Sunday, May 31, 2015

Shhhhhhh!!!! There is going to be a Farmers Market at Wakarusa. Don't tell anyone.

OK, this is not going to be a run on post about details, but I am so excited.  Part of me wanted to keep this post to myself and never put it out there, never even write it actually.  Then I just could not take it another minute.  I got up at 7:00 am the Sunday before Waka, the house was silent.  Not a kid, dog or adult were about.   I snuck downstairs to the laundry-room.  Yes, that is where I do my best writing.   Anyway, I digress.

I started writing about this amazing thing.  I am a big gardening head.  I love, love, love, love to make things grow and to eat and preserve locally grown food.  I have even started a business to save a strand of tomato called the Ivan, you will certainly hear more about that Tomato in the future.  It is a wonderful river bottom heritage with great yield and strong old fashion taste and genetics.  So I am way into fresh food.

Anyway, one of the hardest things to do, is to keep vegetables decent in a cooler for 5 days.  It is not going to happen.  Coolers don't come in fridge and freezer side by sides.  Everything is on ice.  This keeps vegetables too cold.  The humidity/water also messes with most of them.  So I end up eating all my good vegetables early on in the festival.  I traditionally make a falaphel lunch for the sites around me and it needs that great tomato, cucumber salad with pita. So it is a challenge.   

This year, THANK YOU PIPELINE, we are going to have an in-house farmers market.  Now, I did not want to tell you all because I greedily wanted to keep all that fine food to myself.  I now fear I will get there to a bag of greens and no vegetables left.  Yet, I take this chance for the love of you all, for the love of healthy eaters everywhere, and for the love of Pipeline, giving them some props for this great idea.  

The Arts Society of Ozarks, other non profits and farmers of Franklin County are bringing us a Farmer's Market.  The location has not been disclosed yet but it is on.  According to Wakarusa's blog post it will have "Asian Greens, Lettuces, fresh Berries, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Herbs, Squash, Tomatoes and more.  There will also be fresh local honey, jams, jellies, cheeses, and some of the best free range eggs you’ve ever tasted!"  I am  so excited about not having to bring the tender vegetables and am interested to try out their eggs, preserves and cheeses.   I love the idea of strolling over daily for my salad fixings and knowing not only, I am eating well but I am helping good causes and local footprint eating. 

If you want to know more about this organization check out the Link

See you at the market.  Shhhhhhhhh.  Don't tell anyone. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wakarusa 2015, North Gate Closed, tips for getting through the South Gate and the lesson of Carlos

Well folks, Mother Nature has been a little rough on our mountain haven.  A week or so ago Hwy 23 experienced a land side that has closed it down for the unforeseeable future.  It must go through serious construction and shoring up, before cars and trucks can once again be allowed to go on it's windy mountain roads.  

People coming from the south will only feel the increased traffic, however those coming from the north will need to drive an extra hour to get to the festival.  Trust me, look at the maps now and get your self figured out.  You do not want to arrive at those detour signs at 3:00 am and then have to take an extra hour around to get there.  

We come from up in Missouri so we will need to change our route to go through Joplin and then drop down and around through Arkansas.  While this sounds like a pain in the butt, and it is, it is better than falling off a mountain to your demise.  

The NORTH GATE WILL BE CLOSED.  Do not go to the North Gate.  Everyone will have to be processed through the South Gates.  

Now lets add Mother Natures second trick to the bag.  Riverside is somewhat flooded with standing water as the river rises and falls.  This flooding is supposed to recede before the festival, however it will leave conditions less than stellar for the poor schmoes that will be camping at riverside.  If I was camping at riverside I would be bringing a couple of bails of straw or hay to help shore up my campsite before I pitched any tents. 

The end all is that Mud boots are not just a thought. Mud boots are a requirement for this years Wakarusa.  The actual weather reports are actually looking decent.  Hopefully that will pan out and we will not miss a bunch of music like 2013. Yet, remember when you play in the mountains you never know what to expect, so plan for it all. 

People forget that the Ozarks are mountains.  They think of the region as lake of the Ozarks and branson with it's lake front fun and off off Broadway shows.  Yet, these are old mountains that have had their tops weathered off over millions of years of crazy weather.   However, they are still mountains, and with that comes the potential for weather to go a little crazy.

