Tag Archives: festivals

Jumping Frogs and Canteloupes.

I grew up and still live in the suburbs. All the conveniences of city life are right down the road. Major sports teams, museums, and restaurants are all within minutes and there is never a lack of new places to explore. As a kid I watched as new development took over the spare lot, and kick-the-can games got re-located to the school baseball field. Independent shops got swallowed up by malls and the corner ice cream store became a real estate office. Making life easier seemed to be the goal. Suddenly everything was open on a Sunday. At the time we thought it was great!

But I am genetically wired to love small towns. Both my parents were born and raised in little farm communities and grew up ice-skating on frozen rivers.  Even though my dad could not wait to escape, he had lots of stories about hiding in bushes when his girlfriend’s father caught him on the front porch way past curfew. So when I moved to a small town in Central PA in the late 80’s, I was drawn to the slower pace, the town square, and the corner butcher. I was intrigued by the news stories highlighting the daily activities of the citizens (who won the blue ribbon at the fair), and I was hooked when I saw my first Halloween parade. Kids in costumes riding their bikes, families walking toddlers in decked out strollers, and fire engines tossing candy into the streets. I was home.

I loved the years I lived in Carlisle PA. and I loved the sense of community. When my husband, daughter, and I returned to city life to be closer to family, I kept searching for that same feeling, same sense of connection. Block parties were the best I could do until I discovered the allure of festivals – the floats with high school queens and bad for you funnel cakes.   It started with the Duct Tape Festival, grew with the Milan Melon Fest, and became addicting with the Port Clinton Midnight Walleye Drop on New Year’s Eve. At each I found people with no other agenda than to have fun and relish a silly tradition.

In this year of 60 things to do before I turn 60, there were three festivals that made the list, three that I had wanted to experience but had always missed. The Medina Ice Sculpture Festival and the North Ridgeville Corn Fest each lived up to their names with beautiful works of cold art and dozens of fresh roasted ears. Both drew people to communities that benefited from the hordes of people flocking to their squares. But the grand-daddy of them all was the Valley City Frog Jump. I marked it on my calendar months in advance, determined not to miss this one day extravaganza of all things frog.

My friend Pattie, her 5-year old daughter Carolyn, and I arrived early to ensure that spots would still be available. Also in tow was my daughter Julie, our official frog handler. But something took over as we approached the registration table. I decided I wanted my own frog. I knew if I remained a spectator that I would later feel cheated I did not compete. So eight bucks later my frog, appropriately named “Sixty,” was rented and being held until it was my turn.

I knew this event was special when the competition started by the singing of the National Anthem. What better way to kick off an athletic event of this magnitude! Everyone in the park, those close to the jumping and those buying frog cookies, stopped, and with hands over hearts joined in the singing. Afterwards I walked the area outside the competition ring and smiled as I looked around at the families showing off their prized amphibians, kids playing frog corn hole, and basketball. Some of the critters had escaped and kids bounced through the grass retrieving their athletes. Carolyn found her challenge with frog putt-putt as we patiently waited for our ‘flight,” or division to be announced. As she found the bounce house, I stood on the edge of the observation area, looking to glean some tips.

The rules were simple. When your flight was called you reported to the holding area to receive your frog in a bucket. Warnings were given to leave the lid on until you were called to the jumping area, and those who ignored the warning found themselves startled by escaping jumpers. Once in the center of the parachute, the frog was to be placed in the green circle. After placing the 4-legged star in the ring, the handler could no longer touch the critter, only encourage by slapping the cloth behind the bug-eyed athlete. The frog would be given three jumps. Then a team of assistants would run out and measure the distance, scooping up the contestant in one hand. Winners of each flight would compete in the finals at the end of all the rounds. Like I said…simple.

Tucked in my pocket was a pair of gloves as I had been warned that frogs always pee in your hands. But as I waited my turn, I realized I would be booed out of the ring if I wore them. I decided to suck it up and peeked into the bucket, bonding with my entrant. “Sixty” stared up at me, almost daring me to remove the lid. I felt a moment of panic…worried that he would jump into my face! But before I had a chance to talk myself out of the whole thing, the referee was handing him to me and directing me to the brightly colored parachute cloth.

