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Rockin' the New River Festival

Thursday, May 7, 2009

photo by Mary

I guess I've been working nature festivals for about 18 years now--as long as I've been with Bill of the Birds. My first was the Bosque del Apache Festival of the Cranes in 1991. Yikes, that was a long time ago. It's a niche, made more fun and interesting by the inclusion of music. Bill has added that dimension to my life. Without him, I'd probably be singing krokey or trying out for Elderly Idol. Since he was in high school, Bill has always headed up a band, because he's a natural bandleader.

Just like he's a natural field trip leader, even with half his pants off.

Generally, Bill and I play a duo,

adding in musicians like master fiddler/violinist Jessie Munson or singer/guitarist Ernie Hoffert whenever we can. For most bird festivals, folky acoustic stuff works. This time, we tried something different. Fayetteville is only about 2 1/2 hours from The Swinging Orangutang's home base of Marietta, Ohio. We promised the boys in the band a great time (Jessica had another commitment, waah!) and they agreed to come down on Saturday afternoon for a real blowout that night. Bill and I have done a lot of festivals, but we've never seen a rock band and a private club atmosphere at a bird festival before. We wanted something completely different to honor the festival attendees, including the fun-loving Flock of bloggers.

The Meadow House at Opossum Creek Resort was transformed into a speakeasy.

Five-sixths of The Swinging Orangutangs: from left, Bill Thompson III, Clay Paschal, Andy Hall, JZ, and Vincenzo Mele. We're all missing Jessica Baldwin.

I admit to a touch of apprehension as we worked on the set list. Would birders cover their ears and flee if we really blew it out? OK, let's strike Brick House from the set list. Probably won't do Don't Fear the Reaper, either. Hmm. But there was plenty of material just this side of coo-coo that we thought birders would like. In the end, we wound up throwing in Blister in the Sun and Take Me to the River and Get Down Tonight, along with a couple of hours' worth of mixy favorites. Still wish we'd done Burning Down the House. Oh well. Next year.

As it turned out, it got coo-coo anyway. Bloggers know how to boogie. These people were up for a great time, having birded their brains out for an entire week. You can tell Susan's a blogger 'cuz she's got a beer in one hand...a camera in the other. I shudder to think what photos she captured that night. You'll have to go to Susan Gets Native and see. I believe that's Kathie of Sycamore Canyon in lavender. Laura from Somewhere in New Jersey and Lynne from Hasty Brook were partying, too. Nina from Nature Remains and Kathi from KatDoc's World and Beth from My Life With Birds and Kathleen from A Glorious Life and Barb from My Bird Tales and Jane from Jaylynn's Window on Nature ... Kathy (Denapple) from Life, Birding, Photos and Everything...really entrancing photography in those last three, and all of them wonderful people.. it just went on and on. Just keeping the Kath-people straight was a job in itself.

By my count, there were no less than 17 nature bloggers in attendance and snapping away at New River 2009. This will be the best-documented festival that has ever happened.

Huh-oh. We did Love Shack and it got even crazier, with guide and Orang alum drummer Steve McCarthy taking the male vocal lead. I'm doin' the Belinda Carlisle, serving it up oldschool with a shared mic. Mary's View gettin' DOWN with Jane of Wrennaissance Reflections. What a total thrill it was to meet them! And then to play for them all, really show them a good time.

Maybe that's an understatement. If the Solid Gold Bloggers had half as much fun as the Orangs did, it was a fabulous time.

News flash: The Bump did not die in 1978. It is alive and well with Tim (From the Faraway, Nearby) and Mary (Mary's View). Oh my goodness.

When he wasn't hangin' with his buddy Cameron, Liam was doin' the Schroeder on the dance floor. Our son has some truly fancy footwork.

The uproarious highlight of the evening was when Tim Ryan joined us to play cowbell on Low Rider. I doubt there was a person in the room who wasn't on their feet by then. Our beloved honorary Orangutang.

This group of bloggers is so generous--everyone showed up with arms overflowing with handmade gifts--pins and pottery and jewelry and bacon-flavored jellybeans and other Minnesota favorites from sweet Lynne at Hasty Brook--there was even a care package of handmade Peruvian crafts from Mel at Teach Me About Birdwatching, sent from South America, just because.

I didn't bring anything you could hold in your hand, but singing for our beloved friends felt just right.
Vincenzo Serafino charmed with his velvet voice and nimble guitar.

Jeff Gordon, fabulous trip leader and nature blogger, heated up the place with a dangerous rendition of Secret Agent Man. Too bad nature blogger and walking encyclopedia Jim McCormac wasn't there to see it, but after leading field trips in the first part of the week, he was getting the Ludlow Griscom award from the American Birding Association in Texas!

Many thanks to the incomparable Jen Sauter for grabbing my camera and documenting the night so splendidly. For she's a jolly good bombshell!

