Brad Smith, a friend from Jubilee Partners, has attended the Wild Goose Festival three times. His account of this year’s festival is inspiring and informative. I am happy to share his experience with you.
Brad’s Highlights and Insights of the 2016 Wild Goose Festival
Bigger! More people (3000+) than ever – the word is spreading. So there were more venues, more speakers, and more trash! That part had significance for me since I was a Green team volunteer, collecting trash and recyclables. As a volunteer I got in free – a sweet deal, plus it’s a great way to meet some cool people who you’re working with.
Intentional change of focus this year – I curbed my usual desire to try and hear as many speakers as possible, and instead experienced some other events:
— silent disco – no loudspeakers, but everyone dancing to music via headphones
–midnight drum circle – quite a visceral experience with pounding rhythms, dancing, and even howling – great for stress reduction!
–soaking in the river – the festival site is nestled in low mountains in a campground on the French Broad River, and it’s marvelous to lay in the shallows and let the waters flow over and around you
–beer and hymns – this may not be a combination that would normally come to mind, but cram some musicians and folks standing up under a big tent and let the spirit flow out in song – sure sounded like joyful noise to me!
Conversations – an important vibe of the festival is getting to know other folks there, especially folks you might not encounter in everyday life. This was another area I decided to be more intentional about; here are just two examples of some good talks:
–Denzel and I chatted for an hour; afterwards I realized this was my first time to have a serious talk with a young black man in a long time. We covered the usual stuff about ourselves, discussed the tragic affairs in our society right now, got on to Martin Luther King, and I found myself filling in Denzel’s somewhat sketchy awareness of how powerful and remarkable King’s message really was.
–Ken Medema – I’ve loved this guy’s music for a long time, and when I saw him sitting alone at a table I decided to keep him company for a while. What a talented, warm and witty person he is. His ability to improvise music while on stage is a marvel! And that he does all this while blind is most inspiring.
Indigo Girls – I heard this marvelous singing duo three years ago at my first Goose festival; it was even better this time since I’ve gotten more familiar with their music. I worked myself right up to the front of the stage and was immersed with the die hard fans who know all the words. The next morning Amy and Emily were interviewed on stage, and hearing them talk about religious influences on them and their music was powerful. I admire their integrity, their social consciousness, and their lack of pretension.
Safe Space – from the beginning I have realized how this festival is a safe space: it’s OK to share who you are (in terms of sexual identity, doubts about faith, brokenness in some area of life). It’s also safe to express pain resulting from actions of others or one’s self. I feel so honored that people trust me to hear and respect their sharing.
Christian dimension – I was gratified when the new festival director stated that the festival’s spirituality focus is clearly one of a “Christian framework.” I had sensed that this was the case, but am glad that this is now intentionally proclaimed. I also value highly that people who have not found “church” to be a welcoming/affirming place in their lives can and do feel at home here.
Reality of evil – what a contrast it was to be in the beauty of this spot, among people I consider as friends – and have the intrusions of evil penetrate. The news came in fragments as the mountains blocked smart phone access to latest news: more police violence in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, a body hanging from a tree, policemen shot down in Dallas…To be in the midst of the Beloved Community that the festival cultivates, while knowing that the larger Creation was groaning yet again, was a surreal experience. “Lord, have mercy” was a common refrain during this time.
Beautiful benediction – The closing event on Sunday morning, just before we all departed to return to our homes, was a celebration of Eucharist in the open field of the main stage. The final moments found us in a large circle, with hands clasped. While singing the closing song a beautiful green and yellow dragonfly appeared and hovered where I was standing, and then it landed on the upraised hands of my neighbor and myself. I said to my neighbor, “That’s a sign that God is here.” Yes, I experienced God, and the beauty of God’s people and God’s creation, at this place and this event. All I can say is “Hallelujah!!”
Have any of you ever attended? Maybe making plans for 2017?