Placing him in the circle, I quickly stood back and watched as the long-legged guy took off. In his three jumps he covered 9 feet, 2inches, flying through the air in three great arches. I broke into a smile, clapping at his success, proud of his distance. It wasn’t the longest, but it certainly not the shortest! I had known him for less than 30 minutes but felt an odd sense of maternal pride! Sixty was quickly put back into the bucket and returned to the rental table, where he was then taken back to the cool waters of the river bank. Job well done!

After bonding with some anti-bacterial gel, we headed to the food stands to enjoy a celebratory lunch. Unlike many events, the choices were not local food trucks or vendors who travel fair to fair. Rather, each stand benefited a local church or athletic team or scouting group. Alice, Marge, and Judith sold cookies carefully decorated as frogs and slices of berry pie. Ed and Joe were in charge of the roasted chickens and rib platters. There was Italian sausage, popcorn, and ice cream. All homemade… all local…all simple. Which is the whole point.

It is that flavor, that simplicity that makes me love these festivals. Yes, they are a bit quirky, yes they are silly. Whether prom dresses are being made out of duct tape, or kids are bowling with cantaloupes, what these festivals have in common is the desire to connect and have fun! Simply have fun. While I appreciate the advantages of living near the energy of a city, it is the energy of people that draws me to these small town celebrations. They feed my soul.

The summer is far from over. Hot air balloons, baskets, and grapes are all waiting for their day. I will watch queens get crowned, try to dunk the high school football player, and eat funnel cakes.   I will chat with the church ladies who have crocheted dozens of dish towels, play bingo, and watch sack races. I might even get my caricature drawn. At the end of the day I will return to my home in the suburbs, content in the knowledge that despite the pace of my daily life, I can always take a break and rent a frog.

Susan Emmerich is the author of A Girl on a Bike: Musings on Life, Loss, and Hot Flashes, now available from Second Wind Publishing and amazon.com She can be found riding her bike around Cleveland OH making observations on a most interesting life.

2 Comments

Filed under fun, life, musings, writing

August and Harvest Rituals

Life is lived in cycles; the cycles of life are made evident as we approach the season of reaping what has been sewn. As crops ripen, and burgeon forth with abundance people around the world prepare for the harvest. August is a month full of harvest celebrations and superstitions all over the world that have been handed down for centuries.

August 1
On this day, the Lammas Sabbat is celebrated by Wiccans and Witches throughout the world. Lammas (which is also known as Lughnasadh, August Eve, and the First Festival of Harvest) marks the start of the harvest season and is a time when the fertility aspect of the sacred union of the Goddess and Horned God is honored. The making of corn dollies (small figures fashioned from braided straw) is a centuries-old Pagan custom which is carried on by many modern Witches as part of the Lammas Sabbat rite. The corn dollies are placed on the Sabbat altar to represent the Mother Goddess who presides over the harvest. It is customary on each Lammas to make or buy a new corn dolly and then burn the old one from the past year for good luck.

On this day in the country of Macedonia, Neo-Pagans celebrate the Day of the Dryads, an annual nature festival dedicated to the maiden spirits who inhabit and rule over forests and trees.

August 2
On this day, the Feast of Anahita is celebrated in honor of the ancient Persian goddess Anahita, a deity associated with love and lunar powers.

Lady Godiva Day is celebrated annually on this date in the village of Coventry, England, with a medieval-style parade led by a nude woman on horseback.

August 3
The harvest season begins on this date in Japan with an annual festival called the Aomori Nebuta. Bamboo effigies with grotesquely painted faces are paraded through the streets in order to drive away the spirits of sleep.

August 4
Each year on this date, it was believed that the waters of Scotland’s Loch-mo-Naire became charged with miraculous magical powers to heal all who drank it or bathed in it. For many years it was a custom for those who visited Loch-mo-Naire to toss in a coin of silver as an offering to the benevolent spirits that dwelled within the lake.

August 5
Many folks still believe in this ancient superstition: if you make a secret wish wile looking up at the new moon (which normally begins on or near this date in August), your wish will be granted before the year is through.