Many thanks to the people who know how to laugh and dance and live life large. You know who you are! Many thanks to Bill, for making it all happen, to Geoff Heeter and Keith Richardson of Opossum Creek, and to the Swinging Orangutangs for giving themselves to make Saturday, May 2, 2009 a night to remember, a delightful anomaly in the heretofore rather sedate world of nature festival entertainment.

And if it weren't enough...what about tomorrow?

art by Andy Hall, who is also our drummer, how lovely!


I thought we had "Don't Fear the Creeper" on the set list, right after "Back on the Crane Gang" and "Eiders, Guns & Money"??

What? You were gonna do some BOC? Waaaaa! My fave!
And Julie, I forgive you for posting that pic of me. You caught me looking normal the rest of the time...
I asked Geoff and Keith if anyone had ever danced at the festival before. Their eyes were BIG as they answered in awed voices, "No...."

"the curtains flew and then he appeared, saying
'Don't be afraid'..."

Best &%$#ing time at a bird festival EVAH.

That night was a BLAST! That Little Miss Mary can bust a move! Tim and Mary doin' The Bump just cracked me up. It was great, great fun. Thanks for bringing the Swinging Orangutangs to Opossum Creek.

I love this post - it brought back all the warm fuzzies from the festival. I agree with Susan - it was the best &*&%$# time at a bird festival ever and The Swinging Orangs made for a perfect ending. Thanks for sharing your music and your passion with us.


Wait! You mean all birding festivals aren't like this?

Wren; I WISH.
BTW, Julie. Speaking of music...come see!

It was a blast, Julie... even if I spent most of the time praying no one would drag me out to dance. I had twice as much fun watching you all have such a great time.

Thanks for a memorable night.





Waaahh! I can't get to Whipple for Friday night's gig! Why do we have to live 5 hours apart? I wanna be able to fold the state like I fold a map and make my part of the world touch yours.

Wait till I get around to putting up MY post about that night - I have some SWEET photos of Liam, bustin' a move all over the place. And Bacon, with a mike in his mouth. (I think he's singing. Maybe he is eating the microphone instead.)

And, my VW is "bowel." No lie.


The Swinging O's ROCK and Tim plays the cowbell better than any blogger on the planet! This was one VERY good party!!! Boogie on...

Bill is stylin with his pants down!

Susan, I think that photo's krazy kute.
Noo, this doesn't happen at every bird festival, Wren, but maybe it's gonna start!
Whyyy is Mary shouting? Bcuz she loves us all sooo much?
Beth and Laura, you are so welcome! It was truly our joy to play for you.
KatDoc: BOWEL??? It's a good thing I'm drinking water tonight because it IS all over the screen.

Cannot wait to see everyone else's posts. I had to post this tonight because of the gig tomorrow. It's such a blast to relive it all through your posts.

...I've just been to your blog, Nina's and Susan's, and it is FUN to see how differently you all are covering the event. Everything is so beautiful, and everyone looks like they are having a blast!

I've heard about the Orangs for nigh on 2 years now but I was NOT prepared for how fantastic they were going to be. Bill of the Birds on that guitar is something to behold - it will even make you forget all the drop-trou moments on the birding trails.

And Julie is one magnificent singer. I was blown away. It's worth the entire festival price alone to hear JZ's rendition of "Angel from Montgomery!! Anyone a days drive from Whipple should run, not walk, to the performance tonight.

It was a magical week capped by a fantastic evening.

PS - Very proud to be an honorary Orangutang. And that moment is joyfully added to the Life List. Tonight, somewhere in Buenos Aires, there's gonna be a little cowbell playing.

“Bandwidth and Bands” bloggers only festival any takers? Okay we can ad bird to the title

TR, will a personal check for that endorsement be OK, or do you take Visa?

What a great time! Thanks for sharing the wild side of birding!

Wow, I'm so amazed--you guys can bird all day and still have the energy to dance the night away!
Hmmm, that reminds me--do the Swingin' Orangs perform any Van Halen?

So what you're saying is that not all of the BIRDS at the festival were were feathered?

I am having a great time reading about all you birdie bloggers getting together at the festival..

But man..I didnt realize how crazy you gals and guys are!

I thought bird all day .go to bed early ..bird again..

But all have some good energy

Julie, under normal circumstances i would have been the one with her fingers in her ears and fleeing from the room because I don't like loud noises and it WAS loud in there! But is was also fun, and yes, that is me in the lavender shirt. I was tired and joyful and relaxed and for once in my life I was going to have a good time. I felt the music in me and I still hear your voice singing "Get down tonight" in my head! Thanks for singing "Moondance" too. It's one of my favorite songs!

Hola Julie,
I'm glad that you liked the little gifts Tommy and I sent for you.
We've been reading posts form the Festival but this one was the one that truly showed how much fun you guys had!
We'll find a way to meet you all [wonderful bireders/bloggers] soon!
Take care, besos,

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