Once across the Mackinac Bridge, I snaked my way through construction zones brightly marked with signs saying that it was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus package) and got into Marquette late Monday afternoon. I checked into a motel this time (Value Host, in town; was nice in a basic sort of way) so I didn’t make the Ott Lake Rambler’s family life any crazier by being underfoot for at least a couple of days. I did spend a lot of time over there, though. Two of the little ramblers had a birthday party, which brought a lot of Mrs. Rambler’s family over, and that’s always fun because they’re good people. I sat out on the back porch having guy talk and watching the littler kids run around and bounce off things.
On Wednesday I drove around town getting some photos. The highlights were finally getting a photo of the “Iron County Courthouse” (from Anatomy of a Murder, which I wish I had when I wrote the LJ post about it), and a better view of the harbor light from a closer vantage point. Also got a photo of the house where we lived during our senior year; it’s blue now instead of brownish-yellow, but otherwise looks the same. I still haven’t gotten around to making the multi-megabyte images suitable for computer posting, in case you were wondering why this entry is all text and no pictures. After the photo excursion, I went to the Ramblers’ and spent the night in their pop-up camper, which worked out pretty well. We also played a killer game of badminton, three on one side and four on the other. No one kept score, fortunately.
Thursday was when I found out about the explosion, when I was using Dave’s computer while he was replacing the big kitchen light, whose transformer picked a really bad day to crap out. Then off to Tourist Park, where it proceeded to be cool, windy, and showery for most of the next 48 hours. Perfect camping weather…. not. But everyone knows that it’s the less-than-ideal things that make events memorable, really.
The official start to Hiawatha was Friday, but we camped the night before due to good connections. By 2 p.m. on Friday we had jammed more than I had all of Blissfest. This is what happens when you camp with fiddling fools, by whom I mean the Rambler himself and his friend, mentor, and colleague Phil May, who is going strong on the fiddle and in all ways at the beginning of his ninth decade.
We were also joined by a fine mandolinist from Negaunee who camped across the way. This let me leave my mandolin in the car; I’ve hardly played it in the last year, so I thought it best to focus on guitar.
Instead of concerts on Friday night as at Bliss, Hiawatha has the family dance, with three bands on the second stage. All the guys got a chance to dance with the littlest rambler, Anna. Dancing to Anna still means being held while you move around as best as one can. But I think we’ll all need to teach her how to dance on her own two feet next year, either that or we’ll all need to take up weight lifting. At six, they only grow bigger.
Saturday and Sunday alternated between seeing shows and workshops and doing jam sessions. Dave and Phil helped lead two workshops: A “slow jam” for players of all levels to learn and play old timey tunes, and “Songs of Southern Appalachia”, which included quite a few other performers and a number of songs and tunes. Most of the rest of our jamming was on old timey songs, but Dave and I took some time to play some of our old repertoire, originals and classic folk/rock songs. And later I jammed with the senior little ramblers, showing them Moody Blues songs and some others.
As for the performers, my favorites were Lucy Kaplansky, Pat Donohue, and Josh White, Jr. Their individual sets were great, but the best part was seeing them all together in a songwriter workshop on Sunday morning. It was easily the best workshop I’ve seen in at least two years at any festival (setting aside ones where I knew the leaders). I did see some of the other performers, but I think I was too distracted by making our own music back in camp.
On Sunday, the weather finally turned sunny and just warm enough, and reminded me exactly why I fell in love with Marquette almost thirty years ago. The downside was, it was ending. Dave packed up camp and left Sunday night after we were all honored to be invited to the campsite next door to jam there. They had a campfire. Maybe we should’ve asked to come over sooner, but we were still pleased to be there.
I stayed till Monday morning. I got packed up by 10, went for breakfast and a last drive around town, and was on my way by 11:30. I set my personal best time for the Marquette-to-home run, just under 8 hours, successfully dodging weather and construction sites all the way. Being unpacked while it was still daylight was a nice thing. Tuesday it was back to work.