Riverfest is a stew. It is a mass of people swimming through air thick with moisture that retains every puff from a cigarette, every belch from a deep fryer, and every drop of beer evaporating off the pavement. This is what you say to yourself every last Sunday night of Riverfest. This is the night when you determine never to come back again. Then your body finally forgets all remembrance of AC and adjusts to the heat. You find a spot under a cottonwood tree by the river, and as the sun sets a breeze comes up off the water. The damp nap of your neck cools and the sweat feels good. A beer feels perfect. The blues band from the tent where you queued for beer has insinuated itself so that the beat of your heart feels arrhythmic.
I made my way back to the river and found the boys close by the big cottonwood near the main street bridge. The river patrol pushed the boats up to the Broadway bridge a safe distance from the show. If they were that concerned they should have cleared the north bank as well. The fireworks went off right over our heads, shooting over the river from the bridge, and ash drifted down onto our skin so that we had to be careful of our eyes. But the show was spectacular from there.
As we left, people pressed in toward the funnel of the exit. A hog call goes up somewhere in the back. Music festivals and razorback games, that's the whole state in a nutshell. It's an eye-full of what the state looks like. The suburbs of west Little Rock will shelter you from pervasive body tats, wife beaters, and the "only overalls" look. Unless maybe you went to Robinson High. Maybe. But at games and festivals you can't miss how rural the state is. Fort Arkansas. The only state in the union, natives will tell you, that grows enough food to support itself. Poultry and cattle production in the NW. Rice fields along the alluvial plains of the Mississippi Delta. Timber and oil in the South. Natural gas in abundance. Plus cotton and soy. It adds up to rural. The capital city can mistake itself for the state. It's the razorback games and music festivals that remind me not only how wrong that view is, but what a minority west Little Rock represents. Plus you had to know ZZ Top would bring in the rednecks and then some. The crush of people was enormous. But city and country were in it together. The hog call went up.
These pictures are from Saturday night, when a late afternoon rain had thinned the evening crowds.
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