This past Friday night, my husband and I took a romantic stroll through the carnival that’s part of the eagerly anticipated annual Slugburger Festival set up for the weekend just a couple of blocks from our house, in Corinth, Mississippi. We smooched on top of the ferris wheel and he won me a stuffed animal in the football toss and we walked arm-in-arm-in-cotton-candy and … aw, okay, you know that is all a big fat lie. I can’t fool you. Forget the romantic stuff. We did go to the festival, but naturally we bypassed the family fun and potentially romantic area and headed straight for the beer garden, where we loaded on Bud Light and rocked out to some great blues. But the carnival looked fun, in a scream-your-head-off-and-feel-your-stomach-do-flip-flops sort of way. And I know some of you are just now rejoining me after getting stuck at the words “Slugburger Festival” and wondering what, exactly, we and the good folks here in Corinth are doing and, more importantly, what we’re eating. I hope you read the link and learned that slugburgers are in fact an innovative and popular Corinth food item that people travel hundreds of miles for. And no slugs are harmed in the making of this sandwich, so it’s okay. But you’ve got to eat them hot and fast and please do not ask for catsup. That marks you as a non-slugburger connoisseur — or a Yankee. Not sure which is worse. Anyway, the festival continues tonight with country music, more carnival rides and all the beer and fried food your gall bladder will allow you to have you can eat.
It’s Handy Week around here, which means that pretty much everybody’s walking around with “Sax in the City” T-shirts and portable chairs and saying things such as “If we go to the Listening Room in the afternoon and then Wilson Park for the Sundown concert, we can catch Handy Night at On the Rocks afterwards.” The W.C. Handy Music Festival honors Florence, Alabama’s favorite native son. Handy was born near the Tennessee River in 1873 and grew up to the rhythms of riverboats work crews and gospel music. And even though he left town as a young man, Florence was his home and he returned often before his death in 1958. Almost 30 years ago, jazz musician and Yale professor Willie Ruff, another Shoals native, helped form the Music Preservation Society to celebrate Handy’s legacy and worldwide influence and we’ve been partying ever since. The Handy Festival — everybody calls it “Handy Week” — is a 10-day bounty of music for all. While most music festivals are an intense two or three days of performances at a specific venue, Handy Fest is spread over dozens of locations in three counties. You’ll find music at restaurants, parks, churches, stores, libraries, museums, assisted-living and nursing-care facilities, law offices, coffee shops, courthouses, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the mall, random street corners and the downtown Florence parking deck. Among other places. And that’s not counting the actual concerts in actual auditoriums. There’s food, too, and dancing and theater productions and races and a car show and all sorts of fun. And the best part? Most of it is free and family-friendly. You don’t need a ticket or a badge or anything for most Handy events — you just show up and enjoy. But the real best part is that Handy Week is a common gathering place for everybody. And I mean everybody. You’ll see all folks of all ages and background and cultures dancing and laughing and having fun, brought together by music. Mr. Handy would be proud. Check out http://www.wchandymusicfestival.org/ and http://www.timesdaily.com/handyfest for details.
When you see all the photos from Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this weekend — the crowds of folks and tents and arm-swaying humanity — remember that this is what it looked like before the gates opened today. Bonnaroo home Manchester, Tennessee, also is my hometown. I was there earlier this week visiting my mom and dad and we drove out to look at the 700-acre site, just about four or five miles from my parents’ house. On one hand, it’s out in the country on one of those narrow winding two-lane rural roads that natives take at about 80 miles an hour and everybody else creeps along. On the other hand, Bonnaroo is only a few yards up a hill from an everyday residential neighborhood that in the course of normal events usually does not play host to the likes of Steve Martin and Dave Matthews. Except during Bonnaroo. Because then my normal and everyday Tennessee hometown goes suddenly crazy. But in a fun way. On the Tuesday night of our drive by, the muscley official Bonnaroo guys riding four-wheelers around to check out the generators and fences and all the million details of the Bonnaroo infrastructure — they’ve built a city there, people — far outnumbered the trickle of regular folks who were starting to congregate. And on our closeup view, I noticed that those who live adjacent to the Bonnaroo site adopt one of two strategies for the duration: They either 1) abandon all hope and rent their houses out to Bonnaroo people or 2) go all in and rent out their yard space to vendors, open their doors to anyone who needs a roof and join in the party. One enterprising woman set up an awning, tables, chairs and grill and declared it to be “Momaroo’s Kitchen.” Why not? This morning the long line of traffic from everywhere else made its way slowly but efficiently to the Bonnaroo gates, and the good times began. Learn more about Bonnaroo and follow along at http://www.bonnaroo.com/.
This is what my hometown of Manchester, Tennessee, looks like right now with the more than 75,000 people there for Bonnaroo. Actually, Manchester proper is to the upper left of this photo — and that’s close enough, most locals would agree. Dear Husband and I had contemplated going this year, especially since some of our favorites (Bruce Springsteen, The Decemberists) were going to be there, but in order for us 50-somethings to enjoy the experience we would have had to have chosen the ultra-deluxe-VIP options ticket-wise, which pushed the costs up to $$$$. So we chose instead to spend our wedding anniversary weekend in nearby Murfreesboro trying to guess which performers were staying at our hotel. http://www.bonnaroo.com