Due to prior engagements I was only able to see half of the performances that day, but what I saw was inspiring none-the-less.
The first act I saw was a group of Ugandan drummers and dancers. One of their dances was exceptionally lively, and I was told by one of the performers that it was designed to mimic the sound of the cows dancing in the field.
Next came some belly dancers. I'm pretty sure this was a local belly dancing class that was asked to perform because of the obvious exotic nature of the art, although not necessarily the members themselves.
The definite highlight of the show though, was the Vancouver-based capeoira group, Ache Brasil. These guys were professional and it showed. I don't know how we got them to come up to Hillbilly Hell, Alberta, but I'm glad we did. They had colourful costumes, traditional instruments galore, and some of the most incredible tumbling and dancing you've likely not seen before.
While the performers were great, and I once again applaud the city for putting the festival on, the turnout was nothing short of dismal. In a city of about 45, 000 people (maybe less after everyone left following the recession), you'd think you could get more than the roughly 200 people who dotted the hillside in the park to watch the dancing and singing. However, you'd be wrong.
I can't fault the people who showed up, since they were there, and I'm not really faulting those who didn't show up, because they probably did not know about it. The blame lies squarely with the local media. I know they knew about it, because I saw multiple photographers from the paper there taking pictures. However, when I checked the paper that afternoon, after the show, though, I found what I suspected: no advertising (update: I have since found that there was an article, read here for more information).
I guess I can't say there was no advertising. There was a tiny side-bar mention of the festival burried in one of the pull-out sections of the paper. This might be enough for the local Junior A hockey team's next game, since people are going to be searching for the game times anyway. But when you are bringing in a top-notch performing arts group like Ache Brasil, why would you not at least write up an article on the event sometime during the preceding week? It is baffling how badly the ball was dropped this time, and this for a city where the ball has been dropped so many times I've taken to counting the number of times it has been held onto instead.
But what of the people who were there? Surely they would appreciate what a great event they were witnessing, right? Wrong. In my generous estimate, only 20% of the people there could be said to have been actively participating, and that is a very generous estimate. On numerous occasions the ungrateful cretins were asked to move forward and participate more, and by more than one group, but unsurprisingly they chose to sit put on their asses instead.
When I expressed concern, even anger over the situation, I was told not to worry about it. It might be tempting to let it go, but what's the point? What else do I have to do? And more importantly, WWHHD?
"With the joy of responsibility comes the burden of obligation," is what Hank Hill would say, not to mention "with great power comes great responsibility" (Stan Lee, with a nod to FDR and Luke). With the power to recognize evil, I have a responsibility to be angry about it, and with the responsibility to be angry about it, I have the obligation to turn into the Incredible Hulk. DFM Angry! DFM SMASH!!!
In all seriousness though, it was a pretty low moment for a city I didn't think could sink any lower. Here we have a wonderful chance to show the world that we aren't just a bunch of selfish rednecks, and what do we do? We show up to a free event and refuse to participate. Smooth. We had a duty to be good neighbours and welcome these visitors, and we failed. Hank Hill did not keep novelty mail boxes out of his neighbourhood for all these years just to see this happen; he must be rolling in his cancellation grave.
This unbearably grey cloud did have one slim silver lining though. The behaviour of my fellow city folk was so reprehensible that it has eliminated any doubt in my mind that I will ever come back to live in this soul stealing nightmare ever again. Nope, instead this is the beginning of the future for DFM. From here on DFM will be a nomad, a man without a home, attempting to live in every province and territory in Canada (where he will find a home, thereby contradicting his earlier statement).
Keep tuned to to The Kindergarten Cop over the next 10 to 75 years to hear how it goes. The journey starts in three weeks when I head back to Seoul, then hopefully to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Pass me the Maynards Wine Gums, I'm going on an extended road trip, Woo-hoo!