Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday the county.

My county's bicentennial celebration was held last night at the fair grounds. There was Small Town all OVER the place. Sometimes you wanted to wrap it around you like your favorite blanket, and sometimes you wanted to scrape it off the bottom of your shoe with a stick.

There were Civil War reenactors, a display of ambulances throughout history, a guy dressed like a Colonial resident, historical displays, and food of some sort. And there was a concert.

First, we can fill the grand stand to the brim for a tractor pull, but for a concert followed by fireworks to commemorate a historical event like a bicentennial, the stands were half empty. I was a little discouraged when the big community band took our seats on center stage—actually more like center dirt—but eventually people started to file in, and then the crowd didn't seem so sparse. At least with so many empty seats, I got a glimpse of a guy in a T-shirt and jeans making out with a woman dressed in an antebellum dress complete with hoop skirt and bonnet. A sight not to be missed.

To the right of our mob was a group known as the Big, Bad, Bodacious Brass Band. Behind us was a big band group, and to our left was a platform where an occasional soloist performed.

The whole thing started with our group playing two or three numbers—the National Anthem and two other pieces that I honestly don't remember. Then it went around clockwise from there with the brass band playing a couple of numbers followed by the big band and then a soloist and so on.

One of the soloists is a guy I have heard perform in churches for special occasions. He stood on that platform in his pressed shirt and tie and belted out Ride Sally Ride to canned accompaniment, and nothing seemed to fit. His voice was fine, and the crowd seemed to enjoy his performance, but the nature of the song and the visual seemed mismatched to me.

Anyway, this went on around the performance circle until we finished with Stars and Stripes Forever. Our final note, the stinger, was supposed to be timed with the beginning of the fireworks that were being shot off from the old steel mill across the street. The people in charge got a little excited, I guess, and turned off the lights half way through our song in anticipation of the fireworks, so we all had to play the thing from memory. Try this—close your eyes so you're sitting in the dark and play two solid pages of Stars and Stripes Forever without missing, mostly offbeats. Quite a trick, huh? And you've got fireworks going off to your left, but you can't look at them because you're facing front like a good musician even though the conductor is only a faint silhouette.

After hitting the final note, we were able to watch the rest of the fireworks. There were plenty of oohs and aahs for the huge ones and the ones that start out gold but then turn blue or purple and the ones that explode and then explode again in dozens of smaller shots as the whole mess falls to the ground. There is a fat man with a handle bar mustache who plays trombone in the big band. He's quite a whistler and likes to be the center of attention as often as possible, so he started whistling this monster-decibel squeal like a rocket shooting through the air with every firework explosion. I have to admit it was funny at first, but after three or four whistle screams, it got old. That's one of the parts you want to scrape off of your shoe.

After it was all over, and the lights came back on, the band director said that a hundred years from now, we should all look down from heaven to see how the town would be celebrating the tricentennial. Whatever they do, I hope they assemble a community band and make high school kids sit next to their directors and then let a few civilians join in for good measure.


dive said...

"There was Small Town all OVER the place. Sometimes you wanted to wrap it around you like your favorite blanket, and sometimes you wanted to scrape it off the bottom of your shoe with a stick."
Robyn, your writing is as brilliant as ever. What a wonderful description!

And what a fun night; I especially like your description of trying to play in the dark with fireworks exploding.

Happy Birthday to your county!

lynn said...

Yes I enjoyed that para. too Dive. Also, the image of those making out. Giggle... :)