Indian Summer Festival

I hate living in my town.  For those of you who don’t know, I live in a tiny place called Hertford, North Carolina.  It was founded some 400 years ago and it hasn’t progressed any since.  It’s about as backward a place as you could ever find in this country, reminiscent of days gone by.  Hell, even the Civil Rights movement passed this place by.

If you want to get to Hertford, just go about a thousand miles down any highway, turn left at Hell and there you are!  The one exciting thing to do in Hertford happens every September and it’s called the Indian Summer Festival.  It’s a huge deal and people come from long ago and far away to attend.  I know this because they frequently use my driveway to park.  They block the streets of Hertford and clog the side streets.  You can’t get out of town all day long.

We go every year and were actually looking forward to it.  Being the big event that it is, there’s always something awesome to see or do.  It was cancelled last year because the organizers (being the sound-minded people that they are) didn’t have the forethought to set a rain date.  You guessed it!  It rained that Saturday and the event was just cancelled.  Now, they can no longer call it the “Annual” Indian Summer Festival.

Being that David and Billy were both working and Stephie is off at college, Katie and I set out on our own to behold the wonders of the Hertford festival.  The first thing we saw was the proud Hertford Volunteer Fire Department.  I owe my life to these guys and gals and I think the sacrifice they make for us all is just un-repayable.  They have 2 fire trucks and they respond lightning fast when that old air raid siren goes off.  I can’t even imagine how hard their jobs are.  So, I felt wonderful seeing the two shiny firetrucks parked on the street for all to see.  Halfway through the afternoon the siren went off and I, being the sort that I am, had to wonder exactly what equipment was going to be used to put out the fire, since both trucks were parked on a street with no egress whatsoever.  I’m still not sure what happened.

Katie’s only hope for the festival was for a balloon.  It’s that simple for her.  Find her a balloon and life is great.  There were no balloons.  In years past, we’ve enjoyed the pony rides.  Well, I enjoyed watching the ponies and Katie screamed “I wanna get off!” at the top of her lungs while we smiled, waved and took pictures.  How’s that for irony?  She hates the pony rides.  I love the pony rides but am over the weight limit by quite a bit.  No jokes, here.  I’ll kick your butt!

There was a decided absence of ponies this year.  The bounce house (another perennial torture device for Katie) was lying on the ground, as deflated as my spirits.  There was, however, a rock climbing wall.  They wanted $15 a person to have a go at it.  Seriously, the back wall of my house shoots some 45-50 feet into the air.  This rock climb was no more than 20 feet.  If Hertford has any budding rock climbers, they should come around and see me.  I’d gladly let them have a go at my back wall and would not charge them a penny.  The only catch is that they have to take some paint and brushes up when they go.  Truly, it’s the only part of the house I can’t reach to paint.

In the absence of bounce houses and ponies, I still had high hopes for a funnel cake.  Yea, that’s part of the reason I’m over the weight limit for pony rides, but it’s one of the few delicacies that any festival has to offer and even at $6 a pop, I wasn’t passing it up.  We get funnel cakes every year.  There were two places selling them…the usual food trailers they haul in for every event.  But you get up to the head of the line and look inside and what do you see?  The cooks who serve up this fine fare are stomping roaches while they sift sugar onto the funnel cakes.  I’m not kidding!  There were roaches EVERY-freaking-where.  We left empty-handed and with our stomachs turning.

With our hopes nearly dashed now, we moved on to the main street where various vendors have set up shop.  They pay a hefty amount for the table space, I’m told.  There were the usual crafty people who sell things they’ve made out of gourds and other handmade items.  Some of it is pretty cool but the price will hold you back.  Seriously?  $25 for a gourd painted to look like a Santa?  No thanks.

The Bikers for Christ booth was nicely attended.  We have quite a lot of bikers around here and with David and I both having ridden for a good portion of our lives, we always stop by to have a look-see.  Then I spotted the Republican Party booth.  This one made me turn tail and run — not walk — run from the festival.  Standing there, looking all regal in their jeans and grimy t-shirts, they had a single table with a few chairs.  The table was festooned with leaflets and booklets and every other ‘let you can imagine.  But the one that caught my eye bore the 30s style picture of an African American man and the caption read, “It’s okay to leave the plantation.”  Wow!  The thing that bothers me most about this is the fact that these people actually thought they were somehow doing good…for their party, for humanity, for the African American community.  Again, wow!

So, head reeling, I stood motionless for a few moments, Katie gripping my hand and searching the crowd for any sign of a balloon.  Things had started to move in slow motion now, except inside my brain, where I argued with myself in a hundred different ways over how this was wrong and I needed to explain to them WHY it was wrong.  Then an odd thing happened.  An older African American gentleman walked up to the table, picked up a pamphlet, started reading.  A conversation ensued between this gentleman and the very white, poorly dressed  guy behind the table.  It was an amicable duscussion and apparently neither party was offended by the imagery on the cover, nor the attitude behind it.

I squeezed Katie’s hand a bit and gave it a little tug.  “Come on.  We’re leaving.”  She didn’t offer any complaints.  Without ponies, bounce houses or balloons, there wasn’t any reason to stay.

On the way out, I spotted several other things.  There was a middle-aged choir singing to a captive audience of elderly people, held prisoner in wheelchairs.  Our town symbol is the turtle.  There were turtles on the tees and the following words: I break for turtles.  ’nuff said.  Around here, I prefer the shirts that say, “CSI: Can’t Stand Idiots” and “If I got smart with you, how would you know?”

Past the usual SPCA booth with NO pets save for my neighbor’s old and formerly vicious dog, which she delights in unleashing on small children whenever she can get away with it.  Past the guy playing guitar and pan flute simultaneously.  Past the aforementioned food carts with their roaches and tantalizing smell of fatty foods, and straight home we went.

People say there are only two things to do in Hertford: Go to church and eat.  I find, for the most part, that it’s true.  I also find that whenever possible, they try to combine the two and can even work food and church into a simple thing like a festival.  I think the excitement of an actual carnival might kill the people around here.  I think the idea that all men were created equal has somehow passed this place by.

I’ve spent eight years here now and it is with happy heart that I will soon bid this place farewell.  I’ve had it with the monstrous bills, with the house that needs so much care, with the oppression and ignorance and complete mind-numbing boredom that exists here.  So, we will be putting our house on the market in the next few weeks and we will bail out and head for Pasquotank County.  The mind-set isn’t that much different, but the bills are half of what they are here and there’s at least more than 2 roads out of town.  It will be one of the happiest days of my life, right up there with the birth of children and the finalization of divorces.  Yippee-ki-eye-ay….Bruce Willis knows the rest.

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