Tag Archives: festivals

This One Thing Communal Kitchens & Music Fests Have In Common!

Originally published as a ‘Reporters’ Notebook’ in the Ithaca Times on July 15, accompanying features on a five-day-a-week community kitchen and the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. Photo from a Second Wind Cottages workday, which I wrote up here.

An economics textbook would never call an organization like Loaves and Fishes or GrassRoots classic examples of “horizontal integration.”

There’s no incentive for a community kitchen to expand across the nation to control all the free lunch spots like Rockefeller’s Standard Oil eating up all the refineries in the late 1800s.

There’s far too many artists in this country for one amorphous group of music-lovers based in an office in Trumansburg’s Masonic Lodge to watch all the shows on YouTube and book all the fairgrounds. No one group can monopolize feeding the hungry, whether the nutrition they serve is soup for the stomach or music for the soul.

Yet, those who do the work for these two local institutions are very “horizontally integrated.” Both organizations have only a handful of paid staffers and absolutely could not keep going and growing without volunteer workers that come from all walks of life. And neither Loaves nor GrassRoots hold it against those who keep showing up to feed themselves and don’t take a turn at the dishwashing sink or ticket booth.

“I think the philosophy for 31 years has been we’re all in this together,” Christina Culver of Loaves told me. “We purposely don’t want to be hierarchical and say ‘Oh, here’s these great volunteers helping you, who are the needy.’”

At Loaves, that philosophy shows through as people who come there at low points start asking how they can help, and end up serving people who come in uniform or shirt and tie. And who knows how many salaried daily suit-wearers will be enjoying music and food and yoga at GrassRoots this weekend, while there are broke students and fixed-income retirees working the gates and cleaning the latrines. Taking in all comers and operating generously and freely in one place for years, this is how a daily meal or a now quarterly festival starts getting called a “sweet community,” a “tribe,” a “family.”

There’s all sorts of need in this world, and sometimes it’s dire; organizations like the Red Cross have press agents who constantly remind us that people and resources are getting sent to places around the world to help when flood and famine happen. Sending a few bucks their way via text or Facebook link is doing someone, somewhere, some good.

Every day, though, there is work to be done so that people in Tompkins County have something to eat, something to hear, something to do. Not everyone can show up to cook five times a week, or spend two weeks in July setting up tents. Looking up from the daily grind, though, surely everyone can find a few minutes to look someone in the eye and say, “What can I do to help, here, today?” •

Lawnstock II: Bringing Festivals To The Backyard

This piece originally ran July 11, 2013, in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. I reproduce it here with a few minor edits.

Getting to a music festival in the summertime isn’t that hard.

Some people find it easier to host one themselves.

Take Lawnstock, for example, hosted recently by Lon Edmonds at his semi-wooded property just off Route 93, outside Nescopeck.

Some 20-plus bands played the event, most of them from around these parts.

Hula hoopers at Lawnstock II, June 15, 2013. Photo/Josh Brokaw
Hula hoopers at Lawnstock II, June 15, 2013. Photo/Josh Brokaw

Edmonds, who’s a self-employed landscaper, says he’s been going to festivals since he was a kid, and that he wanted to give the local, working bands a place to play where they’d get compensated for their efforts.

“I figured why not give people to the little bands. I’ve played in bands before, and I know how hard it is to get two or three hundred dollars out of a bar if you’re in a little band.”

Hundreds showed up for Edmonds’ lawn party. They parked by a barn and trekked up a country road to his sloping driveway in weekend party supply trains: All with backpacks, a couple with sleeping bags, one has the cooler, another the EZ-Up, and someone’s holding the leash of a sturdy-sort of dog. Edmonds’ father (also Lon) played shuttle driver with his Ford Econoline for those parking over at the local fire hall, which provided an overflow lot a mile away.

Everyone heard a slew of local bands. On Saturday afternoon, Duck Duck Goose, out of Sunbury, played Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, their version of “All Along the Watchtower,” the rocking out on the classic rock canon sort of stuff.

Joan, who is biological grandmother of Duck Duck Goose member Jeremy and calls herself spiritual grandmother of the whole band, got up and played the maracas for the band’s last couple songs.

“I play with them whenever I can – I love these boys.”

Joan, band grandmother, plays with Duck Duck Goose at Lawnstock II on June 15, 2013. Photo/Josh Brokaw
Joan, band grandmother, plays with Duck Duck Goose at Lawnstock II on June 15, 2013. Photo/Josh Brokaw

The band Back Home, out of Hazleton, followed with their jammy originals that pushed guitar, bass, and drums to the fullest point of expression. Their merchandise “table” was a blanket manned by two women selling their CDs.

Throw a lawn party of this sort, and you get some good shopping popping up in your backyard.

There were cigar box guitars available next to the duck pond, where for a dollar you could pick up your duck and get a bag full of glow sticks and candy, next to “succulent” plants in little stone-filled vases – fill up the vase with water and the stones all float. And you have a few tents serving up teriyaki sticks and breakfast sandwiches and other fair-type foods all weekend, which is a great convenience if cooking seems too difficult.

The people who showed up to camp and listen, dance and play wore a lot of tie-dye shirts, or, if men, no shirts at all – but there was also the guy in his Wranglers and New Balances and flip-down shades who would not get two glances at your local Rotary meeting, sitting next to the kids throwing, through hula hoops, those little foam planes you get the last day of school as a going-away gift which break a week later.

Some people played with fire as dusk grew into dark – not the sort of thing you can usually do in a community zoned for half-acre lots without a neighbor complaining.

Here, when you walk down to the entrance of Edmonds’ driveway and look across the fields, a quarter-mile away the nearest neighbors are ripping around on dirt bikes. It’s unlikely they’ll be filing any noise complaints. Such are the advantages of having a little land in the country.

Edmonds says Lawnstock will need a bigger venue than his backyard next year. It already grew three sizes from Year One to Year Two.

Maybe, in 5 or 10 or 20 years, on some mountain somewhere in the Susquehanna Valley, Coors Light will be sponsoring the Lawnstock “SuperJam” stage, one of five stages, and folks will be munching on Chipotle burritos and most of your friends will make it a point to take that weekend off.

Then, the bands playing your local bars won’t be playing there. They’ll need someone’s backyard party, a lawn party, to get people dancing.