No better place to people watch than a music festival

Last week I found myself in town facing a two and a half hour wait until my 3 p.m. medical appointment. How best to fill the time? Others might have driven home, then returned. Not me. Neither are coffee shops my thing; in my tote bag I carried a bottle of water, a banana, and a Mars bar. Breakfast had been at 8:30 that morning.

Weather was cool and drizzly. Not ideal to stroll around George Little Park or sit on a picnic bench to snack on fruit.

By chance my dental technician mentioned the Pacific Northwest Music Festival was happening in the church across the street. Having often volunteered for the event, she spoke approvingly of the free entertainment the participants offered.

Though this is the Festival’s 53rd year, if memory serves I had never attended.The chance to sit comfortably out of the rain and people watch — my favourite activity — was too enticing to pass up.

The lobby of the venue was quiet as a church – this was, after all, a church . A volunteer held open the door for me to the performance area. A smattering of audience occupied random seats throughout the room, while a young man seated at a table just below the stage next to a lady who turned out to be the activity manager, made notes on a thin stack of papers.

I slipped into the empty last row.

Sprinkled in with a parent or two were a few grandparents, one of them knitting a toque. A quiet but wriggling knot of ten-year-olds filled several forward rows, shepherded by a benevolent but clearly respected teacher.

Lacking any printed program I had no idea which school these students attended, their names or their teachers. People watching is most fun when all are anonymous.

It was obvious the young man was the adjudicator; he offered performance tips before awarding first and second prizes for some category of speech arts.

During a break the grandmother seated in front of me was informed the next event would begin at 2:45; she would have ample time to make her appointment later.

Low conversations broke out here and there: kids flitted from teacher to family; one lad styled his mother’s long tresses with his fingers; others read over the adjudicator’s suggestions for improvement. The adjudicator, who had been on duty since early forenoon, stretched out across several seats, his big shoes on the pink fabric upholstery. A protocol lapse in the view of any upholsterer.

I wouldn’t make it home until at least 4 p.m. I was already hungry.

With everyone occupied and oblivious to me, I gulped the banana and had taken two bites of a Mars bar when the activity manager approached to murmur, “No food or drink in the church.”

I had suspected as much, though more than one adult including the activity manager had sipped from a bottle of water in plain view.

Next up was a Bible selection. Once adjudicated and prizes awarded, the room sprang to life as everyone hurried to leave.

Teachers have a knack for organization. “Everyone got your jacket on? Zipped? Your lunches? Your Bibles? Your umbrellas?”

With 30 minutes to go, I finished my Mars bar walking to the doctor’s office though one grandmother had kindly offered me a ride.

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