Or Balloon Fest 2008. (I'm not just adding Fest to all my titles to make them more interesting, that's really what the event was called.)
I think it was about 5 years ago that I was first struck by the desire to live in a small Midwestern town. I had this idyllic picture in my head of Little League games on summer evenings, played on a dazzling green field under a clear blue sky in the warm glow of evening sunshine. I imagined a town where everyone knew each other and community events were driven by patriotism. I pictured small town parades where you knew everyone on every float and probably helped build half of them. I could almost smell the corn fields in my dream and savored the heavy, sweet scent of them. (My cousin, when I expressed my love of corn fields commented, "You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl." So true.) I pictured family and community being one and the same and folks just being...happier.
Well, here I am. I am living the dream, baby. Last night we went to the annual Bloomfield Manor Balloon Fest. The theme for the event- Hometown Heroes Walking Among Us. Let me try to paint the picture for you.
Yesterday was hot, about 80 degrees. It was also pretty humid after the night's storms. (Humid by Wisconsin standards, not North Carolina. I haven't had to use my AC yet). By 6:30 in the evening, however, the air was cooling enough to just comfortably wrap you in its velvety embrace. We drove 3 miles out of town over the rolling prairie hills, headed west into the hazy evening sunshine. We passed cows grazing on the hillsides and meadows of restored prairie grasses. We knew we were close when we saw the cars parked up and down the shoulders of the road. We parked down the road some distance and piled out of the car. As we walked the last bit to the festival grounds we passed people we knew who were on their way out. Not even to the grounds yet and we were seeing people we knew.
The driveway to Bloomfield Manor (a retirement home) was guarded by a two story inflatable Uncle Sam. Assisting him were a couple of cheerful ladies in their 60s or so, handing out programs and admiring babies. We stopped for a moment to check the lay of the land. The large front lawn was speckled with tents and picnic tables. A tent for purchasing tickets, the game tent, the performance tent, and the food tent. An ice cream stand in the back, a cream puff (we DO live in America's Dairyland)stand to the far left. Way off to the right was a petting zoo, pony rides, and a big inflatable slide. Folks were scattered all over the grounds with their lawn chairs and blankets, or pulled up to a picnic table eating brats. Kids darted in and out of the game tent, begging for more tickets for one more game. The smaller set paid their 2 tickets at the inflatable slide and then jumped and bounced and slid to their heart's content. We purchased a slew of tickets and began wandering among our neighbors. We determined we would eat right away since we had not yet had dinner. We bought the biggest hot dogs I have ever seen in my entire life and hunkered down at a table to eat them.
The girls ran off with their friends and we enjoyed the simplicity of it all. I remember going to community events in Matthews, NC. Matthews was supposed to be a small-town community near Charlotte. Don't misunderstand, I loved Matthews, but it was no small-town. I remember going to events there and being hot hot hot and claustrophobic among the throngs of people. In fact, it's hard for me to get over that mentality. I sometimes forget here that I don't have to dread the heat and crowds when I go to a festival- even though the whole town is attending.
As we were eating our dinner the local one man band, a guy armed with an electric keyboard programmed with his own harmonies, began performing. Between him, the band that played later and the music the cloggers danced to,