I am drinking out of my Stanfest mug this morning and thinking about one of the funniest things that ever happened to me at a music festival. Like many funny stories, it is only funny in hindsight. It happened at the first ever Stan Rogers Folk Festival.
The festival was epic on several levels, but familial and weather-wise especially. The year was 1997. I just happened to be living on the east coast at the time. This was fortuitous because the festival is in Canso, Nova Scotia, one of the most easterly points in North America. You kind of have to be going to Canso to get there. It's not on the way really to anything else. Except a good long drive.
On the way into Canso town, you can see why Stan Rogers loved it and how the place inspired so many of his songs. My familial connections that weekend were twofold and deep. I drove there with my grandmother. Her people as she liked to say, were from Canso. My dad had been raised there until he was 15. I would meet people all weekend long at the festival that my dad grew up with. Stan Roger's family was from there too. "Those Bushells men were all tall" my Nan said about Stan's family. That and they played music.
My cousin Deanna and some friends were there too. And from my mom's side of the family was my cousin Kristen. Kristen and I were camping at the festival together, while Nan would be staying at her brother's place. Kristen and I met at the gates, set up our tent and headed down to the MainStage.
Not long after the weather hit. There was an electrical storm and Dan Bern one of the performers had to leave the stage or risk electrocution. Up on the hill the wind seemed to be blowing some tents around. Not ours though right?
In the pelting rain Kristen and I hurried back to the campsite to check on our shelter. Indeed our tent was one of the tents rolling around at the top of a hill. (Note: a hilltop is not an excellent place to be in a windy electrical storm.). Bravely, we ran after our tent and struggled with it back to our designated spot. We hammered the spikes back in. The lightening passed, the wind died down. The MainStage had shut down but the campground was alive with festival revellers well into the early hours of the morning.
Later someone made a documentary film about that first Stanfest. In the film, they talk about the storm on the first night. There is a scene of tents blowing on the hill. If you look closely you can see Kristen's and my feet, Fred Flintstone-like, beneath our tent as we shuffled it back to it's place.
At the time, terrifying. In hindsight, funny.