September 2013

City of Festivals

By David Feela

Labor Day is traditionally the last party of the summer. I thought I knew all about having a good time, but then I encountered a Telluride outfitter’s newspaper ad which read, “Friends don’t let friends festivize unprepared.” Apparently, festivize is the verb form of what festivizers do while attending a festival if they are feeling especially festive. I was amused.

Fortunately, on the weekend in question, it required no patience to deal with Telluride traffic while it hosted yet another festival. I did a three-quarter loop on the newly installed roundabout where Highway 145 spins off toward Placerville, and I was free.

It’s not that I’m not a festivizer. I just don’t crowdize well. Large gatherings inhibit my relaxation gene. I don’t even listen to live recordings, because they make me a little edgy. Attendance at the summer Bluegrass festival was capped at 10,000 ticket-holders, in a town that registers only 2,500 permanent residents. I have to salute the professionalism of the police and security personnel, the organizers, and sympathizers to pull off an event like this. Still, if I lived there I’d be vacating my home and pitching a tent on Lizard Head Pass for the weekend, adjusting my attitude with a little more altitude.

Where I grew up, a festival amounted to a low-key cultural celebration, often focused on some traditional food item, combined with an excessive amount of drinking. Kolacky Days is one of the most memorable, and not because I crave those little lumps of dough with a smidgen of fruit in the middle. People from all the neighboring towns show up, party all night, and by morning the main street is transformed into a curb-to-curb bin of beer cans. Most of the dough that is made gets eaten.

Smelting is another annual event I can’t erase from my brain. I’m not sure it qualifies as a festival, or even a sport, but it happens annually, in the spring, when people wade into the cold northern Minnesota streams in the middle of the night with flashlights, buckets, and nets in order to scoop hundreds of tiny spawning silver fish from the water. The men who took me smelting usually dipped their catch in beer-batter before frying it, then ate them whole – fins, scales, and all – while swallowing a copious supply of beer. In my opinion, the smelt earned the homonymic name.

Compared to my seminal festival experiences, the Telluride festivals must be models of sophistication. I don’t know, I’ve never attended. Still, they make me wonder why advertisers are allowed – perhaps even encouraged – to use words like festivize in print without being held accountable? Do individuals who pay good money for the chance to see live performances care if their appreciation is reduced to an awkward verbish word that lacks any inference of grace?

And it’s not as if Telluride doesn’t host more than a few festivals. If any town deserved recognition for sheer tenacity, Telluride ought to be formally cited as the “City of Festivals.” In addition to the Bluegrass Festival, the 2013 schedule includes the Blues and Brews Festival, the KOTO Ride Festival, Plein Air, the Fireman’s 4th of July Celebration, the Playwright’s Festival, Musicfest (not to be confused with the Americana Music Fest or the Chamber Music Fest or the Jazz Festival), the Mountain Film Festival (not to be confused with the Telluride Film Festival), the Cajun Festival, the Festival of the Arts, the Balloon Festival, the Yoga Festival, the Wine Festival, the Mushroom Festival, the Barbecue Festival, the Wild West Fest, the Heritage Fest, the Compassion Festival, the Comedy Festival, and the really, I’m-Not-Making-This-List- Up Festival.

If I were one of the 2,500 residents calling Telluride my home, I’d be writing a longish letter to the editor, asking for a weekend off. I’d be organizing a political action group – MAFF (Mothers Against Festivizing Festivizers), in order to reduce the number of late-night festalities caused by friends who actually do allow their friends to festivize unprepared. I’d be communing with the founding fathers, wondering if we couldn’t consider going back to the noisy mining operations that extracted money directly from the earth instead of from the pockets of ticketholders. I’d be asking, what does it take to make a small town behave like a small town?

I know, I don’t live there, I couldn’t possibly understand, which is why I decided to wordize this proposal for a Festival of Curmudgeons, in case someone who festivizes less than the Telluride crowd knows what I’m talking about.

David Feela is an award-winning poet, essayist, and humorist in Montezuma County, Colo. See more of his work at http://feelasophy.blogspot. com/.