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"I saw them first!" - I wanted to shout it in the other smiling faces that saw young love personified in dance.
Down a dirt road in Chatham County near Silk Hope I found myself shelling out thirty-two dollars for admission plus another five for parking in order to attend the second annual Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival. I parked my car near the security tent at the entrance where friends of mine were acting as traffic monitors helping folks park and giving out helpful directions. These pals were the same guys who gave me grief all year long over not having braved the rain and mud of last year's inaugural festival held at the same spot. I wasn't about to miss out on the fun a second time, certainly not using the weather as an excuse. It was a gorgeous final day to this year's festival.
The long drive from my home in Raleigh was blissfully warm after a week of spring weather torture where cold temperatures and rain furthered the cause of flowers and bulbs but did little to whip up the spring fervor necessary to bring me out of my winter shell. I put the top down and rode in the sun, my radio playing loudly over the rush of pollen laced air remembering fully that this time of year is the reason I love where I live.
Once parked safely in the field that served as parking lot I walked among many other attendees to the closest venue. Each step of the way kicked up a tiny cloud of dust in the dry, hot air; the puffs of dust blew a few feet away by a gentle breeze only to settle on the long grasses of the field or on the tires of cars parked close to the festival's entrance. A small boy with ice cream smeared on his chin was unhappy to be leaving and dragged his little feet whining yet all the while looking over his shoulder to admire the continuous snake of dust faithfully trailing him. If it weren't for the modern cars and music, the scene could've been one taken from a sepia toned photograph I'd recently seen of the dust bowl era where children found ways to make merry even with the demon dust. Half way to one of the attractions the festival shuttle rumbled by dispersing water to keep down the dust. The tram was a fifties era ford tractor pulling a water truck and hay wagon loaded down with weary festival goers headed to the parking lot.
We followed the rowdy rock and roll sounds coming from what looked like a circus tent nestled in a small wood by the gravel road. The festival siren's song drew us through a pale brown cloud of dust. The music came from the initial venue, which was a large pole tent with a low stage backing up to the rear on the long side. Cast on the ground before the stage was a well built "dance floor" of heavy, smooth plywood constructed with no perceptible joints for ease of dancing. I stepped under the tent and, after allowing my eyes to adjust to the shade, I saw a hundred people or more dancing intensely, clustering near the band with two hundred more folks lining the periphery of the dance floor and tent and even more camped out in lounge chairs and on blankets outside the tent under the generous shade of hardwoods and tall, long leaf pines.