No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Indiana State Fair

August 22, 2015

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Indiana State Fair

One of my all-time favorite events in the world is the Indiana State Fair. It is something that I have been attending regularly since I was a small child, growing up with-in about a mile or so from the State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, I was able to ride my bike over to the fair often and usually went multiple times throughout the course of the event. Kathy, our friend Dakota and I were able to attend last year, but I thought I was probably out of luck for this year until I learned that my friends Jody and Deron would be getting married in Indianapolis during the time of the fair.

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Of course I would not miss their wedding under any circumstances, but having them schedule it during fair time was an added bonus, so I headed up a couple of days early to be able to take advantage of the fair.

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The Indiana State Fair has been an ongoing annual occurrence since 1852 and has been held at the fairgrounds every year since 1892. The fair is the third largest state fair in the US and attracts close to a million visitors annually. It has been host to many famous musical acts including the Beatles and has also been the site of a couple of disasters as well. In 1963 a propane tank exploded at the Coliseum which killed 74 people in the worst disaster in Indianapolis history.

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More recently, in 2011, high winds caused the collapse of the grandstand stage during a Sugarland concert killing 7 people and ended the long standing practice of outdoor concerts at the racetrack grandstands. But in spite of these tragedies, the fair has been host to way, way more happy memories. It has something for everyone and just about everyone shows up to check it out.

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One of the things that I like most about the fair is the great diversity of people who show up to take it in. Thousands of farmers and rural folk show up to show their prize livestock and enter all the 4H competitions, but also since the fairgrounds is located in the heart of a very urban neighborhood, city folk who may have never even seen a cow show up in droves as well.

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You might think this mix might be a cause of some tension, but just the opposite seems to be true as the diverse crowds interact and enjoy the fair together. Everyone seems to love the fair. I know I do. Whether the tacky carnies on the midway, the crazy food vendors offering up the latest fried concoction or the farmers showing their swine, cattle, and other farm animals, it is a glorious mix of traditional and tacky.

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Last year, for the first time ever, the fair began allowing limited alcohol sales in a special section honoring the state’s Craft Beer and Wine industry and once again I was back to enjoy this wonderful new pavilion. Here I could taste a variety of Hoosier beers just like I could sample tomato juice or local honey in the agricultural building. It is a great new addition to the fair.

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I was so happy to be able to attend the fair again this year, in fact I am going to try and return before heading home, as I was only able to spend the day on this visit and the fair at night is an entirely different animal.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Linger Longer

August 17, 2015

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Linger Longer

The final day of the 25th annual Folks Fest music festival was one of relaxation and discovery. One of the reasons that we enjoy attending festivals to begin with is the fun of discovering previously unknown to us, musical artists. Often these talented upstarts are found lurking on the smaller side stages, but at Folks Fest there are always a number of excellent acts that can be found on the main stage in addition to those found playing in the Wildflower Pavilion.

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This year’s final day began with a wonderful musical tribute to the 25 year history of Folks Fest with a main stage show that featured many of the Planet Bluegrass family of musicians performing music that covered the gamut of the impressive history of those who have performed on the Folks Fest stage, with special significance to those who have since passed away. It was a beautiful way to start the day, which generally has begun with a gospel set, though I must say that this was just about as spiritual as anything previously seen on the main stage.

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The first solo act on the main stage was a woman who we were completely unfamiliar with named Heather Maloney. Once again, she was an awesome discovery as she played a set of what can only be described as folk-inspired indie rock. With songs from her latest release and covers like her fantastic version of the early 70s anthem, “Woodstock”, it was a great set from a talented and beautiful young singer songwriter.

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Nest we headed over to the Wildflower tent where three of the top ten Songwriter showcase winners were playing a set. This set included the champion, Ben Shannon along with a friend of Kerry’s, Carter Sampson and Nebraska based Jami Lynn. It was another wonderful, intimate set from three supremely talented singer songwriters each of whom easily displayed why they had made the top ten showcase of new talent.

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 photo 134_zpseevcxjqo.jpg The Family Crest

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The next set on the main stage was yet another great discovery, this time a raucous seven piece band from San Francisco called The Family Crest. The band, declared by NPR as the “Favorite New Artist of 2014” delivered a wonderful set of singalong anthems and quiet ballads. The band which features a trombone, flute, cello and violin in addition to the traditional rock band instruments creates an orchestral-folkie feel in many of their songs and they have an infectious stage presence as well creating a great show.

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Siblings made up the next two acts to grace the main stage, first up was the long-time Folks Fest favorites making their fifth appearance at the festival, the Aussie sister act, The Waifs. They performed yet another stellar set featuring music covering the span of their long and storied career which includes seven CD releases and a bunch of the Australian equivalent of the Grammy Award, the ARIAs.

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The Wood Brothers were up next, offering an interesting contrast between a sister act and then the brother act. They were great as well. A sort of fraternal spin-off of the successful band Medeski, Martin and Wood, the Wood Brothers have a more bluesy, gravelly feel to their music and they had the crowd on their feet enjoying the music and dancing the late afternoon away.

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I was back and forth between the main stage and wildflower pavilion to catch sets from the legendary Richard Thompson and one of my personal Folks favs Ellis as the evening got under way. Richard Thompson has been named one of the top twenty guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone and career spans from his work with the Fairport Convention back in the 60s through his more than forty solo albums. While many still do not realize who he is, all the musicians certainly knew and the crowd included most of the other acts taking in the legend’s set.

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Longtime Folkies Gillian Welch and David Rawlings closed out the festival with yet another incredible set of original music. It was a perfect cap on what was just about a perfect weekend of music, friendship, fun and relaxation. I cannot wait to see what the next 25 years brings.

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