This weekend might have marked the 9th annual Lughnasa Festival at the Blue Scorcher if the stars had aligned differently. Lughnasa! the ancient Irish festival of first harvest. Celebration of berries, grain and the descent of the sun. I organized three community festivals to recognize it from 2007-2009. Each year approximately 1,000- 3,000 people attended. It required nearly 100 volunteers to make happen. I still think of it as one of the highlights of my life. Examples of collaborative creative effort on a grand scale. As it was described to me by one participant, “I felt like I had walked into a Fellini movie.” Two other separate people told me that after happening upon the festival while traveling through Astoria, they were inspired to move here. It was a nurture culture lalapalooza.
Not only was there a stage with live music broadcast over KMUN the local community radio station all day, there were near endless delights to entice enjoyment all around the block:
- Troll Radio Review – Live from Lughnasa!
- Hourly Cake walks to raise money for the food bank
- A farmers market made up of the farms that supply produce to the Blue Scorcher
- Carnival games run by local non profits, like a goldfish toss etc
- Super heroes who spent the day doing good
- Bike wheel races down steep 15th Street to represent the decline of the sun – with trophies! (Modified rummage sale bowling trophies with wheels instead of balls)
- Beauty queens of a diversity of ages and genders
- Demonstrations of traditional crafts like black smithing, grain milling, home brewing, and vermi-composting
- Fortune tellers
- A massage booth
- Face painting
- Hundreds of colorful hand sewn flags everywhere – which are still being used by the River People Farmers Market these days.
- Children’s crafts
- Hourly bread blessings which we then shared out to the crowds, Blessings were done by spiritual leaders of all sorts – from a traditional Jewish blessing, to Catholic clergy, a Buddhist nun, a Lutheran minister, a Wiccan, Bahá’í,…
- Three legged races and other field day events – with cookie “metals”
- A labyrinth walk
- A community altar with an interactive prayer/blessing/intent art installation
- Little passport guidebooks, that created a scavenger hunt of sorts through all of the exhibits and activities.
- Lots of delicious food – nearly all local, and all organic & GMO free
- Outdoor yoga in the park, while able to hear beautiful classical guitar music wafting up from the stage.
- The raffle culmination of a week long local food challenge that got people to eat nearer
- Did I mention Bread, Pie and Switchell?
Talk about a wild ride – and it all happened in one day! People gathered, and many stayed all day – visiting with friends and neighbors, dancing, eating and making merry. It was an example of time out of time.
Thinking back on it I am so so glad that I dared to pull it off. It was crazy ambitious- especially the first year when we had only been open 10 months. A free festival? Seriously, as if we weren’t completely sleep deprived enough! It was an exhausting all hands on deck day for Scorcher workers. And we did it as a zero waste festival – we fed all those people without generating any garbage to speak of – nothing disposable. It was nearly all local produce, and everything we fed people was organic and GMO free. Plus alcohol wasn’t the focus. Like I said, organizing it was pretty much the best thing I ever did.
This year we will be celebrating Lughnasa at home. Spending the day helping M. prepare for the Clatsop County Fair – washing chickens etc., and I hope to get out and pick some more blackberries to start some blackberry wine. I have a slim hope of a nap on the back deck if the clouds clear. Perhaps Joe and I will celebrate by going on a date tonight to Tango class, which will at the very least make us laugh like fools over our 4 left feet. So even though I didn’t spend months organizing a huge party, I send Lughnasa Greetings – from my ancient Irish Ancestors to you. May your harvest be bountiful, and May joy fill your house.