Sunday, June 25, 2006

Comfest: A Study in Character Development

Ed and I went people watching last night at Comfest. What a slice of life! Community Festival (aka Comfest) has been livening up Columbus every June for 34 years. In 1972, the first Comfest hosted twenty bands. This year more than 200 bands played on six stages and the Solar Stage was added for spoken word performance. And they all do it for free!

We did our best to avoid a contact high, but were instead overcome by sensory overload. Just how many tie-dyed t-shirts, pierced eyebrows, and bare-breasts can one middle-aged couple take? We heard Rendezvous play some excellent jazz and avoided the temptation of funnel cakes, hemp necklaces, political bumperstickers and beer.

To say that I love Comfest would be a lie. Rather, I love knowing that Comfest exists. I love the fact that right smack dab in the middle of the middle of the USofA a group of folks is still doing their darnedest to keep community spirit alive. Comfest lives by the following Statement of Principles:

We think that people ought to work for the collective good of all people rather than for personal gain. We support cooperation and collective activity rather than competition and individual profit.

The basic necessities of life are a right and not a privilege. People have the collective right to control the conditions of their lives.

People should strive to conduct their lives in harmony with the environment.

We recognize that there are primary attitudes which divide and oppress people. These attitudes are usually shown by prejudice against people on the basis of age, class, ability, income, race, sex, and sexual preference/orientation.

We seek to eliminate these attitudes.

Sure there's lots of pot smoking and beer drinking and carousing, but there's also really good poetry, excellent music, amazing activities for kids and tons of people to watch which brings me to my point (and I do have one!).

I have never heard the words, "Oh. Sorry," more in a shorter span of time than I did last night. A teenager in a "Buck Fush" t-shirt with tatoos up and down his arms and pierced lip, eyebrow, nose and ears accidentally elbowed me in the crowd. Instead of ignoring me, which I expected, he turned to me and said, "Oh. Sorry. You okay?" This type of kindness happened over and over and over again with one "character" after another.

For the most part, people at Comfest are happy and polite. People who look (and sometimes smell) as if they haven't had a bath in a week, people who have obviously had way too much to drink, people who at first glance the general public might write off as the dregs of society are happy and polite to mainstream, boring, middle-aged Ed and I who stand out like nuns in an orgy.

And this is why I go. Not for the bands or the incense and especially not for the beer. I go to be reminded that, despite all appearances, people are generally kind. I go for character development - and here, the character I'm trying to develop is my own!

Now back to work. Where's the bum glue?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi! Just want to say what a nice site. Bye, see you soon.
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Angela said...

Hi,
This is a belated thank you from one of the Community Festival organizers. What you love about ComFest is what we work so hard to create and sustain. That kindness, and those principles, are really what we're all about. There are plenty of music festivals, plenty of art fairs -- but that enhancement of human potential, that sense of community...that's not so common. So we figure it's worth the work to give as many people as possible an immersion in it once a year, to remind us all that a better world is possible. Thanks again for writing about it so well.