If this is your first time, here’s some packing advice. There may be snowpack, sunburn, margaritas, dancing, Bloody Marys, jaw-loosening clouds of THC, picking in the woods, triple-encores at 1:00 in the morning, 30 or so people tie-dying at a given time, and your beloved host romping through the woods on a go-cart. There will definitely be music.
If you’re familiar with the party, but not the history, you may think music is the backbone of Rich’s birthday party. Technically, it’s not. Technically, while music of course accompanied our forebears all those May afternoons in the late 90s and early oughts, their focus was tie-dye. It’s kind of like a state capitol where it doesn’t quite make sense: Albany; Montpellier; Santa Fe…. The child outgrows the parent, and soon it’s only tradition that keeps the whole family together.
Folk, jam, and bluegrass dominate the stages. Old friends meet for the first time in a dog’s age. The Saturday morning Children’s Open Mic shines a light on the up-and-comers, and leads to auditions for the “Tweener” stage. This year Rich invested heavily in replacing his porch/stage, to make it safer, leveler, and, well, more beautiful. (Shoutout to Greg and Buck for their beautiful carpentry craft!) Tradition is how we connect the past through the present. It’s wonderful to see one little tradition getting stronger.
Road to Rich’s 2017 was my third year attending/shooting, and each festival, it’s felt different. My first year, I thought I’d crawled through a fireplace as a child, into a magic forest getaway, in my 30s. Last year was all about little things and big things alike.
This time, everything felt, well, timeless.
After all, two’s a coincidence, and three’s a pattern. You have to experience something three times to know its probability. Its proclivities and quirks. And I’m grateful for that pattern-level experience of Rich’s party, because I probably won’t make it in 2018, and because I know something now, as special as the festival itself. You can miss one. You can miss three. You’ll miss the bands, yes, and some specific hijinx, but you won’t feel like you missed something. (Which makes a perfect mile-marker for a young artist learning the craft of visual storytelling!) You can party down once a year or once a decade, and the festival will live exactly where you left it.
So party on, dudes.
I’ll see you when the time is right.
Apologies first to the Gershom Brothers: I unintentionally deleted the images of their set before transferring them to my computer. The two that remained (warming up through the kitchen door, and little Jackson Pakroo walking in front of them) are included below. Second apology is to the folks on the side-stage; I wasn’t able to shoot everyone.