May 31 – June 2, 2013
THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF BLUEGRASS
It was a Friday night as we approached Dillon State Park in southeastern Ohio and we were concerned that the campground might be full. At the entrance booth was a sign saying “Bluegrass” with an arrow pointing in. Uh-oh, we thought, we’re really in trouble now, a bluegrass festival was happening there over the weekend. The campground might not only be full but overflowing. But we needn’t have worried since a number of sites were still available. Possibly the forecast of scattered thunderstorms for the weekend had kept people away. Although some musicians were jamming in an impromptu concert near the camp store as we drove in, the actual festival was scheduled for 4 PM on Saturday and was free.
The next day after Chris returned from a bike ride, we sauntered over to the bluegrass event in progress. I didn’t think about it in any special way since music festivals are relatively common; it was just a chance to hear live music in our “backyard”. I am casually familiar with bluegrass music, enjoying its spirited energy, its often virtuoso fiddle playing, and its roots in the traditional music of the British Isles. My experience with it is limited and comes from having seen Seldom Seen in concert years ago, admiring the talents of Alison Krause and the jazzy bluegrass improvisations of David Grisman.
The performance was in full swing when we arrived (a short walk from our campsite). The band, Joe Williams and Deepwater, was playing, some of the songs were familiar, some not. A modest crowd was gathered in lawn chairs around a small stage; hot dogs and drinks were for sale. The audience spanned the generations from small children to the elderly. This was the third year for this now annual event at Dillon.
Gradually it dawned on me that this was not just random musicians showing up at a random place to perform (as most concerts are) but rather an authentic expression of the living musical tradition of this area. The music was emerging from the community and was the result of innumerable interactions and connections in these very hills through time. From the early settlers who brought their music, through the music’s evolution as home-grown entertainment in the villages of Appalachia, to its 20th century adaptation as bluegrass, the musical baton was being passed over the centuries to its present manifestation at this concert. Although you can find bluegrass anywhere, this is its true home.
I am so used to the availability of any type of music, anytime, anywhere and to the globalization and intermixing of musical traditions, that I had forgotten that authentic regionalized music was still alive in the U.S. It was an exciting alternative to the isolated iTune-download-earbud musical experience. Instead I felt part of something larger, something living.
Next came the final band, The Wayfarers, a group of young energetic men with a rip-roaring repertoire. Fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin and a real hand-made washtub bass. Children and a few adults danced on the concrete slab in front of the stage. I clapped, slapped my knees and stamped my feet. Chris and I dubbed one little boy, about 4-years-old, “The Stomper”. He seemed completely entranced by the performance. Standing alone in the center of the dance floor, he energetically stomped one foot while hugging a toy to his chest, imitating playing a cross between a banjo and a fiddle. Often he mouthed the words, revealing his familiarity with the music. Perhaps, he was the child of one of the performers. I imagined him growing up immersed in the world of bluegrass, becoming a musician and carrying on the tradition to future generations.
I have added two short videos taken of the Bluegrass Festival below.
THE AIRSTREAM AESTHETIC
June 5, 2013
Our neighbors at Dillon State Park were on their maiden voyage with their brand new Airstream trailer. It was shiny and pristine and reminded me of the sleek design of my Apple Macbook Pro . . . if I could travel in my laptop. The Airstream appears both retro and high-tech at the same time, like the imaginative inventions of Jules Verne. Chris recalled that the Airstream factory is located in Ohio and offers tours to the public. So we made plans to go. He was excited to see how they built this unique and iconic home-on-wheels and to learn anything that might be useful in redesigns to our camper.
It was a rainy day. This brought out the tourists looking for an indoor activity and the tour was full with 30+ people. The guide was an 80-year-old ex-factory worker and an owner of many Airstreams during his lifetime. We learned the history of the Airstream trailer and the ups and downs of the company (they are on an upswing right now, looking for additional skilled employees).
We then walked through the main building of assembly. Because of the noise much of the guide’s tour information was lost but, as it turned out, the most interesting part was watching the process of creation: building parts, bending sheets of aluminum, installing appliances, testing for water leaks, wiring and plumbing. At the end, we were able to climb into the final, elegant complete product. (They didn’t allow photography in the factory.)
Although well-designed and made from top materials, the Airstream looks small and modest when sitting next to the enormous modern McMansions-on-wheels that you often see at campgrounds.
SHORT VIDEOS OF BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL: