Despite the weather, Applefest shows its best

 Bill Graham

Bill Graham

Sometimes a cold rain is a good thing, even if a north wind blows mist and rain under canvas pop ups for vendors or the musical stage at a small-town festival.

That’s the way it felt to me late Saturday afternoon in Weston, as only the hardy or the obligated played out the last few hours of Applefest. Weather is a shared experience. We need not fall within any political circle to share the adventure weather creates. At Applefest, what counted in chilled dampness was people still smiling no matter the rain, and the smell of barbecue and cooked apples reminding us that good things are to be found no matter how the world turns.

In the week prior, a pitched battle over a U.S. Supreme Court nominee ratcheted emotions. News hit like salty waves. Over and over came updates and developments, crystal clear signs that Americans are deeply and oft bitterly politically divided. Certainly it is more so than at any time in my lifetime, even when compared to the 1970s hangover after the 1960s.

This matters in Platte County, too. There are tensions in work places, within families, between old friends. I’ve felt them and I know others have, too.  If you had a magical measuring stick, I wonder if it’s not the most divided since the Civil War. During that war, Confederate and slave-holding sympathies seemed to be in the majority in the county, according to history I’ve looked at. Yet this was a true border state with split loyalties. There were many Union supporting families too. Plus there were many residents who just wanted to be left alone to make a living.

Platte County tends to lean Republican during elections these days, in part because of large sums of money spent to make it so. Yet that doesn’t obliterate the fact that there are many Democratic voters. There are also many independents who just want good government service, healthy parks, progressive schools, drive able roads, and no needless controversy.

I saw no politics on the streets of Weston on Saturday, and it was refreshing. A zydeco band rocked on the musical stage as I took a stroll around town. Listeners sitting on straw bales swayed and tapped toes listening to the band. A gray sky did not hinder people mingling outside the food booths.

Down in the park, parents and grandparents not afraid of rain shepherded kids afoot or pushed the youngest in strollers.

Streets are closed to cars and trucks in the heart of Weston’s historic downtown during Applefest. Walking down the middle of one is in itself a novelty, a change of pace. The view is so different than looking through car windows, so much wider and deeper. One needs only to stop the body from walking to take a longer look, unlike the double tasking when driving and looking. You notice how close the buildings are in the old town, a reminder of how when they were built as places to sell essentials, how closely together people lived and worked.

By 4:30 in the afternoon, the oldtime stringband that I play in, Uncle Baccy Juice, was playing on the music stage. Listeners had popped open umbrellas by 5:15. A strong north wind blew the rain in under the stage roof. We moved backward a bit. Still, after each song, I was wiping water droplets off a wooden guitar. The cold began to numb fingers trying to make clear musical notes. Listeners dwindled to friends and the hardiest of souls.

But I looked out at the old buildings and saw an old Rumpel Hardware sign standing out among the rooftops. I thought about all the ups and downs of history that has been endured in that town, and the rain didn’t seem so bad, the challenge fun. A young boy emerged from a nearby food tent, waiting on his parents likely, and he didn’t seem to have a care as he listened and bobbed to the music. This was adventure for him, the rain and the place, and music. Innocence is refreshing, too.

We finished a bit early in a hard rain. Then began a mist, rain, mist-again pattern. Once more I walked toward Main Street. An old acquaintance said howdy and pointed out Weston’s new downtown restrooms. Indeed, I can confirm that Weston now likely has the finest public restrooms for downtown visitors of any community in the Northland. That’s worth celebrating.

Another walk down Main Street, and I noticed a lovely quiet without the cars. Also, the gray skies had a beautiful late afternoon tint above the red brick buildings. People passing by or huddled in a vendor booth were in good humor despite the weather, or maybe because the coolness and moisture distracted from everything but the moment at hand.

Autumn seemed to be announcing its arrival with bluster. Trees were beginning the turn from green to gold and scarlet. A sweet aroma reminded that the apple crop is in and apple dumplings with plenty of cinnamon still taste great.

Let not world affairs keep us from enjoying the good things within reach.