Mountain Fair: buckets, picnic tables and guys named Junior
by April E. Clark
Before I became April in Glenwood I was April in Carbondale, and, at the end of July, April at Mountain Fair ” Carbondale’s biggest shindig of the year.
For those who don’t know about Mountain Fair, it’s the biggest thing to hit Carbondale since Main Street was paved. In its 34th year, the annual festival of arts and crafts, music and food attracts a crowd of all ages. People come from all over to hear diverse music, eat international culinary treats and join in fun events such as the men’s and women’s wood-splitting contests, hula hoop-making workshops and leather mask-shaping demonstrations.
No where else this side of a Grateful Dead concert will you see more tie-dyed attire in one place. Even Carbondale’s finest don the multi-colored look.
During Mountain Fair, Carbondale is transformed into a festive free-for-all.
For many locals who have the last weekend in July permanently emblazoned on their yearly calendars, Mountain Fair is the biggest party of the year. Not as crazy as Mardi Gras, but nowhere as tame as a 5-year-old’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s, Mountain Fair is the best excuse all year to let it all hang out, all weekend long.
I know a gent in Bonedale who loves the event so much, he keeps ” and still wears ” every shirt from every Mountain Fair he’s ever attended. For the man called Junior, the Mountain Fair tank top remains a timeless fashion statement best donned by a very tall, German towhead who likes to yell “Did you see the size of that chicken?” and “We’re all gonna die!” on river trips.
Which begs the question, what are chickens doing along the river?
For 17 years, Junior and friends have converged at one particular spot in Carbondale to recall old Mountain Fair memories, poke fun at one another and consume myriad libations. The highlight of this Mountain Fair tradition is the bountiful booze. Drink specials include Steel City Beer, brought to Carbondale by a pirate from Pittsburgh, who walks with a limp and wears a black leather jacket; and then there’s “The Bucket,” a mixed-drink concoction made up of a fifth of cheap vodka, limeade, lemons, limes, vanilla extract and ice ” lots of ice ” in an eight-quart stainless steel pot.
Now that’s a libation.
Angie, a former college softball player from Las Vegas, introduced Junior and his crowd to The Bucket at the Mountain Fair two years ago. The No. 1 rule of the icy concoction is to never set it down.
At past Mountain Fairs, The Bucket was brought out at various hours of the day, just as long as there was at least one other person to grab the bucket. The beauty of an early morning bucket is that it was packed with vitamin C ” it can really replace that daily glass of orange juice. The Bucket can also be a nice closer to lunch or dinner around the picnic table.
Up until the last day of last year’s Mountain Fair, Junior and friends typically enjoyed libations in between music sets and woodsplitting around his picnic table. This table was as much Mountain Fair tradition as men in women’s clothing at the Sunday night concert.
Physically attached to the ground, the infamous gathering spot was a place to meet, greet and escape from the heat. Then, like a glass-blowing artist after a Grateful Dead show, the table was gone. It became a great Mountain Fair mystery ” the picnic table vanished like contents from The Bucket on a hot Mountain Fair afternoon.
The mystery of the missing picnic table is a downer for everyone who paid it a visit over the years. The Bucket passed across its painted boards of wood while music blared in the distance. Where the table sits today, and if it even exists, is the unanswered question.
But, there is no doubt the party won’t stop at Mountain Fair again this year. Even if Junior’s favorite hangout is nowhere in sight.
April E. Clark asks that adults over 21 drink responsibly when consuming alcohol beverages before, during or after Mountain Fair, and that they please don’t drink and drive. She can be reached at 945-8515 ext. 518, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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