Roland McCook came as close as any man could to capturing the essence of Carbondale in his opening blessing for the 43rd annual Carbondale Mountain Fair.
“There is no other place near here that’s like this place, so this must be the place to be,” he said. “You look so cool out there just doing your thing among all this great land. The land where my people used to walk. The land where my forefathers are buried. The land that contains still the spirit of my people. You have captured their spirit, because they loved this land.”
Despite the theme of “Wild at Heart,” it wasn’t much more chaotic than usual — wild antics in the park, downtown events both official and improvised. The shouting, stray fireworks, and drums quieted down a little after 2 a.m. Out-of-towners looking for parking might have noticed an increase in taped off rights of way as residents attempted to avoid a long walk from their car to their house. Grind’s local burger was a welcome addition to the smorgasbord of ethnic cuisines. Although the pie and cake contest had fewer entries than usual and the jam tent seems to have gone the way of the fire department’s watchtower, all the essential elements were in place.
Carbondale police officers Greg Knott and Tony Kornasiewicz started wearing homemade tie-dye uniforms to the fair sometime in the mid ’90s, when rainbow garb was standard at the event. Although fewer fairgoers are wearing tie-dye these days, most local cops opt for a professionally dyed T-shirt or polo on Saturday and Sunday. A few folks have trouble taking casually clad law enforcement seriously, but most folks at Mountain Fair seem to appreciate it.
Aloha Mountain Cyclery has hosted a free bike parking service at the Weant Boulevard entrance for four years now, and there are rarely fewer than 100 bikes in their lot. They’ve learned to accommodate all sorts of requests, from valet parking to chauffeur service.
TAKE THE STAGE
For decades, the Earthbeat kids’ choir has led the Sunday morning music lineup. This year, spectators were treated to a range of songs from “I Will Survive” and “Rocky Mountain High” to the original composition “How do we Say Thank You,” a tribute to the Storm King 14.
SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW
A multicolored arch separates the main fairgrounds from the peaceful Oasis. Facepainting, a dunk tank, miscellaneous games, puppets, and story time cater mostly to the kids, but a few quieter events for all ages have made the move. A few brave souls opened up for spoken word on the wilderness and beyond.
LIFE IS BUT A SONG
With no jam tent, the fifth annual singer-songwriter contest joined the Oasis lineup this year. An open call on Saturday brought in 18 participants. In round two, Matty McIntire was the favorite over fellow finalists Wes Engstrom, Karyme Meixueiro and Naomi Pulver. He won a guitar from Glenwood Music, a recording session at Cool Brick Studios, and a main stage performance on Sunday evening.
There’s no shortage of opportunities to test your mettle against the community at Mountain Fair, but nothing draws a crowd like woodsplitting. Cynics will suggest that the match is a foregone conclusion after the competitors chose their logs, but there’s no doubt athleticism plays an equal or greater role. Between off-color wood jokes, it’s a fierce showdown between brute strength and technique. Contestants are timed as they carry their log to the block, split it into four pieces, and return. Although they now compete head to head to spur them on, the stopwatch ultimately decides the winner. This year Casey Krombacher led the women with 36.74 seconds, and Matt Langhurst topped the men with 17.61 seconds.