The anticipation starts months before May… probably somewhere around March. I mean, we look forward to it all year long but the real, heart-beating, salivating, can’t-wait-to-get-there-already, anticipation starts in March. We’ve got our house booked and it’s beautiful. We were booked for the same house as the previous year (first time to return to a rental in Sebastopol). Several of us were signed up for our vending spots already, the rest of us were hoping to get dance spots on the infamous Tribal Fest® stage. Anticipation was in the air and you could cut it with a knife!
This year’s theme was “From the Roots to the Fruits: A Tribal Family Reunion”, all about getting back to our tribal roots and celebrating the fruits that have been produced on this family tree. I was excited to see how the theme would translate throughout the weekend in the performances on stage. But we had to get there first!
Debi arrived at my house on Sunday evening for our annual Mexican food dinner and margaritas at my favorite restaurant down the street. We packed the “Blumbulance” that night and prepped some kabobs that would be made a few days later. We left Monday morning, the day before the fest started to make our road trip from Southern California to Northern California – approximately a ten hour drive for us. I love a road trip and I look forward to this one all year! We’ve learned to leave early in the morning so that we arrive well before dark to our rental house and have time to settle in, relax and get a good night’s sleep before the madness begins.
We arrived at our rental house at around 5pm and it felt like home! Returning a second year to the same house was so comfortable and cozy because we knew what to expect. The house is amazing! It’s got beautiful red-wood decks – 4 levels; one is the back patio/porch, the next one down a double set of stairs is the “main” deck with an outdoor kitchen complete with gas grill, sink, refrigerator, and marble countertops, the next is smaller but glorious with a salt-water jacuzzi, and saving the best for last, the bottom deck is home to the large salt-water swimming pool that overlooks the most beautiful, grassy meadow filled with wild turkeys and deer in the mornings and evenings. The interior is beautiful too. The only thing we might wish for is a larger kitchen but we make it work.
We all have dinner together, Debi’s delicious salad and her infamous “Death by Garlic” with a delicious, crusty bread. (We ate all of the Death by Garlic the first night and Debi was kind enough to make a whole second batch!) We have some wine and we all chat and hug and squeal like happy school children returning to school after the summer. This is our Tribal Fest® immediate family but we’ve got LOTS more family waiting for us the coming week at the festival. We head to bed “early” (by our standards) to get rested up for the big week ahead.
Tuesday is set up day for the vendors and workshops begin for the students in our house. Our booth (the Blume Bauer Designs/Henna Crone Booth) held a coloring contest for our 3rd year in a row. This year’s contest consisted of coloring pages with trees and roots. The theme was to create your belly dance family tree. We got some incredible entries and Brighton one AGAIN! That girl is amazing! Nikii of Chovihani is also vending but she won’t be arriving until Tuesday night – she’s at home sewing away and getting her beautiful wares ready. She is a genius at costume making! Love her designs and love her too! This year, we had a new housemate whom was also a new vendor to Tribal Fest® – Kimberly of “The Eyes Have It” – she makes bindis!!! And not just any bindis but gorgeous, incredibly shiny beautiful bindis! We just loved having her as an addition to our house!
The rest of our house consists of regulars – Tammy Clostermy, Rhonda Higgins, Nic Tharpa-Cartier, Julia Heasler, Laura Barrientos, and everyone’s favorite “token white guy”, Frank Farinaro. In addition, we were so lucky to have new, AWESOME, housemates, Sasha Khetarpal-Vasser, Raine Behl, Rachell Rellik, and everyone’s favorite spicy Latino, Vyper Synville (aka Leon Mancilla)! We were so lucky to add so many new faces to our group and still have such an incredible time. I fell in love with the roomies I didn’t already know and bonded even closer with the ones that I did!
