sign that said “You must be no taller than this sign to ride the ponies”, a sign than which Mara was slightly taller. They let her through anyway, which was a good thing, because we’d stood in line for more than an hour before arriving at the sign, and I’m not sure who’d have thrown the bigger tantrum, Mara or her dad, if she’d been refused.

Folky and live at Folklife

It’s a sunny Memorial Day weekend in Seattle, which means that thousands are thronging to Folklife, the largest free folk festival of its kind in the nation. We want Mara to have as much experience with the richness of human cultures as possible, so after lunch today we caught the 16 and went down there. Mara wondered if there would be a play structure.

I used to spend all four days and evenings of the festival contra dancing, twirling myself into dehydrated delirium, and I went home limping. I was in my twenties and had nothing but time and energy. In my mid-to-late forties now and responsible for the amusement and welfare of a four-year-old, my idea of a good day at Folklife is much different. I don’t intend this blog to be about how wonderful my kid is, but really, having a child enter your life makes you see your life more clearly and it’s worth taking note of.

Clapping to Ross' Rovers at the Northwest Court Stage. Heat stroke imminent.
Mara, Angela and an anonymous third potential heat stroke victim enjoy Ross’ Rovers at the Northwest Court Stage.

We started with just a walk-through, experiencing the clash of tones and rhythms as we moved from one busker’s audio-zone to another. Fiddlers, balladeers and guitarists, drummers with djembes, drummers with paint buckets, a tap dancer. Wandering through the crowd at one point we encountered a man on stilts, dressed all in white, with white face-paint, and wielding a long net. Every once in a while he would drop the net on someone and “catch” them. There’s someone spooky like this at every event like this we attend (a giant yellow chicken lady at the Easter Egg Hunt at the zoo, a white-painted fairy lady at a previous Folklife who stood motionless until someone dropped money in her bowl, then began a gyrating dance), and Mara is always riveted by these uncanny figures. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the stilt man, more’s the pity.

We sat and listened to some Celtic music, but the sun had become hot and Mara was baking. She’s clapping in the photo above, but the sun was killing us. What she really wanted to do was splash around in a wading fountain that she’d seen. So we did that. Since we didn’t have a swimsuit or a change of clothes for her, we told her she could wade but not get her bottom wet. After she fell, though, she just started paddling around. She is usually very cautious, but around water she grows fins.

Next we availed ourselves of the food booths to get a corndog for Mara and some crab caesar wraps for us. After this dinner al fresco, we checked out the dance hall, hoping there might be a contra dance. Neither Angela or I is into the whole mad contra scene anymore, but we thought we might twirl a line once with Mara just to introduce her to the idea.

Happy kid. Just add water.
Happy kid. Just add water.

No such luck; it was zydeco hour. Some cajun band was clattering away up on stage and the hall was full of people in cowboy boots. As we stood behind the line of onlookers at the side, Mara grabbed our hands and urgently said “follow me!” We humored her and she pulled us right out into the midst of the crowded dance floor. So we bounced and dipped in our best zydeco style and followed the slow turning around the hall. Mara seemed to intuitively understand that Folklife was all about jumping in and letting go, gettin’ wet and gettin’ down.

We finished up by eating strawberry shortcake while listening to a marimba band, and before heading out we bought Mara a little fairy princess dress at one of the booths and let her wear it home.

We think she’ll have pleasant memories of Folklife.


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