As I finished my second cup of coffee Monday afternoon, and geared up to unload the van, thoughts of the previous 36 hours rumbled around my brain.
Every year we have a massive festival here in Fairbanks to celebrate our almost 24 hours of sunlight that peaks on the summer solstice. You can go to a high place and watch the sun go around in circles, if you like. It doesn't really set. We have a sort of twilight/early evening type of "night" for a few hours and then we are back to daylight.
The celebration starts with a midnight baseball game on Friday night, then a Midnight Sun Run on Saturday night, and on Sunday the huge, crazy, noisy, chaotic spectacle that is the Midnight Sun Festival.
The entire downtown area is blocked off, stages are erected, banks of port-a-potties trucked in, tourists, villagers, vendors, musicians, artists, descend to do their thing. And about every third person has a dog! I always take Ole dog with me and he usually has a great time getting petted.
On Saturday I picked up the UHaul cargo van, and with the help of a young man got most of it loaded. Of course I forgot the sand boxes, which are very heavy. Later on I lugged them into the van one at a time and carefully slid them in. These are kitty litter buckets filled with sand, and often topped off with a few inches of water, too, from all the snow melt. I pour out the water and end up with buckets that weigh anywhere from 30 to 40 lbs. These get tied to the canopy so that a big wind won't blow the whole thing away. This is a definite possibility, especially when you have big flags tied to all over the tent! Wings, anyone?
I got everything done by 11pm on Saturday night, a real record. This included sandwiches, so that I wouldn't be living on elephant ears and ice cream all day. Plus a huge jug of ice water. When it is 90 degrees and there are thousands of people, the port-a-potties get rather, shall we say, unpleasant? Add in the drunk people and, well, blarg. So the last thing I needed was to drink a lot of caffeine.
I wish I could have run around gawking at all the dancing, gymnastics, fools and dogs running around but I was stuck in my booth for the duration. I got out to use the potty twice, and they were surprisingly clean, or I lucked out. I walked Ole to "his" tree four or five times, and we visited the Yukon Quest log cabin once, where Ole did tricks and got treats.
The weather was gorgeous! Blue skies and some lovely, puffy cumulous clouds in the distance. The wind came up and cooled us, but don't get me wrong, it was bloody hot! Still, when you live with -40 during the winter, as I do, you may revel in the extreme heat of 90–100 degrees! Enjoy it while you have it!
We were busy, the wonderful teenagers who were helping me were sad that I couldn't use and pay them more. Ah well. One of my other students, a GI, came and stayed all day just to be helpful. Thanks, Steve! It was so nice to have so much help.
When I wasn't busy selling things or running Ole through tricks, I got to watch the moving circus as it flowed by my tent. Oddly shaped people with oversized rears, little kids "killing" each other with inflatable medieval weapons, or one lady who I will never forget who was wearing a T-shirt from a local gym: she was really, truly built like the mythical brick shithouse. She had no neck! She was a GIANT SQUARE! She was followed by her husband, who looked like a giant bubble. I was looking to see if she had kid, because if she had, he would have been Sponge Bob for sure.
There was the usual stream of young, white males who asked for "rebel" flags. No, I don't carry those, I'd say. They'll have them at the fair, I'd say. No, I don't sell flags of hate, I didn't say. But they knew. Oh they knew. Because one of those young men came back later and said, "I'm sorry for asking for a rebel flag. Sorry." Now that has never happened before!
It was the doggiest Midnight Sun Festival EVER. Ole dog got so many treats for "No Bark" that I thought I wouldn't have to feed him dinner. At one point we were so totally surrounded, five or six dogs on each of the four sides of the tent, that I saw him sigh and then he laid down under one of the tables. Poor guy, between the heat and the hundreds of dogs, it plumb wore him out. Next year I will leave him at home. The last few years it's been fine, but this year it was exhausting.
There were some lovely dogs, some lovely, smart, together dog owners, and there were some really awful people who shouldn't have kids OR dogs. YOu know, the guys all covered in tattoos and who were being led by grotesquely-bred pit bulls that they put on chains heavy enough to tow a coal car with. Spiked collars, and little control. This is not the same as the nice family pitty that was across the way, to whom a brought a cup so the owner could give her a drink. She was trained, polite, sweet and "her" kid obviously loved her. Good parents, good kid, good dog.
It's not the dog, folks. It's the owners. WHY why why why WHY do people bring unsocialized, unfriendly dogs who BITE dogs or people or both---WHY do people bring these animals to a festival that has thousands of people and other dogs? (You know I can't go to an event like this with all these dogs without going into a dog rant, don't you?) I'm actually going to recommend to the organizers that they ban dogs other than service or therapy dogs. I heard and saw two dog fights, and I'm sure there were many more. It's so stressful for all concerned, especially the dogs. Why do you need to bring your dog to a festival like this, anyway? Well, it's what we do. Fairbanks is a dog town all the way, and that's one of the things I love about it. Were you there? What do you think?
I wish I'd had a chance to see and hear some of the musicians. I've been one of those performers in the past, but not this year. I'm sure there were some great ones. Unfortunately the nearest stage was just far away enough that most of what I could hear was drums and bass and background noise. We were playing the "What Song Is This?" game for a while, just guessing from that.
It was all okay until late evening when a punk bad a la the 70s started up with hoarse screaming (that I hoped was just the fellow"s voice through an effects box) and pounding pounding everything else. Even the Ramones actually sang. I love the Ramones. This was more hard core. I could see the mosh pit in my mind's eye. I wanted to plug my ears. Been there, done that, seriously. But there was no getting away from it, and added to that, the sun was low on the horizon PIERCINGLY BRIGHT into my eyes and there was no way to get away from it. It was agony. The punk band went on for at least an hour. And the sun did NOT set, because, after all, this is Midnight Sun Festival! Between those two things I ended up with a wicked migraine.
Finally it was time to start packing up. My friends started showing up to help me pack up, load up and get outta there.
The cops had all the drunks lined up against a wall and were breathalyzing them in sequence. Volunteers with the festival armed with push brooms spread out in a line and started cheerfully cleaning the plaza. The recycling people picked up all the bottles and cans that folks had put in the correct bins. I washed my face and hands with a wipe and OMG--the dirt!
We weren't allowed to bring the vehicle back in until after midnight. Everything went pretty smoothly, I didn't barf, which was good, and I managed to drive home and feed and walk the dogs, and talk to Bucky Bird, who said, "Rrrrrk," very quietly.