During the week at Tribal Fest®, the days consist of classes and shopping (or vending for those of us whom are vendors). We also get the opportunity to have some great conversations, lots more hugs and squealing as we see each of the members of our Tribal Fest® family. It’s comprised of a handful of people we see all year mixed with a sea of people we only see once per year at the fest! This year was a HOT year. We don’t have them that often and we were due for one, it had been quite some time since the last. But there were still smiles on everyone’s faces and happy people having fun everywhere I looked!
At night, our housemates all meet back up at the house and have group dinners together. Each night, someone offers to cook and everyone pitches in to either help with prep and cooking or to clean up afterward. We drink wine, talk, soak in the jacuzzi, swim, and solve all of the world’s problems until the wee hours of the night. Finally drifting off to our separate sleeping spaces when we can no longer hold our eyes open. We’re all back up EARLY for vending and workshops. Our motto “We’ll sleep when we get home!”
Dinners this year at the house were exceptionally delicious – or is it that food is so much more delicious when you don’t have to cook it? Either way, my taste buds were extremely pleased each night. Laura is from Mexico and made us homemade enchiladas – both chicken and cheese with homemade enchilada sauce! YUM! I made the kabobs with chicken, red-yellow-green-and-orange bell peppers, pineapple, onions, and yellow squash marinated for 3 days in a combo teriyaki-spicy asian sauce. YUM! Kimberly got us to all eat our veggies and like ‘em when she made us a delicious vegetarian pasta. YUM! Nikii made a beautiful salad almost every night from ingredients that she would just whip up in the kitchen. YUM! Julia made us Carne Asada tacos and homemade salsa (speaking of, I need to get that recipe!). YUM! Tammy made my favorite, pineapple upside down cake (because she loves me). YUM! Frank made his “yucky cookies” that we choked down, chasing them with wine and beer. YUM! Rhonda made us grilled hamburgers (both veggie and meat) with roasted potatoes. YUM! We even had a birthday party for Raine one night and had cupcakes!! (Can you tell that one of my favorite things about sharing a house is the food?! Or maybe it’s the wine? NO!! It’s totally the AWESOME friends!!!)
Friday is when it starts to really get exciting at Tribal Fest®! The show starts Friday afternoon with a beautiful blessing. Then the rest of the performances start to roll on to the stage. All weekend long, that stage is filled with creativity, imagination, heart, soul, blood, and sweat. The dancers learn choreographies and rehearse all year long. They sew costumes and come up with themes that will stand out from everyone else. Every dancer leaves her/his heart on the stage. The audience is welcoming at Tribal Fest® – from the beginner to the “star”, everyone is well-received. Clapping, audience-participation, zaghareets, laughter, and tears all pour out of the audience.
Performances are burned into my memory each year. This year, one of my favorites was April Rose’s performance. She wore an simple yet elegant green costume, danced to “My Oklahoma Home Blowed Away” by Pete Seeger, and swept me away in her story telling on stage. April dedicated the performance in honor of Pete’s passing this year. In her words to Seeger, “Thank you for your stories, they have helped me in my struggle for surrender to impermanence.” She left tears in my eyes with her sweet, soft story telling through dance.
Another performance that left me with tears but this time happy tears was by Unmata. Loved their really cool intro, playing with the audience, alternating between snapping and chanting with troupe members both on stage and out amongst the audience. The piece goes from dark to light, from death to birth. Ending with a human-made rocking chair, rocking the new grandmother, Amy Sigil with a babe in her arms. And then if that wasn’t powerful enough, they bring out all of the Hot Pot family in groups at first and then EVERYONE on stage together in one giant ITS performance to a song called “Alive”. Powerful and moving and just what we’re all craving from the Unmata masterminds.