They are thought to have been created when south American collided with North America millions of years ago.  There is records of original inhabitants of the areas going back 7000 years, and the first European explorers are recorded in the area in the 1540's.  The geography shows a period of 1200 year where droughts ravaged the area and then times of deep forestation, as it is now.  The original inhabitants lived in caves and moved on during the drought stage looking for more hospitable territories. 

Wakarusa is on top of a mountain in the Boston Mountain Range, which is the largest of the Ozark mountains.  The mountains can range up to 2000 feet high.  This means that walking down, or up from riverside is no easy walk.  It is 3 miles of windy steep narrow roads that you don't really want to do unless you have no other options.  Think before you scoff at the bus line up and try to do it on foot. Wakarusa provides a bus option that can be found near the road.  Just follow the line of people with pool noodles and towels, they are probably headed down there for a swim.    

The last thing I am going to mention is timing.  While we know all traffic needs to go through the south gate and that the festival folks are working to add more lines to the south entrance, the check in is going to be less than stellar.    The trick is going to be timing it.  Let me tell you, people are going to be coming down early to get in line. They will spend 10 maybe even 15 hours in line waiting for the gates to open.  I don't know that this is such a good idea.  

Maybe coming a little later after the first push of the gates has had a chance to empty out might be a better choice.  I know it is hard to wait.  I know it is all excitement and joy.  Just know yourself and how much patience you really have and then plan your timing. Know that it is going to be a cluster so bring something to amuse yourself and chill out.  

Last year in line there was a guy in an RV in front of us.  His name, we learned, was Carlos.  He came out of his RV dressed as a hippy soul and then disappeared.  Hours went by and he did not return.  The line started to move and we were stuck hostage to Carlos.  Everyone just kept yelling Carlos. You could hear it go up and down the rows of cars.   He eventually showed up and was changing into a nice pair of pants and shirt.  He was obviously less that sober.  He fumbled with his shoes and took his sweet time.  At this point we had little love for Carlos.  He eventually moved towards the check point.  The problem was that by that point Carlos had totally pissed off security and the staff by not being in his RV for hours.  He ended up getting pulled out of line and searched like a pile of kids looking for candy.  

So my word to the wise is hunker down for a good wait but be on it.  Don't just take off to the river and forget that you are actually in a line up.  At some point it will move and the folks behind you will not be amused by your absence.  Carlos!!!!!!  All weekend we would scream Carlos and hear returned screams of the same. 

Wakarusa is going to need every line they have to get people in so lets help it happen as quickly and efficiently as possible.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How on earth do you survive the Wakarusa check in? Learn the secrets...

Are you starting to stress about the check in process at Wakarusa?  OK. I would lie if I said it is pretty, easy and fast.  Once you drive all the way into the BFE Arkansas, you have to make your way through huge line ups of cars, campers and people all heading to the festival. Keep in mind, you are excited out of your skin and can't wait to unload all your stuff to set up camp. 

There are various entrance times based on your ticket and camping passes. Your ticket will, to some extent, defines how stressful your entrance process will be.  While there are no guarantees, at least knowing what to expect will help.  Don't expect it to go fast. Plan for a few hours and try to get into the spirit of it all. Most important don't forget your ticket.  If you do forget your golden ticket, and you ordered from Wakarusa, you should be able to get a new one by going to the will-call booths and working it out with them.  

Everyone is so excited to be there and the feeling of the party is quite evident, regardless of the lines.  It is like being at a ball game when the wave starts through the stadium and you know everyone there is happy to be part of it.  Often in the lineup if you start cheering a wave will go through the crowd with answering cheers and positive energy proving how kind the festival groove is.

Gate Entry Times Based on Your Ticket Type: 

Full Event Pass with Main Venue - Wed Arrival Camping Pass --- Wednesday June 3rd at 4:00 pm
Full Event Pass with Main Venue Camping Pass --- Thursday June 4th at 12:01 am (Yes that is the middle of the night)
Three Day Event Pass - Friday Entry
Two Day Event Pass - Saturday Entry
Sunday Event Pass - Sunday Only

NOTE the North gate is closed after 8:00 pm on Thursday and all festival goers will have to go to the South Gate after that.

