BLUE BALLS RED NECKS

In Upstate New York, we had numerous Apple Festivals and of course all the Grape Festivals around the finger lakes. Down in Florida, they celebrate something almost every weekend. If not one of hundreds of craft fairs, it’s some kind of seafood, ethnic or fruit festival. This past weekend in Historic Brooksville, Florida was the third annual Blueberry Festival; third or fourth anyway…

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Oddly at these festivals, it’s hard to find fruit anywhere. What with all the fried dough vendors, corn dog vendors, doughnut vendors, boiled nut vendors, there never seems to be room for booths selling the fruit that’s being celebrated. I was happy to see many booths throughout the event offering those little blue balls in half pints all labeled with the emblem of the show.

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Though I had gotten there early to beat the mid-day heat, folks had already started drinking and misbehaving. Shown below, one of the early morning naughty girls captured and strapped to the back of one the many ominous golf carts on patrol.

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And of course no Florida event would be complete without the requisite car show. In this case, it was an array of Monster Trucks which forced a flashback to a time when I had been kidnapped, brainwashed and found myself living among a village of rednecks for about a year. Though there were many memories that didn’t fit so comfortably with my Long Island Jewish upbringing, there were also many endearing moments.

One day in the village, two of its offspring were to be married. We prepared the requisite rolling cooler to troll behind us up the dirt road to where the huge tented event would be held. I snuck a few cans of refreshing club soda in the cooler, but they were quickly rejected for taking up room that could have been occupied by three more cans of beer. We grabbed the smokes and with our now properly packed cooler in tow, began the march up the dirt road, when a huge monster truck pulled up next to us and stopped to our left.

As the long pipe off the well hung muffler rumbled, the passenger side door swung open and a long skinny Duck Dynasty looking dude hopped down from the giant wheeled rig. “Hey,  you’re that Jew city slicker aren’tcha?  You’d know how to knot a neck tie wouldn’tcha? My man here (thumbing back at the guy in the driver’s seat) is getting married today and we need your help.”  

For all the moments I wondered what I was doing in that village, I at least knew at that moment, had I not been there, the village son would have appeared for his vows looking all improper like. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about rednecks. I may not understand why their trucks are so big or why they like beef jerky so much, but as a group they are some of the warmest, funniest people I’ve ever met. Hell there’s even an anthem for them, their memories, their dirt roads and trucks.

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I was so focused on getting the guy on the stilts, I completely missed the sign about the Saratoga Chips. It’s so strange to constantly have my present moments reminded by my past; especially realizing that I don’t see it most of the time.

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Another wonderful redneck tradition is to wake up in the morning and crack open a beer. At the Blueberry Festival there was a Beer Garden with refrigerated trucks circling the picnic tables in the center. I went to get a red solo cup filled with some icy cold domestic when the lady behind the table showed me her tattoo. Rednecks love their red solo cups… and their ink.

This one she said was a John Lennon quote and she let me shoot it.

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Across from the Beer Garden was a food truck selling the best of traditional German fare. While I stood there admiring the vendor’s Schnitzel, a blonde haired blue-eyed woman came up next to me and without boundary began a conversation. “Can you believe the festival is going to be moved to a park next year?” She said. “Business has been great here and my daughters really like chatting with the customers.”

Apparently she owned the truck and her beautiful daughters served up the Knockwurst and Bratwurst. We talked about the pros and cons of charming downtown festivals vs. routine park events. We found common ground in our allergy to fire ants. I asked her to hold my ice-cold beer  in the red solo cup, while I took a quick candid of her daughter and she obliged threatening to drink some of my beer in exchange. I took the shot and took back the beer and she had to go swap out a propane tank.

We both smiled at the moment when two complete strangers were completely familiar.

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And no party of joyful rednecks would be complete without the strut of requisite women in white tank tops. As a matter of fact the uniform white tank top is so familiar there’s even an anthem for it.

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And then it was time to leave. On my way out-of-town there leaned a sax player against a pole. Probably more in tune with an event in New Orleans than in Brooksville… but music is music. I waved good-by to my friends by the Monster Trucks and noted for future reference the Do Not Enter sign.

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Almost to the car there was a man precariously leaning, dressed in blues and guarding a parking lot from unwanted guests. I admired how he was covered with character from head to toe. Crystals for the spirits, cross for the church, credentials from the festival and what I thought were some nickel tats from his time inside, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Thanks to a series of divine interventions and coincidences, I learned that the fives were a scripture reference.  Fifth book, 5th chapter, 5th verse – where Moses stands between the Lord and his people. Apparently that’s also about what time he’s up and praying in the morning too, so it’s his round-a-bout way of saying that he will pray for you at 5:55 am. This little discovery blue my mind.

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Dedicated to the guy in blue with his magical tattoo, I was reminded of one of my favorite songs that honors the fruit of blues.

G'head. Say it.

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