August 6
On this date in the year 1817, a huge creature described as a sea-serpent was spotted in the ocean near Gloucester harbor in Massachusetts. Coincidentally, on this same date in the year 1948, a similar creature was seen by the crew of the British naval frigate Daedalus.

This day is sacred to the Cherokee Earth-Goddess Elihino and her sister Igaehindvo, the sacred goddess of the Sun.

August 7
In ancient Egypt, the cow-headed goddess Hathor was honored on this day by an annual festival known as Breaking the Nile. The festival, which was also dedicated to all water and river goddesses, celebrated the rising of the fertile waters of the mystical River Nile.

In ancient Greece, the annual mourning ceremony called the Adonia was held on this date in honor of the dying hero-god Adonis.

August 8
According to the Christian Church calendar, the Virgin Mary was born on this day.
The Eve of the Festival of Venus was celebrated annually on this date by the ancient Romans. On this night, the goddess of love and beauty was honored and invoked with prayers, love songs, libations, and passionate lovemaking. It was also a time when sorceresses performed all forms of love magic and marriage-mate divinations.

August 9
On this date, many Wiccans from around the world celebrate the annual Feast of the Fire Spirits. Dried mandrake root or yarrow herb is cast into fires as offerings to the Salamanders.

August 10
A centuries-old festival called Ghanta Karna Day is celebrated annually around this time of August in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal. The event celebrates the death of Ghanta Karna, a blood thirsty Hindu demon who haunts crossroads and is the sworn enemy of the god Vishnu.

August 11
On this day, an Irish fertility festival known as the Puck Fair begins. The medieval-style festival, which pays homage to the mischievous sprite Robin Goodfellow, continues for three consecutive days.

Oddudua, the “Mother of all Gods”, is honored on this day by followers of the Santeria religion in Africa and South America.

August 12
The goddess Isis and her search for Osiris (her brother and consort) is commemorated on this day by the Lychnapsia (Festival of the Lights of Isis). Dried rose petals and vervain are burned in small cauldron pots or incense burners as offerings to Isis, and green candles are lit in her honor.

August 13
On this date, the major Pagan festival of Hecate is traditionally held at moonrise. Hecate, the mysterious goddess of darkness and protectress of all Witches, is a personification of the Moon and the dark side of the female principle.

August 14
Every year on this date, a “burryman” (a man wearing a costume of thistle burrs, and representing an ancient fertility god) walks through the streets in many of the fishing villages along the coast of Scotland, collecting donations from the villagers. The origin of the burryman remains a mystery.

August 15
Festival of Vesta. The ancient Roman goddess of the hearth was honored annually on this date in ancient times. Many modern Witches light six red candles and cast herbs into hearth fires on this day to honor Vesta and to receive her blessings for family and home.

August 16
Salem Heritage Day in Massachusetts~ On this date in the year 1987, the first Harmonic Convergence as observed worldwide during the Grand Trine (the alignment of all nine planets in our solar system). The event, which lasted for two consecutive days, was believed to be the beginning of five years of peace and spiritual purification. Thousands of New Age enthusiasts gathered at various sacred sites to dance, chant, meditate, and tune into the positive energies of the Earth and the universe.

August 17
Festival of Diana. Every year on this date, the goddess of chastity, hunting, and the moon was honored by the ancient Romans. This is a special day of feasting, mirth, and magic-making for many Dianic Wiccans, since Diana is the most sacred goddess of their tradition.

On this date in the year 1950, Oglala Sioux mystic and medicine man Nicholas Black Elk died in Manderson, South Dakota. He was known for his great powers of prophecy and healing, and was an adherent of the Ghost Dance, a short-lived Native American religious movement which ended in a tragic massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890.

August 18
On this date, the annual Festival of Hungry Ghosts is celebrated throughout China with burnt offerings to the spirits of the dead.

On this date in the year 1634, a parish priest named Father Urbain Grandier was found guilty of bewitching a group of nuns at a convent in Loudun, France, and causing them to be possessed by demons. He was condemned to be tortured and then burned alive in the public square of Saint Croix.

