What’ll Ya Give Me?!

28 10 2011

There are interesting connotations associated with events such as Oregon Country Fair, Burning Man, Okanogan Family Faire.  Have you ever been??  Oh, you are missing OUT!  Well, I haven’t made it to Burning Man yet, but I plan to next year!  I’m sure a lot of people think these are just big hippie-fests full of peace, naked people and patchouli oil.

They’re right.  But they’re leaving out so much other rocking awesome stuff!!

J and I went to the Okanogan Faire last weekend, aka  Barter Faire.  We drove up Friday afternoon and stayed all weekend.  Oh yeah – three days in pretty much the same clothes, no shower, port-a-potties or trees only, camping with 8,000 of our closest friends – pretty much a fan-freaking-tastic time.

Okanogan Barter Fair, Tonasket WA

View of the fair from way up the hill - this shows about a third of it

I wandered the rows of vendors and stalls, taking it all in while I swished around in my long skirt.  I wish I could have captured the sight, but no camera would do it justice.  So much was going on, all the time.  The wild colors, the crazy costumes, the intriguing smells.  Our pals at the Okanogan Bakery had front row seats, right in the middle of the shananigans, and we used their booth as our second home-base.  The ground wore a thick layer of soft hay that was perfect for plopping down in to people watch.

And people watch I did!  People from all walks of life were drifting by, buying, trading, meeting, laughing, playing.  Hippies and cowboys; kiddos and elderly; day visitors and week-long vendors; people there to sell trinkets, people there to make their winter money; those that came for the weekend as an escape from their daily lives and those that came to support their way of life.

I was absolutely astounded at the intermingling, the acceptance, the open-ness.  People scoff at the “tree-hugging, peace-loving” hippies, but you know, I think this place is on to something.  No one questions or cares.  No one judges or says you don’t fit in.  No one says you can’t do that, or you have to do this.  (I mean this generally, of course – some rules have to exist and be followed.)  And people respected each other and were extremely giving, sharing and friendly.  Folks come to have a good time and therefore just coexist with each other. I can see why many people are attracted to an alternative society of sorts, versus the cutthroat corporate capitalism we enjoy in America.  I know I am.

Before anyone tears me apart politically, let me immediately add that I am not spouting political beliefs.  I don’t want America to go from a capitalist society to a socialist nation.  My observations simply made me grateful for my slow-paced rural life.  I work for a corporation, though not a super large one (yet) and I enjoy spending my hard-earned money on shoes and outdoor gear and I really enjoy my freedom to gripe about taxes.  But we’re not getting into that, you hear me?  You believe what you want and I’ll believe what I want and I’ll pick my apples in peace.  Moving on.

Okanogan Barter Fair, Tonasket WA

The Barter Chair!

Our camp was a bit far away so it was a nice walk through the fair to get there.  And we saw some of the most interesting gatherings all along the way.   The Faery Congress held Song Circles in the faery flag ring.  One huge camp made from a party bus (I think) bumped with electronic music and held a rave at night.  A giant chair – the Barter Chair! – sat at the juncture of a couple “lanes” and just beckoned me to climb on up.  Camps and vehicles of every kind imaginable were full of people socializing, cooking, dancing, sleeping.  Then, Friday night, I partook in the real magic: the DRUM CIRCLE.

Some of you who personally know me might laugh at the thought of me, straddling a djembe drum in a circle of probably a couple hundred people, mesmerized by the bonfire, drumming my heart out and moving as though possessed in time to the music.  Well I DID IT!  And it was phenomenal.  With that many people, the music took on a pulse, a life beat, that reached in, grabbed my very soul, and shook me along with it.  My beats were very simple, being that I’ve never really played before, but that life beat helped me along.  I was swept up and away, totally caught up by it all, and felt a heady euphoria that I was part of something so profound.  I was connected to those other people, strangers, in a way that  held me captivated.  Sometimes, people would get up and dance along around the fire.  One woman added a tambourine.  My pal Drew brought in his saxophone.  A couple women added their belly-dancing skills to the mix.  You could tell that people came prepared for this – THIS EVENT – and relished in the execution.  Men, women, young and old, added themselves to the experience.  I never wanted it to end.

But it did.  Nothing else of the weekend quite compared to that, but I still immensely enjoyed everything we did and the fabulous people we did it all with.  A main stage held concerts in the evenings with a couple pretty decent bands.  I bartered with a lady, trading a wooden jewelry box for a lovely new skirt.  A friend was there as a vendor, selling her handmade pine needle baskets, soaps, garlic and seasoned pecans.  I bought some soap from her Sunday, probably because the thought of a shower had never seemed so enticing.  My current odor of campfire and hay and 3-days-without-a-shower was no match to my new bar of all-natural lemongrass and sage.

I think its safe to say I’ll be going back next year.  My bartering needs improvement, or rather, what I have to barter  needs improvement.  Plans are already underway.  Who wants to join next year’s party?!

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