You turn around for a moment, and half a week blows by. I’d been meaning to write about Appleton before the overwhelm of Oshkosh carried me away.
It’s been over nine years since I last made it to Appleton, since I last visited one of my oldest and dearest friends for a birthday musicmaking. If you know anything about me, you know I’m a sucker for gathering around a living room or attic or heck, hallway with instruments on laps and print outs of songs that at least one person present actually knows. The old precept of “Badly, but with enthusiasm” holding sway.
Back then, Ellen’s parents, and sister Beth (who was the one who got me into the US Antarctic Program in the first place) had come out for her birthday, which was a glorious and jangly affair. Of course I promised I’d be back soon.
Fast forward to a very different world, nine years later (which I contend can still count as “soon.” As long as you’re a geologist.) Beth now lives a few blocks away in her own staggeringly adorable house, and their parents live a couple of miles north, making it much easier for Clan Watson to get together.
We gathered. We talked and walked and caught up and I think we could have kept going for days of catching up if all of us hadn’t needed to beg off for a nap after exhausting ourselves after Art in the Park.
You see, we (by which I mean Ellen) cleverly timed our visit to overlap with Appleton’s annual “Art in the Park” thing, a two-day art, food, music and thunderstorm extravaganza laid out half a block from her house. The thunderstorm wasn’t part of the planned activity, but this is Wisconsin in July, so it was gonna come, invited or not. But aside from the evening downpour, there were amazing kinetic sculptures, broad wall-spanning watercolor landscapes and tiny ones painted on paint chips, esoteric woven baskets, pottery, glass, donuts, gyros and of course (remember: Wisconsin) cheese curds served up on almost every corner in configurations a non-mid-westerner would be hard pressed to describe.
And there was music inside, too! Ellen and Tad have assembled an awesome cadre of musical friends who gather every couple of weeks to joyfully rock out on everything from X and Fleshtones to Olivia Newton John. I kid you not. They timed things so that I got to sit in on Monday. Suffice it to say that music was made and a hecka good time was had by all. (Check out their channel of unabashedly enthusiastic and tuneful covers of classics by bands that, I promise, you have never heard of.)
But I’m already into Day 3 of Oshkosh, the crush and noise and intensity of seeing all my far-flung aviation friends amid what I think is the largest aviation gathering in the world – warbirds and homebuilts, hundred year old antiques breaking ground and the latest 21st century fighters tearing holes in the sky. Skywriters, skydivers, jet biplanes and stratospheric gliders. So much to see, so many people to catch up with. So many gadgets to resist wanting to buy.
I’ll keep you posted.
I am praying I will make it to Oshkosh in 2024 or 2025… Hosting a display of a new/old Amphibian slated to reenter the commercial market. Wish me luck, and if it happens we’ll have to visit for a spell.
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