It’s winter, but I am already thinking about faire season. Ive seen postings on Facebook for the spring opener and it feels like April is just around the corner. I have been attending Barter Faires since 1998. They are nothing like they once were, but they still feel like home to me.When I started going I was 18 years old and we would pile as many people into the car as we could and head north from Spokane. My cousins and I would get so excited as we pulled into line and as soon as we handed over our cash and heard “Welcome Home!”, I knew I was going to have a good time. I didn’t party hard like so many people I know did, and still do. I just sat a lot, in the sun, looking around at all the beautiful people. Music permeated the air along with the smell of food, and a blur of color all around. My favorite times at faire were early in the mornings when most of the people were still sleeping in their tents. That’s when I could talk with the elders, and meet with some amazing people who worked in booths at the faire. Every time we would leave, it felt as though the weekend somehow was shorter than it was supposed to be, that I was being robbed of time. I know now that it was because I felt like I was at home in the woods, with all the misfits and merry-makers. It was as we drove through town to our house on the South Hill that I came to realize that I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to go to work Monday morning, or pay rent. I wanted to travel and be free, to make music and art, to write and smile. That was a beautiful summer. That was before I had children.
Once I had children, my faire experience changed. I got to know people who lived within the faire circle better. I remember one faire, early on we had started making a few friends. It was my new husband, my seven month old son, my two year old daughter, my five year old stepson, and my seven year old stepdaughter and I at Potter Chuck’s place. I was cleaning my baby’s eyes and asked a woman if she had some warm water I could use. I hadn’t had experience with conjunctivitis before then. The woman pointed me in the direction of a silver bus and told me the lady who lived there would be able to better help me. That day I was introduced not only to the herb eyebright, but also to a family who lived on the road and opened mine and my husband’s eyes to a subculture that would become our lives for the next few years. After that faire we decided to start our own food booth. We started going to the faires early, stayed late, and made friends that I will keep in my heart forever. Our children have benefited from knowing the people at the faire, and even though not every person attending the faire is family oriented, they provide an example of how one could live, for my children.
I no longer have a booth. But I think I will again one day. I still go to the faires, though there arent as many as there once were, and I of course take my children. And I still feel at home at the faire.