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Yankee Doodle Days, Part 2: The End! August 3, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society, Uncategorized.
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OK, this was bound to happen eventually.  My processed and resized photos of the rest of Yankee Doodle Days went off to a local newspaper without leaving behind copies, and life is moving on too quickly to repeat that process.  Suffice it to say that there was a petting zoo, very cute, some really loud trucks pulling a really heavy sled through really deep mud, and a Demolition derby (I’ll admit my first) which I found to be hilariously absurd.  I took lots of pictures got plenty wet, and will do it again next year.

The End.

Now, on with the rest of my life.

Yankee Doodle Days! August 2, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society, Uncategorized.
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Our little town has one stand-out summer event: Yankee Doodle Days, a Friday-through-Sunday extravaganza.

Now, “extravaganza” might conjure certain images for some people, and other images for, um, other people.

Those other people?  Yeah, that’s us!  🙂

This celebration of rural life takes place at the Charlemont Fairgrounds, which has for the past decade been the scene of Herculean efforts by a small, dedicated group of local folks.  After generations of neglect and decay, the fairgrounds is seeing a resurgence, with a functioning Exhibition Hall (which less discerning eyes might assume was an old barn,) a roofed pavilion with a stage and lots of picnic tables and a covered ox/horse draw pit with bleacher seating.  There aren’t adequate words to thank the folks who put so much of their time and effort into this improbable but unstoppable resurrection.

Likewise, the planning and execution of this three days of fun takes a year of work, pulling participants together, raising money for contest prizes and expenses such as insurance…

You get the picture.  I’m going to show you a good time which looks totally low-key and country, but it doesn’t just happen because a bunch of hicks show up.  It happens because a lot of people work really hard to make it happen.

So, here we go!

Friday night’s Main Event is the fireworks display, which is saved for last.  But setting it up starts a good bit earlier:

These folks have nerves of steel and a a gallows humor befitting self-proclaimed “pyros.”

But the fruits of their labors would be harvested after dark.  Meanwhile, there were classic cars to judge, including hot rods:

…and less jazzed up models, like this old Studebaker:

The owner wasn’t around when I was, so I didn’t get the year, but I liked that blue job!

The evening’s events included the first rounds of the Ox-Draw:

…which I had never seen before.  Call me a City-Boy, but I found it to be in some instances unjustifiably brutal; all of the drivers used thick nylon canes to “encourage” their team to pull, but some treated their teams with such viciousness, I found it hard to abide.  I expect to try to get to a few more ox-draws before I draw my final conclusions, but I have a suspicion that there’s some serious abuse going on here in the name of “sport.”

The folks in the bleachers must have been veterans, as they seemed unphased by the sight, as did the little kids in the adjacent “daycare:”

In fact, they didn’t seem to be paying attention to the on-goings, but rather to be running their own little dairy farm.  😉

There was activity on the main stage as well, including a DJ, a magician and, for the little children and their Daddies, hula-hooping:

That’s Shenandoah again.  The girl gets around!

And of course, what would a country fair be without a pie-eating contest?

The adults were slow to line up, ’cause we’re all so proper out here you know.  I tried to instigate a grudge match between the Fire Department ( a lot of big dudes) and the Police Department (a lot of other  big dudes,) but the police seemed to be of the opinion that it was Conduct Unbecoming.  We eventually got some takers:

The kids were a good deal more enthusiastic, with the younger teenagers diving right in, to the amazement of the littler kids:

This lad came in second, but had the First Place Face I wanted for the photo.  😆

Eventually night fell, and as the clouds moved in to obscure the nearly full moon, a big American flag waved from the ladder of a fire truck:

…and the crowd gathered for the Big Show – Fireworks!

The valley rolled with the BOOMs of the big ones and the sizzles of the fancy ones:

The folks gathered gave up “Ooohs” and “Aaaahs” as the show went on, filling the sky with smoke and light and color:

I’ve got to figure out how to capture fireworks in the box; these shots are OK, but I was hoping for something a little more distinctive.  Help me out if you know any cool tricks not involving a hat (yeah, I was using that one.)

With the fading of the Grand Finale, the audience bolted for the gate, and I was right there with them – I had two more days of this revelry to document!

(To Be Continued – it’s going on midnight, and I have a big day tomorrow.)

Yankee Doodle Days! July 24, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Politics and Society.
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Hoo-wee, we’re gonna go to the fair!

Actually, it’s my town’s little “signature event,” a long weekend of simple pleasures and entirely believable spectacles which might not exactly take your breath away, but will certainly keep the kids occupied for a few of those summer vacation hours.  We’re talking ox pulls, a (semi-) trained pig act, a demolition derby (!) and lots of fried dough.

Here’s a little carrousel full of Baby-Bumpkins to give you that back-of-a-pickup scale:

This ride came complete with the cutest little Carnie in my limited experience, a Daisy-Duke sportin’ vision who challenged my childhood memories to a duel and won hands down.

And there were fireworks on Friday night, the real reason I’m doing this post, which is a far cry from doing justice to the townspeople who came together to make this thing happen.  But hey, I’m visual, fireworks are visual, you get the connection.

So anyway, I worked my way across the fairgrounds, over/under a few fences, bullshitted a cop or two, and found myself talking to the Pyro-In-Chief, a nice guy by the name of Bill, who cleared me to set up my camera near the control panel, provided I didn’t mind wearing ear protection and a hard-hat.  I said, “Yeah, we got that,” and scurried back to my car to get suited up.  Apparently, four inch balls of flaming God-knows-what are known to fall back onto the launch area, and being crazy doesn’t render these folks fools.

Said control panel:

I fielded a few questions like, “Ever done this before?” and responded with a dope-in-the-headlights look (which I failed to document) which roughly translates as “Duh.”  So Mrs. Bill (Lynn, I believe) clued me as to what had worked for her – high film speed ( in my case, ISO) and long exposures.  I dialed it in and donned a hard-hat.  I subsequently heard different recipes for success on the Tubes, and will explore them.

Then, “BOOM!”  and we were off!  I clicked away, missing my range but still getting a piece (hey, you  try focusing on a moving object which isn’t there yet!)  I liked the odd solidity of the fragment I caught enough to include it here:

It looks like a solid thing dangling on a string, doubtless a result of the time-chunk I captured with this bulb exposure.

I stayed with the “bulb” setting for the shoot, trying to get both launches and explosions in the same shot.  The results were mixed; I’ll let you be the judges of what worked and what didn’t.

An abstract, as I homed in on the action:

Another, getting my range:

…and a short series capturing both the origin and the destination of these brilliantly burnt offerings:

That’s my favorite of the bunch, primarily because the colors broke the heavily-red pattern of its predecessors.

So there’s a first effort at photographing fireworks, the distinction being that it’s not nature and it’s not standing still while I spend twenty minutes setting up each shot.  I’ve a ways to go on this arc of my learning curve, so bear with me while I think out loud here.