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Sometimes life offers the opportunity to travel without venturing far from home. And if that opportunity comes with good food and free music, so much the better.

At least that’s how I feel after attending this year’s Brookings Summer Arts Festival. Interesting experiences and interesting new people were available at every turn.

For example, a booth called Frogworks Photography caught my eye. I had no idea what a frogworks was, so I stopped and chatted with Bob Wilson, a professional photographer and booth owner.

“I had a lumberjack buddy who lived in Idaho and complained that there was nothing to do in the winter,” Bob smiles. “I told him he should start a business called Frogworks Lumber Company. It was just a fancy name that doesn’t mean anything, but I liked it and started using it for my photography business.

Bob was selling photos of things like the rugged Irish coastline, the stark Sahara, the ghostly Machu Picchu and a furry baby mountain gorilla in a Ugandan forest.

“I took part in a program sponsored by National Geographic which sent photographers to different regions. We lived for a few days with the locals and taught photography to the students,” Bob explained.

After a pleasant conversation, I left. I felt jet lagged just thinking about all of Bob’s overseas adventures.

As I was walking through the festival, I saw a booth called Bare Naked Soap Company. It was unclear who was naked, the soap or the company. My wife wasn’t with me, but I could almost feel her disapproving look for making that particular observation.

I attended the festival solo this year because my wife’s knee was beset with debilitating pain. His orthopedic surgeon will install a new knee next week. We hope we can get an extended warranty for this expensive new device.

I stopped to chat with my brother Les and his family who ran a food stand offering funnel cakes, blooming onions and buffalo burgers. Serving on sizzling fryers in the scorching summer heat must feel like working in the caldera of an active volcano. Hats off to those enduring the discomfort so others can enjoy comfort food.

My brother was quite busy so I didn’t stay long. Also, I could hear music starting to emanate from the nearby headband.

A band called Lily B Moonflower – really – was singing tunes from the bandshell stage. Their lead singer, a young woman no older than 25, spoke of the blues that can afflict someone in trouble at Folsom Prison. I would bet she was never incarcerated in this infamous institution.

I found a shady spot on a park bench and sat among the hundreds of people who, like me, appreciated the opportunity to enjoy the free music. It was incredibly pleasant to sit in the glistening shade as a whispering breeze carried the aroma of delicious things from the food court. It was also a great place to have people watch.

Once the Lily B Moonflower concert was over, I resumed my wanderings. Wandering through the crowd, I couldn’t help but think of the Bruce Springsteen song “The girls in their summer clothes.” Oh, summer!

I couldn’t go home without buying something for my wife, so I stopped at a jewelry stand – real men can admit to doing such a thing – and browsed their offerings. Their moonstone rings and earrings caught my eye.

Moonstones are believed to have healing properties. I’m skeptical of such claims, but I’m sure my wife would appreciate any help with healing.

The jewelry stall owner was a middle-aged Asian woman. As I was reviewing her selection of moonstone jewelry, I told her about my wife and her upcoming surgery. It was silly to divulge such personal details to a complete stranger, but it seemed fair.

As the lady handed me my purchase, she wrapped my hand in hers and whispered in her thick Asian accent: “I pray to God that your wife’s operation is successful and that her recovery is speedy and complete.” She then bowed deeply, something totally foreign to a Midwestern farm boy.

His words inexplicably made me choke a little. They instantly brought my wife to tears when I passed them on to her.

In summary, the Summer Arts Festival was a very pleasant experience. I felt like I had traveled around the world even though I had only driven about ten kilometers from home.



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