Sunday, June 03, 2012

My Favorite Annual Diversion

It was early in the year 1991. I was living in Georgetown at the time, so I could walk to work. It was on the way home that I ran into Gloria, one of my gal pals from the old contradance days in the early 80s. (Only a few years, yes, the the journey from one place to another made it seem much farther away. Anyway ...) She knew what I did for a living, and told me that the Washington Folk Festival needed a new designer/editor for the program guide. The job also entailed submitting a design for the tee-shirt. I wasn't doing much else, and realized that, what with my wife having left me and things pretty much falling apart elsewhere, I jumped at the chance.

It was one of my smarter moves from that period.

I only got one shot at designing a tee-shirt. The following year, the board of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington, which sponsors the Festival, was compelled to use someone else, even to pay them three hundred dollars. I never got a coherent explanation as to why I wasn't considered. Not that mine wasn't appreciated. In fact, they loved it so much, somebody took a whole bunch of leftover tee-shirts, and made my design into a quilt that was raffled off at the Festival the following year. They haven't done that with any design since.

Sometimes that's all the affirmation a guy needs. I stuck with the other part of the job, though. Never regretted it.

There are times that I wish I had more time for this sort of thing, doing the festival circuit, hanging out with musicians, just like I did back in Ohio. The people I work with are a diverse lot, but more than being "hail fellows well met," their singular purpose every year has always eclipsed any cliquishness or petty squabbles among the organizers. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is Duane Winters, veteran coordinator of the Festival, and the hardest working man on the folk music circuit. He is joined by Dean Clamons, who assists me in gathering most of the material for the festival guide, including the many "blurbs" about the various performers featured in the program schedule. (You can find this year's schedule, and what you missed, by clicking here, but it is best viewed in Google Chrome.) There are also many, many others, who contibute their time and talent to this event every year. Together, they are like a well-oiled machine.

My son Paul used to assist me as a volunteer. By the time he reached middle school, I managed to convince the organizers that a kid who just finished seventh grade could handle a sixteen-channel sound board like a pro. They gave him his shot. He was invited back the following year.

The event is held every year at the old Glen Echo Park, just across the Potomac River in Maryland, outside of DC, on the weekend after Memorial Day. This year's weather was sunny and mild, the best they've had in years. The video clip featured here is a flamenco dance troupe from the previous year. I couldn't find a bunch of white guys banging on guitars, but this is more colorful.

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