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Finding the essence of events

Locations: Columns Published

I recently had a nightmare that it was Mountain Fair.

Folks came from all over and converged on downtown. Under normal circumstances, it’s an important tradition (without which I would not exist, as my parents met at Mountain Fair). But in the context of a pandemic, the welcome sight of old friends and new was tinged with the possibility of losing them — something Carbondale Arts is grappling with in its own planning process (see page 3). 

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The next day, I experienced the same mix of emotions in the real world as Roaring Fork High School’s class of 2020 paraded down the street. Mitigated as it was, it still represented the largest gathering Carbondale has seen in months, with plenty of high-risk folks in close proximity — not all of them masked.

As things begin to open up, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the reality will always be a notch or two looser than the rules or even the recommendations. I think that’s because even those of us who choose to take the pandemic seriously tend to start from business as usual and subtract whatever doesn’t work. 

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In a recent Potato Day committee meeting, we had to acknowledge that, while a lot could change before October, some of the core elements — the parade, the big barbeque line — probably won’t be viable this year. The rodeo and the farmer’s market, meanwhile, may be well dialed in by then. Is that enough to mark Carbondale’s oldest event?

I’m inclined to look to the approach the organizers of Dandelion Day took. At the height of lockdown, even a semblance of the usual event was out of the question. And instead of delaying difficult decisions to the fall or trying to make it happen virtually, they accepted the cancellation and opted to build from the ground up. 

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Realizing that, for many people, the core of the event was the garden starts, they partnered with Mana Foods and local farmers to make them available. With that in mind, I’m inclined to call Potato Day a success if potatoes are available — cooked or uncooked, free or for sale.

But between now and then there’s a long summer which would typically be booked solid with public events. And while I have personally kind of enjoyed the brief return to the quiet downtown I grew up with, I realize that many folks look forward to the Mt. Sopris Music Fest and Our Town One Table the way I do Potato Day — to say nothing of the way many local organizations rely on summer fundraisers to stay afloat. 

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With luck, the organizers of these events will find a way to preserve the essential elements. But perhaps it’s also up to us to find our own ways of retaining our favorite traditions. I, for one, miss the opportunity to dress up a bit — even though it’s usually far from required for a play at Thunder River Theatre or a concert at the Benedict Music Tent. 

Consequently, I’m inverting Casual Friday and celebrating Fancy Friday instead. Whether I’m watching the stream from Steve’s, shopping at the grocery store or maybe even camping, I plan to tuck in my shirt and shine my shoes. You’re welcome to join me, or invent your own tradition and email the details to to be shared with others. Because as much as things are looking up — a 20-page paper is extremely welcome after a couple of 12-ers — we’re not out of the woods yet. Anything that brings us together in spirit without having to gather in person is welcome. And I kinda miss the howl.

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