Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summertime in WYO

I spent the weekend with writers.

On purpose.

It was the 40th anniversary conference for Wyoming Writers, Inc., in Sheridan. Let's take stock. How many arts organizations do you know that are still alive after 40 years? I've been meeting with the same writing group in Cheyenne since the previous century. We used to gather annually at the Retreat of the Rockies with other regional writing groups from Laramie, Fort Collins and Scottsbluff. How many of those groups are extant? Ours, which we nicknamed Cheyenne Area Writers Group (CAWG) a long time ago. Both Laramie groups are gone, but there may be others. Only one of the FoCo groups are around and I hear that hellbound twisters got the Nebraskans.

Each summer, I do a summer events calendar for the Arts Council. There are always events that existed last summer that have done an el foldo for various reasons. The organizer moves to Arizona. The arts organization "has gone in other directions." Sponsors dry up and blow away.

That's OK. Not everything is meant to last forever. We happen to be living in a renaissance of outdoor music festivals and downtown gatherings of all kinds. I read in today's Casper Star-Tribune that the DDA/Main Street group in Casper traveled to Rapid City to get a look at its downtown plaza. They liked what they saw. Kids playing in the water park during the day and bands performing at night with local food and beverages being consumed. Ever been to the Firehouse Brewery in downtown Rapid City? It sits on the edge of the plaza and serves great beers and pretty good food. In March, the last time I was there, you can sip beers while warming your tootsies by the fire. You can also drink beer after the annual St. Patrick's Day parade, which may be one of the shortest in the nation.

The Star-Trib reported that the delegation was impressed with Rapid's downtown space and guessed that Casper would like one too if they can only keep the Know Nothings away from the planning meetings. You know the people I'm talking about, Seniors Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything or SWINE (tip of the hat to Al Capp). We don't want to spend our precious taxes (Wyoming -- lowest tax rates in the USA!) on an outdoor plaza! Next thing you know you'll be taking away our cars and making us live in Hobbit houses! Freedom! Something! Something! Freedom!

BTW, I'm a senior at 63. Not with the Social Security Administration or Medicare. But I do get the senior discount at Wendy's.

I'm a little off topic. We have wonderful summer events. If you don't believe me, check out this calendar. It offers hundreds of concerts, art fairs, writers conferences, quilt shows, rodeos, brewfests, children's art camps, etc. Here's a sampler of events happening this weekend:

June 13-14 — Fourth annual Chris LeDoux Days in Kaycee
13-15 -- Celtic Musical Arts Festival in Cheyenne
13-27 — John Kirlin’s Wild West Mu-Cycle Tour, Jackson to Rapid City, S.D.
13-28 — Stage III Community Theatre presents “Lysistrata” in Casper
14 — Tina Welling leads Writers in the Park workshop in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole
14 –- Chugwater Chili Cook-Off in Chugwater
14 — Butch Cassidy Festival in Laramie
14 — Juneteenth in Cheyenne
14 — Takin’ it to the Streets in Douglas
14 — Jackson Hole Crawfish Boil in Jackson
14-15 — Hi Country Ranch Rodeo in Pinedale
14-15 — Pioneer Days at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper

I'm heading out to the Celtic Festival and Juneteenth this weekend. You might call both of these ethnic festivals. Juneteenth is an African-American celebration that marks the belated end of the Civil War. The Celtic Festival celebrates the music and art and brewmaking skills of the offspring of the Celtic tribes of northern Europe and the British Isles plus Ireland. That includes the Scots-Irish of Appalachia, the former convicts of the Aussie Outback and a whole bunch of other white people who freckle easily. I'm one of them. So is my wife Chris, who will spend Saturday staffing the YMCA booth at Juneteenth while I distribute subversive literature for the Laramie County Democrats. Later we will go over to the Depot Plaza to hang with the Cummings clan (that's Chris's tribe) and various ne'er-do-well Irish-Americans, some of whom I may be related to. We will quaff Guinness and dance (badly) to Celtic music groups.

So what did we writers do last weekend in Sheridan? Wrote. Listened to encouraging talks by writers and agents and editors. We had an awards ceremony and an annual dinner. Bought a few books. I saw old friends and they saw me. We drank a few cocktails.

Writers need to come out of their holes once in awhile to see what else is going on in the world.

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