It's about to get a little sappy up in here, y'all. Don't say I didn't warn you.
First of all, these are my people:
Looking back on my life, one of the things I am most grateful for is tradition. Growing up, I wasn't aware of how much of a role it was playing in my life, but now that I'm older, I can see just how important it has been. To have years of shared memories with a group of people is a beautiful thing.
My family has been going to the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth for twenty-three years and counting. We and our friends, the Stark-Nelsons, stay with our other friends, the Webers, for a weekend of music, delicious food, and good company. I have a bevy of childhood memories that only exist because of this yearly event, ranging from playing with Park Dolls to walking to the movie rental store and watching Annie and Grease every. single. year for a decade, to playground time in Canal Park, to getting older and being able to drive around Duluth on our own, to getting even older and being able to share a drink with our parents and actually appreciate the blues music around which this entire weekend revolves.
There have been years that some of us haven't been able to attend - it was especially hard in college and when both Briana and I moved to different states - but this year taught me definitively that sometimes the best things in life are the ones that don't change; the comfort and the smell of cooking in the Weber house; the basement where we spent so many hours playing and watching movies as kids; the bustling creek across the road from the same driveway packed full of all of our cars; the fresh Lake Superior air occasionally wafting the sound of the blues all the way from Canal Park up the hill to where we sit eating breakfast and getting ready for the day.
And then there's the Fest itself.
When I was really young, I remember the Blues Fest being a hot dust bowl with food trucks as far as the eye could see. We played with dolls on blankets and ran around for hours in a wooden play structure, seeking shelter in its inadvertent caves underneath different levels and bridges, carving our names in the damp planks and constructing beaded bracelets and lizards. There were water balloon yo-yos and snacks and the music was loud.
These days, it has gentrified a bit; it's gotten smaller, there's now a lush, green lawn where the dust used to be, and children are no longer allowed to sit on blankets. The parents park their cars in the parking ramp and walk back and forth from the festival to eat snacks, and my dad cooks up a giant pot of paella for the whole crew. The music is still loud.
This year, it was rainier and chillier than I remember it ever being. We bundled up in sweatshirts and rain jackets, and watched the fog roll in and out of the harbor throughout the day. Near the end of the day on Saturday, storms loomed black in all directions and it began to sprinkle, then drizzle, and then sprinkle again, but the crowd held out, and so did the downpours. Eventually the clouds broke along the hills to the north, revealing the pink and orange hues of a gorgeous summer sunset, and as the sky glowed up above, people got out of their seats and started to dance to the music, turning the field into a sea of bobbing ponchos and rain jackets.
I am so lucky for the life I have and the people that are in it. It's easy to take those things for granted, but not in moments like this, when my heart swells with happiness while dancing under a cotton candy sky to an old, gravelly-voiced man singing a blues-fueled cover of "Imagine". You can't make these moments up. They're real life at its best.
Love love love.