invasion of the festival people…do i know you?

3 Azamat 165 B.E. (Baha’i calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Kimya Dawson, “Tire Swing”
Dance Hippie Festival Dancing
Ben_Frieden / Pixabay

Today was the WORT Block Party.  For those of us who frequent Madison neighborhood festivals, this is the first festival of the season.

There seems to be an identifiable “festival crowd” here in Madison.  At least among those who frequent the WORT Block Party, the Marquette Waterfront Festival, the Atwood Summerfest, the Orton Park Festival and the Willy Street Fair.  When I go to one of these festivals in Madison, I find myself recognizing dozens of faces.  These are people I swear I’ve seen before, but with whom I’m not acquainted.  It may very well that I’ve seen them at co-op events, Willy Street Co-op, neighborhood meetings, public hearings, or at a party somewhere.

One such person waved at me as I was walking towards my house this afternoon.  She was with a housemate of mine and we both said that we recognized each other, and eventually we were able to figure out why.  They convinced me to abandon my house-cleaning plans and instead go to the WORT festival with them.  We talked for a while at the festival, and she talked about this same phenomenon of recognizing people one can’t quite place.  At one point, she went up to one such person she recognized and was able to figure out why she knew him.

While there, I saw one woman who I initially saw at a party years back, and then at a Metro public hearing, and then later at another party where we actually exchanged some words. From time to time I see her at a bus stop, and today I saw her at the festival.  One of these days I’ll probably know her name.  Another woman I saw I met at a camping event last weekend.  Back then I swore I’d seen her before, but could not place her.  Now she’s good enough of a friend/acquaintance that we can engage in some extensive conversation when we run into each other, as I did today at the festival.  I also saw a guy with a longish red beard.  I remember both of us were trying to place each other when we ran into each other last year.  It turned out he used to work at Mifflin Street Co-op.  My co-op house had a close relationship with Mifflin Street Co-op, until the food co-op was forced to close its doors eighteen months ago.

Madison is like that, to a large degree.  With a population of 225,000, it still has a small-town feel to it, and I like it that way.  It’s kind of comforting.  I like living in a town where it’s easy to run into people you know and can say “hi” to.  But, as one friend pointed out, Madison is not a place where you can be invisible.  You can’t just disappear into the crowd.  She talked about how she used to be able to make late night trips to the convenience store in pajamas or boxer shorts, but realized she could not do that here due to the very real possibility that she might run into someone she knew.

The WORT Festival is where these “festival people” first seem to come out of hibernation.  Like various mammals native to this area, they’ve shed their winter coats, and walk with a bit of spring in the step, as if a burden had been removed from their shoulders.  Unlike various native mammals, they put on their sunglasses and sunscreen, and often have beers in their hands.  Taking in the music, the booths, and the people-watching, it is a sure sign of summer…

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