NOTE!!!!! As of 5/21/15, Hwy 23 is closed coming in from the North (big rock slide had blocked all lanes).  THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING.  Unless they can get the road fixed things are going to change and get way crazy at the South Entrance.  So Watch for updates on Facebook, Waka's web site, etc.... Stay Calm and know everyone will do all they can to work on this situation. 

Allow me to explain the process of the check in:

There are two gates, the North and the South Gates, each on one side of the festival. The South Gate is down by the riverside campground and stage, where Hwy 23 and 215 meet.   The North one is in a farmer’s field, where Hwy 23 and Hwy 16 meet.  Usually where you come from will define your gate.  However people are always playing the odds, going to which ever gate they think will be less of a pain to get through.  

The South gate has the benefit of the river and the riverside stage, which plays a set starting on Wednesday.  Also if you are staying in the riverside campground you need to check in at the south gate. Each gate has a will-call and information booths if you get confused and need help.

Now, you are saying, ‘why do I care about the stage at Riverside?’  Well you could easily be spending 3 to 6 hours in line. I don't think I have ever gone through in less than three hours. Not only will you inevitably be waiting for 100's of cars to go in but you may be waiting for the gates to even open up. Many people rush to get there only to spend half a day in line waiting for the gates to start letting festival goers in.  

The Festival usually runs a bunch of check in booths at each gate. You will be guided into a lineup when you drive in.  If you need to stop at will-call you will be directed to a separate parking lot for those services.  Next you will get into the big line up and begin your wait.  At the end of your line up they will check your tickets, give you a wrist band, and do a security search on your vehicle.  

Security is looking for particular things.  Do yourself a favor and don't bring any glass containers, pets, gas or electric powered vehicles, fireworks, tanks other than propane, or weapons. I have even seen big cooking knives, like butcher knives, taken by security.  They are pretty strict and will spend a few minutes on each vehicle looking for things that should not be there.  The Police will be on hand if anything is found that warrants such treatment. 

The most common offence is glass.  I know you may wish to bring some alcohol or food that comes in glass, however you will need to transfer it to plastic if you want to get it into the festival.  Each year you see bottle on top of bottle piling up beside the security checks that have been pulled from cars and campers.

When dealing with security and the check in folks, the best thing to do is be polite, follow direction and answer questions directed to you.  The security staff is serious and not there to mess around. They will be curious and they have an important job to do.  The festival staff at the check in and directing folks are often volunteers or paid local folks happy to make a bunch of money over the week.  

One time, I went down with a friend that had stocked up on little chocolate bars and cold beverages before we hit the gate.  He gave them out to staff and spread the festival karma from the start.  That time we got through the gate at 2:30 am and the party at the south gate was raging. Gratitude in the attitude goes a long way.

Once you get through this process you will make your way to the top of the mountain and the festival entrance. No matter which gate you go through, make sure you make the correct turn coming out of the gate area as all those Ozark Mountain roads look the same.  Twice the crew I was with went the wrong way, once at the North Gate and once at the South Gate, each time adding 45 minute additional drives to our journey.  So pay attention, I know you will be excited, but focus for just a little longer. 

At the top of the mountain, you will need to go through another check point where your wrist bands will be checked and you will be issued garbage bags, etc.   You may have a few security questions asked just to make sure all is well.  This is your last check point and from there you will be directed to your assigned camping area -- Main Stage, RV Reserved, VIP etc....  At this point you are in and you can let the good times roll.

Best Practices for getting through without losing your cool: 

