…by Anura Guruge
…by Anura Guruge
…by Anura Guruge
We got there about 9:40 am. The main, free car park on Bean Road/Squam Lake Road leading to Gate C was full. But, it wasn’t a problem. The auxiliary free car park, 200 yards down the road, was empty. That takes you via the quaint little “Murphy’s Bridge” to Gate E — and then straight to the Tractor Pull area. So we started by looking at some amazing antique cars, some old engines and 20 minutes of tractor pulls. That was good. Good way to start the show. Also a guy on stilts and Deanna and the kids love men on stilts. Growing up in Ceylon we would have men in stilts come by the house and do a performance for a few cents. I think it is a bygone era. Performers going door-to-door. We use to get snake charmers, fortune tellers and match makers, à la ‘Fiddler On The Roof’, too.
When we got to the Midway it was 11:20 and they were pushing the $15 ‘all-you-can-ride’ till 2pm bracelets. So I just ended up getting two for the kids and 6 additional tickets so that Deanna and I could go on the Ferris Wheel as we like to do as a family. So we did that. They were having a LOT of problems with the electric for the big rides. I had never thought about it. You can’t run the really big rides off an extension chord. They have huge power generating trucks around the Midway churning out the juice. But, they were having problems. ‘Air Force 1‘, the premier ride, was down for the count. Didn’t impact us greatly as Devanee won’t do it anymore after scaring herself to death on it a few years ago — when we took her and three other friends to the Fair for her birthday, on the birthday, October 10. They had a new ride, an UFO; a fast spinning UFOs with no openings or windows. Devanee, after a nervous first ride, did it twice more. Tesichan rode the carousel three or four times. They did the bumper cars. So I think we got our $30. Other than ‘Air Force 1’, as far as I could see, all the other rides, including the Ferris Wheel, were ‘3 tickets’ each. I think they have come down in tickets — possibly after seeing a drop in attendance when they jacked up prices.
We saw Roderick Russell, the mind reader and sword swallower at the stage. He was good. He said he was famous. I checked him out. He is. He was great. He was fun and yes, I got to get up on stage with him though he wouldn’t let me try swallowing his sword. I saw ‘Mo the Clown‘. I also saw and spoke briefly with Alex Ray of the ‘Common Man’ (who I have known since 1998). He was at his ‘distracted best‘. Enough said.
The weather forecast I posted here was right. It was overcast from the beginning. We got two large showers, the first at 3:40 and the other around 5. Wasn’t a big deal for us. We ducked into the ‘Smith & Hodge Exhibit Halls‘ during the first downpour and the ‘Craft Building‘ for the second. Surprisingly neither was packed with people seeking shelter! For a start, it wasn’t that crowded to begin with, especially for a Saturday. I think many knew the forecast and decided to stay away. After the first shower the place was nearly empty. That was a shame. Felt bad for the vendors. By 5 a few of them were looking rather desperate. Then the sun did come out, but rain clouds threatened, all around. It was warm mid-day but after the rain it got noticeably cool. We all put on jackets.
The art show, as ever, was amazing. Love the quality of the photographs entered for the competition. Wow.
Definitely recommend that you try and get there Sunday or Monday. Good atmosphere. Great bonhomie. Everybody is friendly and is trying to have a good time.
Food prices were the same as last year. So that was two big contrasts with the 2012 Loon Highland Games; you didn’t feel that you were being mercilessly exploited at every turn and they had new things. Bravo.
Yes, we plan to go next year. [P.S., Sandwich, in a huge about-turn from years past, appears to have become a Democratic enclave. Not sure how that happened.]
…by Anura Guruge
In terms of weather, it looks like there is an equal chance of rain showers (in the morning/afternoon) on both days; Saturday being much warmer than Sunday.No hurricanes, however. That is always a plus; having done the games twice during or right after an hurricane; the first time before that had the ‘Concert Tent’, which came to be the next year after the chaos of trying to put on a show without enough covered area. [Yes, we even got dragged to the school in Lincoln for a performance!]
But, Saturday’s tend to be packed and you pay $15 MORE per ticket (adults only, kids always free) for the privilege. Yes, they have the Clan Parade and Massed Bands — but as I have already stated there isn’t a great slate of marching bands this year. Sunday, post 4pm, you also get all the hard-to-resist ‘give away’ sales at the food booths. Yes, I love those. Three sausage rolls $5 as opposed to $4.50 for one. We are still torn as to whether to go on Saturday or Sunday. Going today, Friday, was no longer an option because of school. We like Fridays — less crowds, full program of bands and the sheep dogs.
Celtica, supposedly the featured band for 2012, is also only playing Friday and Saturday. I went and found them on YouTube. They sound OK … shades of ‘Seven Nations‘ and a toned-down ‘Red-Hot Chilli Pipers‘ (who made it rather clear last year that they were not coming back). Despite what the organizers like to tell us, groups as soon as they get a name stop coming to Loon. This by all accounts is considered a ‘small’ show of little consequences.
After about 3 minutes of Celtica, I realized what was missing. No vocals. Then it cracked me up. Read the first comment on YouTube against the above video: ‘Celtica needs vocals‘. I concur. I think 40 minutes of them on top of Albannach will get tedious. I think I have seen both Searson and Hardrian’s Wall before, but I am holding up hope for them.
Scheduling continues to deteriorate and confound. On Saturday they have Albannach playing in the ‘Concert Tent’ at the same time as the Clan Parade and Roll-Call. This is stupid. I have seen them do this before. This is not fair to anybody. People are conflicted and you have the group and the bands on the Parade Ground competing for sound with each other. Plus during the speeches, even if there are solemn moments, you have Albannach pounding away behind you.
On Saturday, my perennially favorite The Brigadoons don’t get a slot in the ‘Concert Tent’. Yes, I know they are old and have been playing there continuously for 20 odd years. But, they still represent quintessential, unadulterated Celtic music. They represent the tradition, the roots, the essence. They still draw a faithful crowd.
All said I am getting increasingly disillusioned by organization of the Highland Games at Loon, and given that I have been attending since 1998 (only missing one, and that was because I could not take it when it was at the dirt and cow manure in Hopkington) I think I am entitled to a say. It is not complacency. There is some cynicism. They are selling us old rope knowing that there are so many who love the games. So they don’t see a need to reinvigorate, to rejuvenate. I wish they would make a concerted attempt to make the games bigger and better. I will do a report card after we get back.
I saw a query here about parking. Unless you have VIP credentials you are not going to be able to park in or near the Loon complex. Period. Parking on Rte 112 (Main St.)/Kancamagus Highway is not permitted for miles before and after Loon; it is taped off, by the police (and strictly enforced). Yes, in 1998, I parked right next to the Loon bridge on the road. The next year I talked an attendant into letting me park inside Loon. Those days are gone. Park-and-Ride is the only way to do it, unless you are a VIP. There are at least 3 ‘Park-and-Ride’ sites — starting at the I-93 exit. We use the last one — by the ‘Inn Season’ hotel and Lincoln Shopping Center; but we haven’t been to the games on a Saturday in a long time. So not sure whether it gets full, though it, encompassing 3 fields, is HUGE.