Waning summer near the Great Trail

gt-pipes2 gt-pipes3 gt-pipes6The unofficial end of summer for me is the Great Trail Festival in Malvern. Yes, summer runs until the Autumnal Equinox around Sept. 21, depending on the year, but Labor Day and the start of school have long been considered the end of summer, when most summer activities are reluctantly abandoned and students return to their books.
I look forward to Great Trail Festival all summer while at the same time not wanting it to arrive because its arrival means summer is waning. I like the festival because it’s a place where other people wear weird clothes, and I fit in rather than look odd, and because I can hear and play my kind of music.
This year I went to Great Trail Festival on Aug. 28, but I didn’t wear my colonial clothes since I wasn’t participating. I wore what I consider my everyday clothes — dark gray Amish breeches, red suspenders, a white collarless shirt, and a straw hat. The effect was generally 1800s-looking, which is what I prefer for normal wear but which is incorrect for the festival’s alleged 18th-century setting, although at least one couple thought I was a reenactor. I was eating lunch, sitting across from them at a picnic table, and they asked how long I’ve been involved in Great Trail. Because I have been involved in the past, I told them about playing music and that I first attended in 1983, not clarifying that I was dressed that way that day for fun.
After my first bit of shopping that day, I listened to my friends in Fare Passage play music and wrote my journal while listening. I again visited the reenactor supply booths and bought three pieces of Indian jewelry and a leather whip. I had been getting away from Indian wear as I developed my colonial clothing outfit, but I have learned that many white people wore Indian effects mixed with their white man’s clothing, and I love the look of Indian jewelry. I’m not talking about turquoise and silver jewelry from the Southwest; I’m talking about beads and deer antlers strung on leather laces. While I studied the trade goods, gunshots from the mock battle and, later, a naval cannon, rang through the glen.
Great Trail Festival had more purveyors of authentic goods than in the past few years; those vendors seemed to have disappeared recently as the modern crafts proliferated, so I was happily surprised to see them return. I prefer the authentic goods to the crafts. The things I dislike about Great Trail are still going strong, but I try to avoid them. The worst is the chain saw carver (I hate $&%# chain saw carving), but at least he was stationed by the entrance and did not work all the time, so it was rare that I heard him. I also dislike the fact that much of the music is bluegrass, which is completely wrong for the 1700s — Great Trail Festival advertises itself as a French and Indian War-era gathering — but so is the mountain man rendezvous, a cornerstone of the festival, which was a feature of the early 1800s Rocky Mountain fur trade. The French and Indian War occurred from 1754 to 1763 in the eastern half of what is now the United States, so a Rocky Mountain fur rendezvous is almost a century too new and in the wrong half of the continent. Still, I enjoyed the festival, I love the mountain man and woman getups, and I liked visiting the rendezvous encampment. I ate my annual bison burgers and visited my nephew Jeff, who always camps at the festival with his family and always shares some exotic form of alcoholic drink. This year he also brought delicious pickled chile peppers.
I missed being involved in music. In the 1990s I played with the band Bog Carrot and entered fiddle and dulcimer contests, and more recently I played with Fare Passage before they replaced a deceased member. I loved those days, combining music and history, and I missed being involved this year. I planned to visit my brother near Columbus on Labor Day weekend, so Aug. 28 was my only shot at Great Trail, but then I realized I would be home in time to attend on the last day of the festival, Labor Day. So, as of this writing, I plan to attend, and this time I’ll wear my frontiersman clothes, and I’ll take my violin. I won’t play on stage, but perhaps I can play with my friends between sets at their camp as the corn turns brown, the spiders weave their webs, and summer slowly prepares its annual departure.

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