1) Don't expect the gates to open up before they are supposed to, in fact expect them to run a little behind time.  This is a huge venture and takes a large concentrated effort.
2) Bring some accessible food and drink so that you can relax and enjoy during your wait.
3) You will not be able to run your AC in your car for the number of hours you will wait so plan some weather appropriate clothing and sun screen.
4) If you like to hoop, make sure you can get to one or a Frisbee or any other activity to amuse yourselves while you wait.
5) Caravan with your friends so that you all get through the gates together.  If you want to camp beside each other and are in general camping this is essential as you will not be able to save spots once you get into the festival.  If you do lose each other in this process you can wait at the top of the mountain just inside the venue before you get to the last checkpoint.  
6) Once you get closer to the festival, especially if it later on Thursday, your cell phone may not be worth more than a paper weight.  You may get through the occasional text but don't use that as your only way to find folks.  If you have to, try text instead of calling.  Expect delays in communication. 
7) Remember all the folks working deserve respect and are doing their best. If you don't give them reason to hassle you they will do their best to do their job and move on.  
8) On your drive to the Wakarusa don't speed, watch for speed limit changes and stop signs going through every little town, dress respectfully and don't give people reason to resent our pilgrimage.  Don't give local law enforcement reason to make your weekend start with a bad experience. 

That is all for now folks.  Have fun.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ever heard of the St. Bernards at Wakarusa, learn the truth...

Close your eyes.  Imagine one of those old cough drop commercials with the sounds of the nature, the blowing wind and power of the majestic mountains.  Can you see the image of a big, galloping, floppy St Bernard coming towards you with a wooden box hanging from his collar?  In the box is a shot of brandy, some food and maybe some bandages. The dog may have dug you out of a snow drift or found you at the bottom of a ravine.  Either way the dog is there to help and get you to safety.

At a festival the trouble one can get into, and the needs one could have range widely. Some people misplace their stuff, or fall asleep in the sun and burn themselves to a crisp, or experience something new they are not ready for, or have a disagreement with their BFF's, or get to the festival to realize they don't have any tent poles or........ 

Each year at Wakarusa a valiant group of folks patrol the festival, work the lost-and-founds booths and generally help folks out.  They can be spotted on foot, or you may see them doing patrols on golf carts or running info booths in each major area of the festival.  Like the trusted beast they are named for, they invariably have a backpack full of all the things you need, have forgotten or have lost.  The team is all volunteers and is made up of people that travel from pretty much every corner of the country in order to be there. 

St Bernards are seasoned festival veterans that have certainly seen a thing or two in their festival days.  Like the big service dog, they know how to find and take care of those in need and if required find help. The St. Bernards are the level of help between the peeps and security or first aid.  If the St. Bernards can't take care of something it is passed up the chain to the official festival staff.  With the help of the St. Bernards the festival runs a little smoother for both the festival goers and the management.

Each St. Bernard runs a couple of shifts throughout the festival and then is free, albeit for meetings and group training. Most St. Bernards help in Chompdown, although the two are not officially related.  The St. Bernards even have a 13-page manual that each person studies before the festival starts.  The St. Bernards take everyone's role and safety seriously to make sure they are as effective as possible. 

You can always recognize a St. Bernard because of their shirt and wonderful helping smile.   You can meet many of them in person by coming to the community breakfast, Chompdown.  Chompdown 2015 will be Friday morning right near the entrance to the Backwood stage.  You can't miss it.  Bring something to share and enjoy the feast.  If you don't know what Chompdown is, check out this post.   Dirtfoot will be playing Chompdown so come on out for an extra show. 

Here are some motivation thoughts directly from St. Bernards:
  • I love helping everyone have a fun time. It is great to watch someone go from confused to feeling good and having what they need.  I believe in the power of festival timing, when people are in need we are there and it all works out just fine.
  • There are those that are searching or seem to be lost in the scene and I am happy not to be lost. There is cosmic balance in it.  I am privilege not to feel lost or out-of-sorts, so anything I can do to help others in need seems like good Karma. 
  • For one St. Bernard, this summed up his motivation. A quote from Fred Rogers "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."  I am honored to be the helpers. 
  • When I'm driving around on that cart so full of energy and joy, it feels like I'm able to transfer all that to the passing crowds! Whether it's in the form of a schedule, water, sunblock, smile, high five or just that wink that says "You're here and we're here for you!"
  • Being part of a group that likes to makes a difference and yet likes to have a good time is wonderful.  We gather from all over the country to be a Waka Jamily.   
  • I like to help lead the group because I know it will work and I know I can get everyone to work together smoothly and help people.

So if you have ever been helped by a St Bernard, come out and thank one at this Waka.  I promise it will make their day.   Have a safe and fun Wakarusa everyone.