I went to my first fall festival of the season last week and it reminded me that I don't go to enough of these. Situated smack dab in the country near Woodbine, the location was surrounded by barns, rolling hills and pastures dotted with equines. As we walked from the field where we had parked I could see strings of lights marking out the festival area. Strains of music floated on the air, pulling us in like moths to a flame.
The festival was a fundraiser for Day's End Horse Rescue. I'd gone because my daughter's band, Vinyl Rhino was playing but the horses were definitely an added bonus. So were the children, the families, the food and the atmosphere.
Shade trees strung with twinkling lights reminded me of a scene from the movie, "Sweet Home Alabama" with Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey and Candice Bergen.
We found a spot to listen to the band, settling on long wood planks stretched over bales of hay. Dan went to get us each a barbeque sandwich and a drink while I was entertained by a handful of children dancing on the wooden dance floor that had been laid on the grass in front of the band. The kids, who I guess to be from 2 to 6 years old, were oblivious to the crowd. Mesmerized by the beat of the drum and licks from guitars, they swayed, leapt to the music, spun and tapped toes. And it seems they were listening too because when the band sang, "Hold your drink up high," one little gal raised her juice box to the sky with a gigantic smile.
Twilight barn tours were called on the half hour but I was so immersed in watching the kids and listening to the band that I stayed on the hay bale bench, smiling at the kids and people watching. That's what writers do. They watch everyone and everything, recording characters, settings and scenes for future books or stories. This scene easily etched out a place in my mind.
The soundman really knew his stuff and the band was on point so I remained glued to my seat, absorbing music until Officer Barney and his deputy, Nugget showed up. Officer Barney is a giant Belgium draft horse who came to the rescue last year after serving 12 years on the Baltimore City Police Department's mounted patrol unit. His sidekick, Nugget looked like a Welsh Pony. They stood side by side at a kissing booth just down the hill a bit, offering free kisses. I wandered down to meet the horses and had to smile when I saw the bumper sticker given out to those who kissed a horse. It said, "I kissed a horse and I liked it!"
After visiting the horses I ambled over to the popcorn stand. I love seeing these old fashioned popcorn poppers and seeing traditional red and white popcorn bags. As I was leaving, an older gentleman offered to purchase popcorn for a child who had been eyeing the popcorn display.
By the time I returned to my seat the stage dancers had grown. Joining the two to six year old kids were a handful of older kids that looked to be 10 to 13 years old or so. I could tell they had taken gymnastics classes because they were doing perfectly executed back flips and handstands on the stage. Then, a young boy – the only one in the group of girls – hit the stage floor with some break dancing moves. I looked at my husband and saw that he was smiling, too. We both laughed out loud when one of the pretty blondes pulled him up and tried to get him to dance with her.
This is how it begins, I thought, and a quote from the movie, Sweet Home Alabama sprang to mind. "Nobody finds their soul mate when they're ten. I mean, where's the fun in that, right?" But, watching them, the quote had less meaning because these kids were clearly having fun.
As evening wore on and the light began to fade the children wandered away, most likely herded home by parents for homework and bedtime. The beer garden was open and the dance floor had again morphed. Now it was packed with adults who swayed together, holding their drinks – not juice boxes – high in the air. My daughter, Ashley came out into the crowd, dancing as she sang and handing the mike off from time to time for participants to belt out the well-known lines in classic tunes.
When I glanced behind me I was surprised at how the attendance had grown. The scene was an idyllic one. A flickering fire pit sent curls of smoke upward. Multiple tables made from upright barrels were bordered by couples sharing beer and laughter. Others, like us, were relaxing on our makeshift hay bale seats, but it seemed everyone was relishing the perfect evening -the end of a season.
As we wandered back to our car later that night following a path lit by solar lights the full moon cut through the clouds, casting golden rays down on Days End Farm. It felt good to play a small part in this fundraising event for a good cause and it felt good to welcome in the fall season less than a week before its official calendar date. Fall could never beat summer as my favorite season but there is something about a fall festival in the country that makes everything in the world feel right.