Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Bluegrass Festival is Almost Upon Us

Today was our last promotional committee meeting before the big event this coming weekend. It looks like we are ready to welcome bluegrass fans to our town for our third bluegrass festival. I say we, because the primary promoter of the event is the Union County Historical Society of which I am vice-president this year. Our president, Sam Ensley, is the creator of the festival and the driving force behind it. We are assisted by the Downtown Development Authority, the City of Blairsville, and SEBA, the Southeastern Bluegrass Association.

By Friday afternoon, some twenty-one craft vendors will begin setting up their wares for sale, tents will be erected at City Hall, the restored Mock House, and the Old Courthouse on the Square. Musicians and fans will be arriving in town, finding their lodging, and seeking a place to eat. Sam and I will be setting up and testing the sound system for the United Community Bank Main Stage in the second floor courtroom of the old courthouse, as we revive a custom repeated time and again in old courthouses like ours. Since the old courthouses had large auditoriums they were often used for gospel singing's, bluegrass, country and other musical shows.

At 7 p.m. the first group will take center stage and the courthouse will vibrate with the sounds of mandolin, fiddle, guitar, "dog house" bass, and banjo as some of the finest bluegrass musicians in W. North Carolina, north and central Georgia, and East Tennessee gather to enjoy their passion.

On Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. two outdoor stages in downtown Blairsville will present concerts from among the 25 bands that will appear. The front porch of the City Hall, formerly the old County Jail, will be the site of the Ken Ensley Music Company Stage, while the Mock House Cultural Center will host the Appalachian Community Bank Stage. The main UCB stage at the old Courthouse will be alive with music until 11 p.m.

It is rare for a small town historical society to host such an event, especially, only two weeks after its hugely popular Mountain Heritage Days. However, we have a very active society, that is willing to take on these tasks. The Heritage Days Festival was solely a product of the members of the Society. The Bluegrass Festival is a joint activity of three different groups with the Society being the driving force.

We will all be exhausted when this is over late Saturday night, but it will have been a great experience. Our town is a changing community with many new arrivals who haven't lived in a small town and seen what the energy of a small community can accomplish. Our downtown merchants will enjoy the business during these difficult times, and we will simply enjoy working together to put on a good show for the spectators and musicians who take part.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Have Sworn Off Politics for Awhile, But This is Too Good

A friend just sent this thought piece to me: (pass it along!)

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight..... If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."

Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers: a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

Name your kids Willow, Trig, and Track: you're a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating: you're well grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

If your total resume is: local weather girl (sports caster), 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with fewer than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.

If your husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DUI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

Which Ticket is Smarter?

Obama: Occidental College (Los Angeles) - 2 years studying Politics and Public Policy. Columbia University (New York) - B.A. Political Science with a specialization in International Relations.

Harvard Law School - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude, Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Law Review.

Biden: University of Delaware - B.A. in History and a B.A. in Political Science. Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

McCain: United States Naval Academy - Class rank 894 of 899.

Palin: Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester - Business Administration. North Idaho College - 2 semesters - General Studies. University of Idaho - 2 semesters - Journalism. Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester. University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism.

Why Do They Do It?

As I watched Hurricane Ike unfold this weekend, I was amazed, as usual, at those who did not evacuate, even when warned about the danger. Yes, it was only a category 2 storm, but the predicted storm surge was the big concern. Yet, thousands refused to leave their homes.

My family and I had to evacuate our home because of Hurricane Floyd several years ago. Floyd was a monster storm that, fortunately, remained off the coast of Georgia and Florida, turning just in time to miss us before going ashore in North Carolina as a much weaker storm. Over two million people evacuated the coastal areas, but many remained. Our across the street neighbors stayed home. Had Floyd hit St. Simons Island, where we lived at the time, the island would have been decimated and our neighbors surely lost. They and many others, including some of my field staff remained in their homes along the coast. Most lived on the very edge of high ground and would have faced unbelievable terror and possible death at the hands of that category 4 storm.

Why do they stay? Many fear for their property. It is a very sad time when you take a last look at your home, thinking that you may never see it and most of your treasured belongings again, but life can't be replaced. Property can. Other people remain in place as these storms approach because they don't believe the storm will hit or that it is as dangerous as predicted. Many of the folks on the Georgia coast that didn't evacuate during Floyd stayed because Georgia is rarely hit by hurricanes, so they felt safe. Usually those who do survive a bad hurricane say they will never go through it again.

The thing that bothers me most about those who stay is not that they put themselves in danger. That is their choice. The sad thing is that the men and women of the rescue teams have to put their lives in danger and the various government agencies have to spend millions to rescue these people. Let me rephrase that, "stupid people." I could never forgive myself, if I refused to leave my home, then had a rescue helicopter crash trying to save my life.

After having been in the parks and recreation field for thirty plus years, I feel the same way about those who go beyond barriers and signs, then have to be rescued from waterfalls and other dangerous areas. The rescuers are well trained, but they still put their lives on the line to bring these stupid people to safety or to recover their bodies.

No matter what is said, when the next hurricane comes along, look for those who refuse to leave. It will be the same sad story. They can't bring themselves to leave their property or they will say that it can't happen to them. Man cannot learn, and man continues to pay for it, often with a life.