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DAY 123 - Tractors, Start Your Engines!

Day 3, Barton County Fair — We all woke and went about packing up our site with a lift in our step, knowing that we would be on the road to our next gig by dinnertime. Steve was still angry about last night, and we chose not to discuss it until we had enough time and distance from the fair that we could ALL see the humor in what had happened. It didn’t take long to pack our gear, especially when the 2D tent came crashing down in a heap when we removed the one pole holding it up, so we rolled it into a ball and stuffed it into the camper. We put the folding chairs in the back of the van, pulled on our dingy white pants and dusty sneakers, and went in search of a cup of coffee.

The familiar strains of the frog races continued to blast over the loudspeaker, and the fenced pen was quiet and thankfully clear of small children when we quickly passed the clown trailer. After we grabbed our coffee, we made a slight detour to a small white tent with a red and white striped top where we would be playing an actual concert today. The tent was covered on 3 sides so as we faced the audience we could see over their heads to the lane in front of the tent. White plastic folding chairs were lined up in two sections with an aisle in the middle, and there was a small wooden stage area about 6 inches above the grass floor with a microphone and stand front and center.

Our summer program this year had a love angle to it, in that Hans and I were about to be married in September. His featured solo was Arthur Pryor’s “Thoughts of Love,” and he would loving gaze at me from across the stage as he smoothly glided over the lilting melodies. It was sweet the first few times he played it, but after 30 or so concerts, it was tough to make it feel genuine and we all put on plastic smiles for the audience. It was Craig, our tubist, who stole the first half of the show with a rousing rendition of “Yuba the Tuba” where he actually put down his tuba to sing with the band. The crowds loved it, and we were hopeful that the fair crowd would be entertained, too. I honestly can’t recall what solo I played that summer, likely Smetana’s “The Comedian.” I couldn’t compete with Jay for his style and mastery of the big band repertoire, so my only hope to get noticed was to try to dazzle with speed and lots of notes.

We arrived at the tent fully packed and ready to hit the road as soon as the concert was over. There was perhaps 25 people in the tent when we started, and it felt relaxing to get back to our normal routine and to be able to share some of our fun banter with the audience. Hans came up to the microphone to introduce his own piece by first sharing with the everyone our big news, and dedicating the piece to me. I batted my eyes a number of times, probably because I had dust in them more than wanting to woo him, and he picked up his horn. The quintet laid down the introduction, and just as Hans put his horn to his lips, the tractor line fired up. Around 30 tractors of all shapes and sizes started their engines and slowly began to roll past the tent along the lane. Most of our audience turned around to get a look, all the while Hans was continuing his solo even though we could not hear a single note he was playing. At one point the quintet ground to a halt because we were all doubled over in laughter, but Hans played on, batting his eyes at me this time and determined to get to the end despite the tractor parade. He played to the end, took a bow, and went back to his place in the group while the tractors roared on.

We took a quick break at that point to regroup and wipe the tears from our faces. We also cut a few numbers from the second half of the show, and when the final bow was over, we packed up our gear and jumped into the cars. Roy was going home, and the rest of us were headed north to Derby Line to meet Jay. I’d like to say that we roared out of there with horns blaring and rubber burning, but the best we could do was third gear and caustic smoke from the exhaust as we exited the fairgrounds and headed north, the trail of black smoke in our wake.

When we arrived, Jay was anxious to hear all about the fair, but the rest of us just wanted to hit the showers. Craig hadn’t washed for 3 days and his hair had taken on unappealing qualities of a football helmet, so he went straight for the desk to check in when we arrived. The hotel (or motel?) had a definite vibe to it, sort of a rent-by-the-hour feeling, which was confirmed by the heart-shaped bed with quarter meter attached that we found when we got to our room. But it had 4 walls, albeit covered in velvet wallpaper, and air conditioning, so I was willing to go with it for the night. There was no time to fill Jay in until much later. We still had to figure out how to cross the border to get to the concert hall, and how we would cross back since the stage was in the US and the audience in Canada. But that’s another story from BBQ Brass days!

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