Bear column: We can still Mountain Fair

Strawberry Days — canceled.

Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival — canceled.

Summer of Music — canceled.

Fourth of July celebration — canceled.

Garfield County Fair and Rodeo — all in-person events canceled.

Mountain Fair?

Well thank God for Carbondale Arts, Amy Kimberly and all the volunteers who will once again make Mountain Fair the highlight of summer for many Roaring Fork Valley residents.

It may not look like your father’s Mountain Fair this year, but it wasn’t canceled, and with a little extra effort and imagination we might all still achieve some magical Mountain Fair moments.

So go ahead and smack those drums like John Bonham on Friday, dance with abandon to the music emanating from the mobile stage as it passes through your neighborhood, marvel at the Bonedale Dance Academy’s flash mob, and while you’re at it, don’t forget to hug everyone in your quarantine pod and feel grateful to be alive.

This pandemic is a scourge to our society in so many ways: From the hospitalizations and deaths of our most vulnerable populations to the wrecking of our economy; from the layoffs and reduced pay of our workforce to the closings of schools, churches, theaters and sporting events.

And all of that doesn’t even touch on what it’s doing to our institutions of social engagement — our festivals and social circles.

We’ve all become like wary-eyed, socially awkward teenagers on the fringes of the school dance, worried that if we join in we might die, not from embarrassment, but from a viral enemy we never saw coming.

Walking into any store is like walking into a masquerade ball that no one wants to be at. We move around, constantly aware of the distance between us and everyone else, shooting hard glances at anyone who moves too close.

Maybe the worst aspect of this pandemic, though, is the effect it’s having on our community spirit.

The lack of socialization with others due to sheltering in place orders, working from home, and having contact only with our quarantined groups feeds our sense of isolation in the world.

It’s a fact that people need people. We evolved into social beings out of necessity because our ability in ancient times to survive our harsh environmental circumstances was dependent on cooperation with each other. 

And even though the survival threats of those former circumstances have lessened with our increased access to shelter and food, people continue to have a need to affiliate with other people.

It’s why prisoners in solitary confinement become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses.

We all remember the poignant scene in the movie “Cast Away” where Tom Hanks’ character cries as the volleyball he had named “Wilson” floats away.

But psychologists say that it’s not the number of social relationships we have that determines our wellbeing — it’s the quality of our relationships.

We are meant to come together for games and fun activities, to eat and drink, to compete at games of skill and cunning, to laugh and joke, to create works of art, to build our civilization, and to dance, sing and make music.

People have gathered together to celebrate since the beginning of the human race. The first festivals centered on religion and agriculture — thanking the gods for a bountiful harvest.

But COVID-19 has made the distribution of food too risky this year, and so there will be no food booths at Mountain Fair — no bratwursts, funnelcakes, tacos or beef brisket in Sopris Park.

That’s OK.

We can still fire up our backyard grills, get creative in our kitchens, or patronize any of the wonderful Carbondale restaurants that are open, albeit with social distancing guidelines in place.

So let’s all dance and sing this weekend, eat until our bellies are full, make joyful noise, and play games within our quarantined groups.

We can still let our freak flags fly, even as we use them to cover our faces.

Jeff Bear is a reporter and copy editor for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. You may reach him at

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