It was a warm and wonderful summer that ended last week with the Labor Day holiday. I usually avoid summertime extravaganzas big enough to require one to park on grass and get on a bus, but this summer found me breaking that rule more than once.
By far the most educational of the trips was to WE Fest in Detroit Lakes.
It's all who you know. Through a set of salubrious circumstances, a kind gentleman with two $1500 VIP seats loaned me their use for one evening.
Parking? I parked right behind the stage, thank you.
Crowds? Thanks to a backstage pass, we could gaze with pity on those outside the gates.
Celebrities? I spotted Ed Shultz. Later, I was taken to shake the hand of a young man named Dierks Bentley.
Mr. Bentley, according to what I found out on the Internet when I got home, is a singer of some renown.
The great tickets allowed my partner and I to sit near the stage in a place where they have real chairs and actually keep track of who sits where. For $1500, you would expect that.
However, we couldn't resist wandering the lawn behind where there was very little furniture and even less clothing. Never before have I waded through a throng of 40,000 people in the late stages of a memorable day of beer consumption they would likely never remember.
The most valuable learning experience came after we took our seats in front of the football-field sized stage to listen to a selection of songs by a Mr. Kenny Chesney.
Mr. Chesney is very popular. The people in the crowd knew every word to every song.
However, after about a half-dozen songs, it started to hit me: All of the songs were in the same key!
I am a touring musician myself. I tour a few area nursing homes to play piano and sing.
For years, the only rhyme or reason to the order of the songs I play is the absolute requirement that no two consecutive songs be in the same key.
I mean, what if there is a former music teacher in the audience? I don't want to see some poor soul wheel out of the room at the same time she is trying to plug her ears.
But at WE Fest, in front of 50,000-plus people, Mr. Chesney performed six to ten songs in a row in the same key — and nobody noticed!
Now, it is possible that an audience of 40 at a nursing home has more collective awareness than the beer-sotten 50,000 at WE Fest.
But thanks to Mr. Chesney, I am now liberated. At the next nursing home gig, I am going to let loose and play two consecutive songs in the key of C.
Later, I attended another summertime spectacular for the first time: the Minnesota State Fair.
Most memorable: The “Miracle of Birth” building where they have on display about three dozen cows, sows and ewes in the final stages of gestation in hopes that they will give birth in front of the gawking children present.
The experience is meant to promote abstinence. Any questions the children have about all that stuff in the next decade can be answered, “Remember the birth barn?” and they'll just scream and run to their room.
By the time I arrived, the performers had already popped out one calf, two lambs and several litters of pigs.
The remaining poor, pregnant animals just laid there in sweltering misery, waiting for their involuntary moment of State Fair fame.
I got the same queasy feeling I had as a kid when I found a cow's placenta in a neighbor's barnyard.
Some things are best left unlearned.
I escaped from the Miracle of Birth experience to a deep-fried pickle stand next door, but it was difficult to eat.
Other 2010 summertime spectacles: The Confederate theme-park lallapalooza at Stone Mt. Georgia, reported in this space earlier.
The local county fair counts. I waded into the the crowd twice only sprint back to my car and head home to hide under the bed. Just not in the mood to visit, I guess.
Finally, Rollag. I attend the Western Minnesota Steam Thresher's Reunion once per year.
The reason? I love to hear the old steam whistles. There is nothing more grand than the steam whistles on all those machines at Rollag.
And no two of them play in the same key.