August 19
In ancient Rome, a wine-harvest celebration known as the Vinalia Rustica was held each year on this date. It was dedicated to the goddess Venus of the Grape Vine and also to Minerva.

On this date in the year 1692, the Reverend George Burroughs and John Willard were put to death on Salem’s infamous Gallows Hill as punishment for the crime of Witchcraft.

August 20
On this date in the year 1612, ten women and men known as the Lancashire Witches were executed on the gallows in one of England’s most famous Witch trials of the seventeenth century. Ironically, the nine-year-old girl who had supplied the court with incriminating evidence against the Witches was herself found guilty of Witchcraft twenty-two years later and executed in the second great Witch trial of Lancashire.

August 21
The Consualia, a harvest festival celebrating the storing of the new crop, was held annually on this date by the ancient Romans. Also celebrated on this date was the muscular deity Hercules, who was honored with a sacrifice at one of his shrines in the city of Rome. His annual festival was called the Heraclia.

August 22
On this date in the year 1623, the Order of the Rosy Cross (a secret sect associated with alchemy and reincarnation) was established in Paris, France. The mysterious Rosicrucian brotherhood was condemned by officials of the Church as worshipers of Satan.

This day is sacred to Nu Kwa, an ancient Chinese goddess identified with the healing goddess Kuan Yin.

August 23
The Volcanalia festival was celebrated annually on this date in ancient Rome. It was dedicated to Vulcan, the god of volcanic eruptions, and celebrated by frying fish alive to ward off accidental fires.
Each year on this date in Athens, the ancient Greeks celebrated a festival dedicated to Nemesis, the goddess who presided over the fate of all men and women.

August 24
On this date (approximately), the Sun enters the astrological sign of Virgo. Persons born under the sign of the Virgin are said to be analytical, organized, meticulous, and often prone to being perfectionists. Virgo is an earth sign and is ruled by the planet Mercury.

August 25
An annual harvest festival called the Opiconsiva was celebrated on this date in ancient Rome in honor of the fertility and success goddess Ops (Rhea). Later in the year, she was honored again at the Opalia festival on December 19 (the third day of the Saturnalia).

August 26
The periodic rebirth of the Hindu god Krishna (eighth and principal avatar of Vishnu) is celebrated by his faithful worshipers at midnight services on this date.
In the country of Finland, this is the annual Feast Day of Ilmatar (or Luonnotar), known as the Water Mother. According to mythology, she created the Earth out of chaos.

August 27
Consus, the god of the grain-store, was celebrated annually on this date by the ancient Romans. Sacrifices were made in his honor, and all beasts of burden were embellished with wreaths of flowers and given a day of rest.

The Festival of Krishna is celebrated annually on this day in the country of India. It is also a sacred day dedicated to Devaki, the Mother-Goddess.

August 28
In the country of Norway, a Pagan festival celebrating the harvest is held on this date each year.

August 29
Ancient Egyptian New Year
On this date in Nigeria, the Yoruba people celebrate the Gelede, an annual ritual of dancing and wearing of masks to drive away evil sorceresses.

In pre-Christian times, a festival called the Pardon of the Sea was celebrated annually in Britanny. It was originally dedicated to Athes, a Pagan goddess of the sea, and was later Christianized into the Feast of Saint Anne.

August 30
In Bengal, India, gruesome human sacrifices to the Indian earth-goddess Tari Pennu were made annually on this date as late as the mid-nineteenth century. After the sacrifice, a shaman would eat a bit of the victim’s flesh, and then the rest of the remains would be dismembered, burned, and scattered over a plowed field to ensure the fertility of future crops.

August 31
To purify the family spirits, Eyos (masqueraders wearing demon costumes concealed by white robes) walk through the streets of Lagos every year on this date. The Ritual Walk of the Eyos is a religious custom that dates back to ancient times.

On this date in the year 1934, Wiccan author Raymond Buckland was born in London, England. He founded the Seax-Wica tradition of Witchcraft, helped to introduce modern Wicca into the United States, and opened the first American Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

In India, a women’s festival of purification is held each year on this day. It is called the Anant Chaturdasi, and is dedicated to the ancient serpent-goddess Ananta, who symbolizes the female life force.

1 Comment

Filed under writing