OTR-63 Festival Vendors

One of the most interesting things about old-time or bluegrass festivals is cruising the retail booths. We've all wondered, for example, how the food vendors manage to maintain sanitary conditions that even their customers don't always measure up to. And we've marveled at the audacious pricing of musicians' supplies just because they're selling to a captive group of sometimes inebriated niche-audience nerds addicted to one of the most obscure hobbies around that needs constant explaining to anyone from the mainstream culture.

But I'm not bitter.

On a lighter note, over the years, I've made observations of vendors who had possibly the most unlikely (okay, worst) ideas for festival booths. None of them lasted long, so I'm your only source for what once was. Want to hear? Sure you do.

Let's start with some unusual food booth items…

Hank's Horsehair On A Stick. Operating on the theory that anything organic (containing the element carbon) is edible, this guy sold discarded loose-haired fiddle bows with dipping sauce. I don't care how much fondue you ladle on, though--it's not even close to cotton candy.

Taste Of Old Athens--Goatskin On A Pot. Previously owned and abused skin-head banjo bodies marinated for months, served with a free X-acto knife. Beware of synthetic plastic imitations. You keep the tone ring!!!

Fiddle Chops. Like their musical namesake, smaller than bite-sized, of unspecified tonal composition, not a main course--just an accompaniment.

Big Box Boom-Chuck Steak. Flavor that's loud and deep, to round out a meal that's light on substance. A little heavy for some tastes, but dread not--you miss it when it isn't there.

Earl's Three Finger Rolls. You'll want to grab these when you can, because they go by really fast. Not a lot of substance to them, pretty much decorative and usually paired with Fiddle Chops and Boom-Chuck Steak.

Finger-Pickin'-Good Fifth String Cheese. No description, but since you probably figured this pun was coming when you started reading, I thought I'd break the tension and get it out of the way.

Snaques De France. Offering the familiar pommes frites, and the not so familiar pommes frets. Chewy, yes, but double as toothpicks for those hard-to-reach flossing spots.

Standup Freshwater Bass. Will feed the whole family, which often is more than a bass player can do. (Sorry, stolen banjo joke.)

And now some of the more esoteric musical accessories…

Tie-Dye Flat Picks. Cut from last year's festival t-shirt that's been colored and really, really heavily starched, or was worn for the week by a profusely perspiring dobro player and never washed. (The shirt OR the player.)

Grandma's Hand Spun Lambswool Mandolin Strings. Grandma needs her sleep, so these specialty items will let you play quietly for hours, right through most of her naps.

Old Montpelier Liquid Maple Rosin. Apply directly from the bottle to your fiddle bow for that extra measure of resistance. Great for working on your later-years Tommy Jarrell bowing sound, and tasty on tomorrow's flapjacks.

Aussie Brand Lockjaw Lizard Capos. Imported from the outback, needing very little water and only the occasional nip of a finger for sustenance, these cute little creatures will get you into whatever key you want and stay there. Please be sure of your chord choice before first (and only) application. Get one for each of your instruments. You'll have to.

Recycle Rhonda's Origami Guitar Straps. Handcrafted from damp newsprint left out in the rain. Not recommended for instruments weighing over 3 ounces.

Cluck-Old-Hen Soft Shell Instrument Cases. Laminated from actual free range egg shells with calcium deficiency. And boy, are they soft. Warranty voided if used on United Airlines.

So that's it. Look for these at your next festival, or don't. All true for the most part.

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Posted By:  Geff Crawford

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