Wind, Rain, Tractors, and Pig Lovers

Did I ever tell you how much I hate doing outside shows? Well, several years ago I did an outside show, that until this day, wakes me up with bad dreams.

My good magic friend Jim Holbert was contacted about performing for a festival in early October, in Hendersonville, NC. Jim was unable to do the show and was kind enough to pass it over to me. I sometimes avoid outside shows and festivals because many times you are asked to perform in less than desirable conditions. But, I had worked for this particular festival group before and they have a good reputation for taking care of details and putting on quality events. So, I felt good about agreeing to perform for this festival. On the phone, I stressed, and also put in the contract, that they were to provide a quality PA system. I also emphasized the importance of working in the covered stage area that I worked in two years ago for their 4th of July event. You know the type, an area with nice covered bleachers for the audience to sit under. Just a note, the reason I do not like to use my PA system for outside events is because you never know when a rainstorm will come up or “Miss Marion’s School of Dance” will follow you and keep the stage area tied up for 3 hours where you can’t get your system down and out.

I arrived at the park where the festival was taking place about 2 hours before performance time. I always like to get to outside shows early in order to deal with unknown problems that might occur. The first problem I encountered was the stage I was promised was being used by a 6 piece band. After about 20 minutes of searching I was able to find someone to tell me where the magic show was to take place. The place was a 15 feet by 10 feet ground level, concrete slab, located next to a fenced in baseball field. The concrete slab was covered with what looked like a funeral tent. You’ve seen the type used to cover open graves. I had a feeling this was going to be a good place to die.

Another concern was the location of portable aluminum bleachers which were located in front of the slab, on a hill, much too far away. This was not a good situation at all because the audience could not see well, participants would take too long to get to the performance slab, and the audience could be distracted by any movement or activities going on to the left or right of the performance area. I asked if they would relocate the bleachers closer to the performance area but their excuse was, they would have to get out the heavy equipment (a farm tractor) to move the bleachers.

The quality PA system that was supposed to be set up in the performance area was no where in sight. After I located the festival entertainment director, I was told the PA had been set up by mistake, at the home plate location of one of their 7 baseball fields, and I would have to move it over to my magic slab location. Just as they said, I found the PA system sitting on the ground, at home plate, on baseball field number 5. Did I mention the ground was very wet from heavy rains the night before? Wet dirt and damp sand was sticking all over everything. Because there was no mic stand, the microphone was in the dirt too (Yes, the contract stated the festival would provide a microphone stand.) In case you haven’t realized it yet. time is running out, and now here I am having to take down a PA system, relocate it, and put it back up. Now, that’s not as bad as it may sound because the PA system they provided was so very small, I was able to carried everything to the new location in only two trips. After setting the system up, tripping a faulty circuit breaker three times, and knocking wet dirt and sand off, my concerns were verified. The PA system was way too small and underpowered for an outside event. Luckily my PA was still in the van from a show the night before. Even though there was a threat of rain, I knew there was no way people would be able to hear the show with the system they had provided. So, I rushed to get everything set up because it was almost show time, and I still had tricks and props to set.

Did I mention that during this setup time the wind was blowing a steady 30 mph with gust up to 45 mph, and when the show started the wind got even stronger? It was blowing so hard I could not light the envelopes on fire for the burn bill trick. Things would kind of blow away when I wasn’t looking. Heavy stuff, not light things like silks and paper, but, heavy stuff, like tables and tents. Yes, the wind took down part of the tent I was performing under. But, because I’m a professional, and I read in a book that professionals do not let things bother them during their performance, I kept going. Even though the tent canvas was flopping and popping just to my left and over my head.

Also, at the same time the magic show started, a very loud and noisy tractor pull competition started on the other side of the baseball field. (located down wind from the magic show) Keep in mind; these were not your standard “idling around”, quite farm tractors. These were high revving, competition tractors with straight exhaust and no mufflers. “O”yes, the tractor pull announcer was using the PA system that I should have had for the magic show. It was powerful and loud – extremely loud!

And, the thing I never dreamed would happen at a magic show was: A group of animal activist, with posters, stood beside the performance area talking, protesting, and singing. They got in a “fuss fight” with the law officers and some of the people who were trying to watch the show. This was a “Farm Day Festival” and they were having all kinds of “old time” farm games for the kids, like sack races, three-legged races, and egg tossing . It was the greased pig competition that had the animal people so upset.

Why me? David Copperfield never had to put up with stuff like this. He started out at the top. I’m getting tired of working my way to the bottom.

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