Frank Farinaro did a piece that was a beautiful tribute to our Tribal Fest® family. Frank and Leon Mancilla were robbed on the way up to Tribal Fest®. Leon’s car was broken into and everything in the back seat was stolen. This included costumes, music, a laptop, and all of their personal belongings for the trip. The community poured out their hearts, donating money via Paypal, gifting them with costume pieces, personal items, gift cards, and so much more. Geisha Moth even made Frank a brand new costume (he’s hard to fit being so tall) for the performance. It was beautiful and loving and the audience roared with applause and a standing ovation. Leon also did an incredible piece dedicated to the Tribal Fest® family, pulling out all of the stops and even dancing on a drum!
Rhonda Higgins did a piece that was dripping with emotion and brought me to tears too! So beautiful, dark, and eerie. Graceful and lovely. She had me mesmerized throughout her entire performance. Sasha and his dance partner, Laura Blake did a super fun and upbeat piece that left everyone cheering, zaghareeting, and downright enjoying themselves! There were so many other performances that I loved, enough to write an entire separate blog post! The weekend was as spectacular as always. Filled with good friends, good food (on site and at the house), and memories that will last a lifetime.
Sunday night is always bittersweet as half (or more) of the housemates leave on Monday morning. We had dinner al fresco on the main deck with newly added friends to the group for the night, Paige Lawrence and Kate (you know, I didn’t get her last name but she’s cute and sweet!) It was a fun evening and we all stayed up until the early hours of the morning not wanting it to end. Monday morning, we said goodbye to about half of our housemates and then we recovered from the sadness of the moment by swimming in the salt water pool all day, soaking up the sun, drinking wine, and playing in the water. We took glorious naps in the late afternoon, ate a late dinner, and had more conversations.
Tuesday morning was a whirlwind. We got up, showered, packed our things, and cleaned the house a bit to make it presentable to the homeowners. Debi and I had decided to drive halfway back on Tuesday and the other half of the way on Wednesday. This way, we could break up the trip and stay in our FAVORITE place, San Luis Obispo! We left the house on Tuesday and stopped in Sebastopol for some lunch at the Thai Pot (so yummy) and to stop into some of our favorite shops. Then we hit the road.
Now, I’m not sure what happened but I’m pretty sure we were in some sort of time warp because it should have been 5-6 hours to San Luis Obispo but it took us more than 8! When we left, we mapped the route and I calculated the hours and we should have been there around 7pm. We drove and drove and drove. At 6pm, we still had 3 hours left on the map. At 7pm, we still had 3 hours left on the map. At 8pm, we finally realized we had no idea how long this was going to take. I will add that there was quite a bit of construction along the way in different places and we even got stopped for about a half hour where they closed the highway to one lane. But THE CREEPY PART was that we drove past this really creepy place with blue spaceship-like lights at some of the gate entrances. I swear that place did something to the time-space continuum.
We arrived at the hotel around 11pm in San Luis Obispo (SLO). We stayed at our favorite small-town hotel there called the Sunbeam Motel. We ordered a pizza from Woodstock Pizza (delish!), watched a bit of TV, and crashed out quick. We woke up in the morning, refreshed and ready to start the next leg of the journey but not until we spent a bit of time in our favorite little town. We ate at the famous “Mo’s BBQ” and then walked around town, visiting little shops along the way. I got my niece the cutest little pink velvet horse jewelry box with a little horse pendant inside (white with pink hair – her favorite).
The trip home was gorgeous. We usually travel up the middle of the state on the I5 because it’s quicker than driving through San Francisco but driving home on the 101 freeway, parallel to the ocean was divine. We stopped in Ventura and breathed in the sea air, letting the wind blow through our hair. Arriving home, it was still early enough to unpack the Blumbulance and repack Debi’s car for her trip home.
The end of Tribal Fest® always comes too quickly. I’m always left with a feeling of pure exhilaration mixed with utter exhaustion. I want it to last longer, but can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. This was the first year in 6 years that I didn’t come home to frantic last minute details of Cairo Caravan (having retired from MECDA in July of 2013). I spent the whole day after getting home, sleeping, eating a bit, relaxing, and sleeping some more. The crazy thing… once I had recuperated, I was ready to do it all again!