Belting it Out with United and the Boat People

Happy Independence Day! No better place to be than floating right under the fireworks as they seem to rain down overhead; spent much of the day searching for the perfect spot on the water. This meant several trips to the docks, where the boat taxi (a couple kids driving a small motorboat, wearing only shorts and sunglasses) takes you to the floating dock-island nearby. Or perhaps to one of many boat chains without docks. The front row had a boat-chain a dozen wide. There you can clearly hear the music from both main stages of the Blues Festival.

First! Had to check in at the Portland Radio Project for debriefing.

From somewhere (Front Porch Stage, 3-3:45pm) came a voice that was so full and rich, it grabbed me. Took some searching to find the source of this captivating voice on stage. There were probably 10 people up there, a wide range in ages, shapes and sizes, all dancing, being joyful. And this booming sound was coming from the littlest one!

Marlana VanHoose. She was accompanied by her mentor, Stephanie Anne Johnson, along with several other pairs of musical trainers and trainees. They’re part of a group called United By Music North America, known to many as “the Special Olympics of Music.”

United By Music (from their webpage) asks us to “Imagine a world in which no prejudice exists based upon race, creed, color—or intellectual capacity. That is the world that we at United by Music North America, and our growing support base, envision. In our case, we have turned to the power of music to bring people together.”

I don’t have many words to describe this performance. Maybe this means I’m a hopeless softie – it literally brought a tear to my eye.

Dabbed that tear, grabbed a fresh beer. Made my way south and exited the official Blues Fest premises. The fences don’t contain one of my favorite aspects of the festivities: Boat People.

Historically, the Boat People arrive sometimes over a month ahead of the Blues Fest, to stake out the best spots on the various docks. A woman in a yellow boat (a regular here) informed me, this year the rules have changed. They imposed a six-day limit, which meant six days before the fest commenced, it was a race of who could get their boats in first. Some people figured out ways to keep their spots (shuffling friendly/neighbor boats around, but that still meant paying new slip fees every six days). Others were replaced by noobs.

Grabbed a boat taxi with a kid named Bo at the helm. He brought me to the end of the first row of boats. Quickly disembarked. Was immediately informed that I was on a boat and therefore my shoes must come off.

“Thank you for telling me that I am now on a boat.”

Didn’t mean for that to come out as bitchy as it sounded. I thought it was hilarious.

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