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Weekend at HarvestFest

September 21 2004 06:00 PM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

Had a uniquely interesting experience this past weekend.

One of the guys I play Ultimate with has his own catering business, and, every now and then, I help him out with events. It can be tough work, but we tend to have fun while getting it done.

This past weekend, he brought his operation (an old RV that's been converted into a fully-functioning kitchen) to the 2004 Blue Ridge HarvestFest, an annual three-day event that takes place up in north Georgia. I made the drive up on Saturday.

Admittedly, HarvestFest isn't something I would ordinarily do on my own. Most of the bands playing were bluegrass, groove, or jam-bands. Heck, the headliner was Ratdog, well-known for its links to the Grateful Dead. There wasn't a single band there that I even remotely wanted to see. But it honestly didn't matter.

I just loved the vibe of it all. Okay, granted, the attendees were the largely hippie / post-hippie types. (Yes, it appeared that there was a lot of herb smoked over the weekend.) But it was amazing how little security was needed. People left their vehicles unlocked with the windows down, and didn't need to worry about stuff getting stolen. People were just openly friendly; it didn't matter who you were. One guy even chastised me for not acknowledging his greeting, and wondered why I was so "focused". (In my sleep-deprived haze, I explained that I was just "out of it". He then asked me if I had any pot.)

People there for the full weekend generally camped out on the grounds. I've never seen such a sprawl of vans and campers in my life. While the main stage stopped about 1am, the other stages had music going as late as 5:00am. And people were out there dancing and enjoying themselves that late. (There seemed to be an informal contest about how little sleep people could get during the weekend. One of the Atlanta folks I knew had gotten five hours of sleep combined over two nights.)

I kept thinking to myself how much I'd like to see a festival like this featuring bands along my tastes. Then, it struck me: part of what made this festival work this well were the bands involved. Toss in "edgier" bands, and you get an "edgier" audience that might not be so friendly.

I was only there for a little over 24 hours, but I was surprised by how memorable it was. It's not something I'd do again on my own, but if I were asked to help out again, I think I'd take the opportunity.

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