Skunk Fest is a great opportunity for us grown folks to enjoy a weekend of music in the woods but it certainly offers something for the kids as well. My son Ivan has enjoyed Skunk festivals for about eight years now and looks forward to it with a level of enthusiasm like that of his birthday or Christmas. With another Spring Skunk now in the books I wanted to share the festival experience through the eyes of an about-to-be ten year old… He was going to help me tell the story of Skunk Fest as he sees it and explain why he is already asking when the next one is scheduled.
Alas, it was not to be.
I asked him what he loved about Skunk Fest and if he wanted to help me write a story about it. “It’s just awesome” was about all I got out of him before he excused himself to tend to more important matters. There were friends outside, baseballs to throw, Nerf guns to shoot, and Minecraft to play. Helping Dad tell a story was not on his priority list so here I am on my own.
What follows is a transcript of the conversation that might have taken place if the little turdbiscuit was more cooperative. I am confident of its accuracy as he is essentially a small clone of myself and I am totally comfortable putting words in his mouth. Surely this is a parental right I possess for at least the next eight years and three days, right?
Me: How long have you been going to Skunk Fest, Ivan?
Ivan: Since I was two. I was in diapers when I snuck away from you and danced on stage in the middle of the band and everybody laughed at you while you flailed your arms trying to get me to come back.
Me: You remember that?!
Ivan: Of course not. I was two. You’ve told the story enough times, though, so it’s kind of like a memory now, I guess.
Me: Fair enough. What’s your favorite thing about Skunk Fest?
Ivan: Friends. There’s a ton of kids from school out there and we get to run around and play while you guys do whatever you do. I met my friend Johnny Rocket out there and now we’re like brothers from other mothers. <laughing> We came up with that on our own, by the way.
Me: I don’t think you did…
Ivan: Yep. Sure did. One day I told him “we’re like brothers” and he said “but we have different parents” and I said “well, like brothers but from different fathers and mothers” and then we shortened it from there. So, yeah, I invented that. It’s a thing now. Do you want me to keep talking about Skunk Fest?
Ivan: There’s this other kid, Austin. He’s there every year but he lives in some other state or country or something. I only see him at Skunk Fest so he’s, like, my best friend two weekends a year.
Me: What do you guys do out there?
Ivan: Whatever the heck we want! There’s swings that they’d never let us have on the playground at school. I think I get, like, a thousand feet in the air. There’s an old bus we use as a fort because we can’t use the actual fort because teenagers hang out in there. I don’t know what they do in there but it’s probably stupid and lame like the stuff you grownups do. Sometimes we just play in the creek and sling mud everywhere since we don’t care about getting our clothes muddy at Skunk Fest.
Me: That’s easy since you don’t have to buy them or wash them.
Ivan: I know, right? Being a kid is awesome.
Me: So what about the kids’ stage, the Kidthedral? Do you guys ever hang out there?
Ivan: That’s mostly stuff for little kids and girls. I want to swing and play in the mud, not get my face painted and make puppets. If I had a little sister she’d love it over there. Can I have a little sister?
Me: Absolutely not. But I’m pretty sure I saw you over there this weekend…
Ivan: Well, yeah, for a magic show with those fire throwing Secret Cirkus people. They’re fun at night but in the afternoon there was no fire and they just stuck strings up their noses and pulled it out of their mouths. It was gross so we left and climbed on big plastic fire trucks and raced them down a big hill instead.
Me: That sounds dangerous. Does anyone ever get hurt?
Ivan: Someone is always getting run over or crashing into a tree… it’s fun!
Me: What do you like to eat at Skunk Fest?
Ivan: Hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos… whatever you buy me when you tell me I’m hungry.
Me: You’re always hungry.
Ivan: Not at Skunk Fest. I’m too busy playing with my friends. You always make me stop and eat and miss out on fun stuff.
Me: That’s awful of me to feed my child.
Ivan: That’s exactly what I said to Austin!
Me: Of course it is. What else do you like about Skunk Fest?
Ivan: Camping! I love sleeping in a tent and curling up between you and Ms. Chris (his step-mom). It’s fun sleeping outside and you guys keep me warm at night.
Me: You usually squirm, snore, fart and steal our blankets all night.
Ivan: I don’t remember doing that stuff so I don’t believe you.
Me: So hanging out with friends, running around like an unsupervised madman, ruining your clothes, camping out and keeping us awake all night… that’s what you look forward to for six months at a time?
Ivan: You say that like it’s a bad thing! I love playing with old friends and kids I just met and exploring all the fun stuff there is at the Skunk Farm. It’s just fun for all of us.
Me: I get it man. What about the music? Do you ever just want to sit down and listen to the bands?
Ivan: Bands? There are bands at Skunk Fest?
Me: Albino Skunk Music Festival… Are you kidding me? That’s the whole freakin’ point!
Ivan: I didn’t know that.
Me: You don’t see the stage or hear the music? What about the story about you on stage when you were two? Your first “memory” of Skunk Fest?
Ivan: Heh. Oh yeah, I forgot. I’m sure it’s great. Are we done here? I’m going out to play with Johnny. See ya later!
To be honest, it is hard to imagine this conversation going any other way had it actually happened in real life. The kid loves his Skunk Fest and at age 9.9887 is not about to articulate the real things that make Skunk Fest so special to him. I suspect that the freedom to run wild through the woods with his friends gives him a sense of independence that he does not find when he does the same thing in our neighborhood. There is no school, no schedule, and no bedtime. Two times a year on a farm out in Greer the festival becomes his own personal kingdom to explore and reign over while the old folks listen to music. He is hardly unsupervised as he rarely ventures too far out of our sight and knows exactly where to find us when he needs a few dollars to buy something that glows in the dark from the merchandise booth. In his mind, though, this is as free as a kid his age can ever safely be and he cannot wait for it come around again.
Maybe, just maybe, one day he will notice the music.
Brett Barest – fête writer