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I went the Shrine next to the CUA campus today for its 7:30 liturgy so I could be free to go to the 30th anniversary of the Takoma Park Folk Festival. Because I went to such an early service, I knew I would have time to kill before the start of the festival (which was at 11), and yet I knew if I did not get to Takoma Park early enough, the metro ride and the bus ride to the festival would be unbearable. I took some time at the shrine to visit the bookstore where I bought three more books by Hans Urs von Balthasar: The Theology of Karl Barth, New Elucidations, and My Work in Retrospect. I then headed to Takoma Park where I read through My Work in Retrospect at a coffee shop, and then made an an early trip to the festival.

The weather was perfect. The sun was shining; there was a nice, cool breeze, and all remnants of humidity had vanished. The last time I went to the festival, two years ago, was also a nice, sunny day, but the heat of summer was still hanging on, which made for a rather mixed experience. The acts were good (my favorite being Iona), but the heat made me more than a little uncomfortable.

takomapark1.jpg I got to the site of the festival today long before its official opening; I took some time to sit down, relax, read more from Balthasar, and then to walk around and talk to some of the people running festival booths. I had a nice conversation with a man and his wife who made some lovely walking sticks (I almost bought one, but decided it was too expensive for me at this time). It was a hobby he has been working with for sometime, leading to some extraordinary results. He had found a way to let the stick’s own natural beauty come out, incorporating what nature had done to them to his overall design. One stick had been discarded by a beaver; another had a hole made by a honeybee. He thought it was best to highlight the marks that they had made instead of making his own. Other sticks had natural markings on them which he mixed with woodwork of his own. I wished him luck (it was his first time to man a booth to try to sell his work), and then I went to find some food and watch some of the acts.

Even though opening of the festival was at 11, it was difficult to find any of the food vendors ready to sell anything until 11:30. One place had some fries ready, which I bought to hold me over until I could find something more substantial, and then I went to watch my first musical act.

tinsmith.jpgAs with festivals such as this, one finds a variety of styles and expertise. Some musicians were rough and unappealing; others were experts with either natural talent or the strength of years behind their belt. While I did not stay for the whole festival, my favorite act, and probably the one which was the best of the whole festival, was Tinsmith, a band which describes itself as a “high energy alt-trad music from Ireland, Scotland and Appalachia.” Indeed, I had a sense of intuition about them that I actually bought their newest cd before I actually heard them perform (although I had already heard one of the members play on another music stage earlier, because he was substituting for that bands drummer, and I think that helped explain why I knew the band was going to be good).

takomapark2.jpgBy the time I left, the place was as croweded as one would expect: with seven different stages for music, dance and theatre, thousands of people come and go throughout the day to experience some or all of the festivities being offered. Of course, in such a crowd as this, many of the people at it were of a mindset and belief system which differed from my own, and some of the commentary by a few of the musicians I felt was far too simplistic and sloganeering to do anyone any good.

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