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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Some thoughts on The Great Blue Heron Music Festival. Friends have urged us to attend for years, but it typically conflicts with the Boilermaker so we never made the scene. It is fair to say that there is a culture to this event: "Happy Heron!" is what the people you encounter say, and those people encompass a pretty wide age demographic. There are, of course, some old hippies, but maybe not so many as you'd think. There are also teenagers and (quite a few) college age people, but also young families with babies and toddlers, and a healthy sample of people that fit the demographic of our group: people with their college age kids. White. So very, very white, but of course that's going to be true of any agglomeration of hippies. For a long time I was under the impression that the hippie demographic was closed-ended, and that by definition it could not include anyone who graduated from high school after, say, 1972. I was mistaken in this: there are probably three generations of people who fit the category out there.

I've never subscribed to the hippie ethos: it is certainly more than a fashion preference, and more, even, then a preference in intoxicants: at its heart the culture is essentially pastorial-- even agrarian. I am never more aware of my citified ways than I am when the trees are taller than the buildings. Of course, intoxicant preference is part of what defines the culturee: this is not a big beer drinking, or even alcohol, crowd, and the happy vibe of organics contributes heavily to the blissful amiability of the inhabitants. For all of its free-floating serenity, however, there seemed to me to be two pillars of order. First, the participants are pleased to obey the minimal rules, largely because the minimal rules are essentially good etiquette. For example, there are, regularly placed around the site, sets of four barrels labeled "Cans", "Plastic", "Paper", and "Utter Garbage". In an urban setting I would expect to see a fair amount of disregard for the labels, and more than a little litter surrounding the receptacles. This was nowhere in evidence at the Blue Heron. One might occasionally encounter a mislaid serape on the ground, but I saw no litter the whole time.  The barrels were regularly emptied. So too the numerous Port-a-Potties. They were, of course, Port-a-Potties, with all that entails, but there were a ton of them, all carefully situated to minimize their potential for offense, and I witnessed no-one relieving themselves other than at the Port-a-Potties. On a pretty regular basis a septic truck came and pumped them out-- impressive. There were food vendors, and the food vendors offerings were more reasonably priced than I think I have ever seen at a music festival: hippies hate gouging.  Another rule concerned firewood. For the past few years moving firewood has been barred in an attempt to slow the advance of the Emerald Ash Borer, so there was a strict ban on bringing firewood onto the site: they went so far as to check people's cars. This rule was honored, because everyone understood it. There were truckloads of split wood for sale, from the venue's wood lot which people happily schlepped to their campsites. Pets are banned. That's about it for rules, and there is a substantial volunteer presence on hand which seems to ensure mostly that things are running smoothly. It really is a happy vibe, and if I felt at times a little like Tom Wolfe at large in the Oregon forest, well, that was on me.




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