Every October, people from all over the Northwest converge on a mountain meadow near us for Barter Faire. For one long weekend the gathering becomes the biggest town in the county.
This year was the Fortieth Anniversary of the Barter Faire. Back in 1973 when it began it wasn't called the Barter Faire. It was simply a gathering of back-to-the-earth hippies from several communes scattered around the area. They had drifted in from all points of the compass, but particularly from California, and that first "family gathering" was a celebration of the hippie lifestyle, and an opportunity to barter goods and supplies.
It became an annual event, began to attract a wider audience, and then, as these things do, took on a life of its own. Today the original communes are long gone, and those of the original hippies still around are old and set in their ways. What used to be the "hippie movement," which viewed a return to the barter system as a radical alternative to rampant materialism, has fragmented into various new age philosophies and practices, all of which seem to have become eminently marketable. So the current Barter Faire seems to be primarily a gathering of vendors trying to make a buck.
Thus do dreams die. I imagine there are still individuals living the dream, but for me the Barter Faire today is just a big hippie nostalgia trip. Remember when we actually thought we could change the world?
For many, of course, Barter Faire has also become just another excuse for a big party. So you come in past the Peace Flags and get ready to get stoned out of your mind. I guess a cynic could look at that and say the dream lives on after all.
Everyone knows that's what happens, but there's an interesting thing that goes on, sort of like the old days when you had to be secret about it. So if you're selling tobacco products (wink wink) you can display your wares out in the open.
But if you're selling, you know, "glass," well then, make sure no one could possibly guess what's spread out on your tables.
I got there early on the first day and left in late afternoon. This was my first trip up to the Faire in the seven years I've lived here. Cars were rolling in when I left, but the evening's festivities hadn't gotten underway. There were some people wandering around all afternoon with baskets of treats for sale. There were the famous brownies that Alice B. Toklas introduced to the world, and I also saw a basket labeled "Medical Caramels." Sounded good, but I passed on those items.
So I missed the party and instead had an enjoyable walk around the place. The fairies and crystals kept my shakra in a good place.
There were still signs of a "back to the earth" philosophy and lifestyle.
And lots of pretty stuff and happy people.
And fly tying supplies, too.
At the center of the village is a play area for the kids, including a teepee for story telling. It said they needed storytellers. That's something I could do.
I found the woman who made this teepee. She sells them. She said one like this would run me about $18,000, but remember, it's made out of hemp, not your common canvas. Yeah, hemp. No jokes about smoking your house, please.
I had passed the "Solar Stage" over by the food court (yeah, there were moments when it felt like I was strolling through one big Hippie Mall--wierd, man) and there was a band playing. Very, very, very faint echoes of Woodstock.
Back in front of the main stage I sat down for awhile. It was still mostly deserted, but this area at night is packed with people grooving to reggae and electronica bands.
I just leaned back on a hay bale and watched the people go by.
A band was setting up to play, and a friend of mine plays washtub bass for them, so I stayed around and had a listen.
Some of these guys go back forty years to the beginning of this thing. They played the main stage, but they're no longer the main attraction.
I started my walk out and went down Artisan's Row.
I wish I'd had enough money to buy this beautiful steelhead sculpture.
On the way out I passed the Free Store. That was nice to see. Still a living remnant of the dream.
Then I bumped into my friend Dan and his sister Lydia, and I felt even better. They aren't hippies, although they come from hippie stock (their mother's name is Tree) and they are dedicated to positive change. And, what do you know, they believe they can actually change the world. Dan is dressed up as "Environment Man," celebrating the recycling lifestyle.
I realized the dream for a better world lives on, but it's not mine anymore, or my generation's. It belongs now to Dan and Lydia and their generation. And it's in good hands.
So, peace, man.