The Best Days of July

I wrote this piece in 2008 in hopes of winning a contest (which I didn’t) but it really does capture the reasons I go to sit and bake in the sun at Birds Hill Park for the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

I present it again to hopefully convince any of you non-believers that this is the best weekend that Winnipeg has to offer -and that you should get your tickets (either weekend pass or for whatever day you are free) and jump on the free shuttle bus with your lawn chair and your water bottle and your sun hat and come soak up something truly amazing.

(ps — poetry sounds best read aloud!)

I could talk about the vibe, the tribe,
the fields of friends in tie-died splendor,
children of all ages with painted faces,
who move and groove in the groves
and the trees in rain and shine,
united as one collective of souls
brought together briefly each summer season.

I’d rather talk about the reason we gather 
the weaving of magic through music —

voice and 6-string and drum skin and fiddle and banjo and double bass and 12 string and kora and mora musica than ever thought possible —

Gathering all the colored threads of cultures and continents
to bridge all divides for all classes
gathered on the grasses
of the most sacred place on the planet
for 3.5 glorious days.

The magic flows onstage 
musical strangers become family, friends and even lovers
for a song or two right
before our very eyes,
as the workshops give our invited guests
a place to stretch, to laugh,
to show off, to admire and be admired 
holding their own, stepping in, stepping up,
sharing a lick, a trick
or a tremulous harmony,
making something unexpected happen
and pulling rabbits out of their musical hats.

Mainstage is a feast, served up in courses like a banquet 
to ten thousand place settings that use tarps for tablecloths.

I would rather talk about the music
because that’s matters most to me -
Songs of healing and heartbreak,
Songs of injustice and making things right.
Lamentations of peoples pushed down and pulled up
by their boot and bra straps
with a triumphant shout.
Salvation found in the sound
of an acoustic guitar on Sunday morning -
or was that Saturday night?
Ballads of times long gone by -
though the human story stays the same.
Dance tunes from all corners of this great blue marble
that lift the heart with the high stepping of each foot
and spirits are joyful linked as the dancers
whirl and twirl together
with arms encircled.

I would rather talk about the music
because folk music has meaning -
words that overcome — that overwhelm -
that makes us aware of the need
for change in our inner and outer landscapes.

Folk music is always about something -
living, laughing, having fun,
love lost and found,
or maybe even that peace be given a chance.

Folk Festival Music comes in many styles,
but one Folk Festival size fits all -
the joyful, the hopeless, the rebellious, the reserved, and
those who just want to have a good time.

I love the Winnipeg Folk Festival because of the music.
It gives me hope, and sweetens my dreams.
The sound of the music never really fades from the Festival site -
it lingers on the breezes -
held by the trees for safekeeping til next summer.
I’ve heard it.

Each year, the Folk Festival makes my heart a promise -
and keeps it.

(C) Susan Hurrell — Winnipeg — 2008

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