Thursday, October 22, 2009

Along the Magical Mystery Tour

Love is a many splendored thing. That’s for sure.
We’ve recently experienced a good, thorough taste of the many ways the ultimate expression of love can be expressed, with a social calendar that’s been unusually full. We’ve called it “the Magical Mystery Tour,” because we have attended seven different weddings over the summer/fall season, with the last five occurring on consecutive weekends.
The tour has been magical, because we’ve gotten to observe the wonderful result of that thing called love, as young couples declare and celebrate a lifetime commitment to each other. It’s been a mystery, because the locations of the weddings and the receptions that followed have been, suffice it to say, mixed and fancy. A couple of the more interesting wedding sites included a state park and a pizza and billiards restaurant, while the reception spots included an upscale art/design/furniture gallery and a grand outdoor garden center. Of course, there were some traditional church weddings and hotel ballroom receptions in the mix, too, but each of them had their own unique moments that will remain in the memories of the guests attending and in the hearts of the couples who were wed.
We traveled to Indiana, Iowa and northern, eastern and southern Illinois, with mandatory sidetrips including a tour of a giant Indiana dairy farm, glimpses of beautiful lakes, historic churches and near-forgotten graveyards, and even a surprisingly sophisticated lunch in a French bakery/cafe in old downtown Dixon. But as different as each destination and celebration was, they all had certain things in common: The brides were beautiful, the grooms were nervous, and the result will certainly be a lifetime of love and happiness.
What’s more, nobody made me do the chicken dance.
Oh, yeah. And there was cake.
I actually missed out on the last wedding, which was held in Normal last Saturday. I had originally intended to go, despite the fact there was a Galva Arts Council coffeehouse scheduled for that evening. Thinking I could possibly do a little of both, I had scheduled a seasoned featured performer who would require a minimum of introduction and guidance, plus arranged for someone else to handle my duties as emcee and sound board operator. I figured I would arrive late, if at all. I felt sort of bad about missing the coffeehouse. It’s the arts council’s 20th year in existence, and last Saturday’s coffeehouse was going to celebrate the 17th anniversary of that monthly gathering of artists, musicians and other performers. I’ve been involved since both the organization and the coffeehouse series started, so I hated the thought of being MIA, despite knowing all would easily go well without me. But the flu bug bit both the performer and the substitute emcee/sound man, causing me to change my plans and stay behind to be on hand for the evening.
A good thing, too.
Unbeknownst to me, mysterious plans were in the works.
Nancy Anderson, who has served as a board member, officer, spearhead and all-around go-getter for the organization, had organized a special bit of recognition for an individual who has been around since the early days of the council and coffeehouse.
I was a little surprised when Megan didn’t object to my last-minute decision to stay behind, and even more so to see her show up midway through the evening, knowing she would have had to leave the wedding reception early to get there. I was even more startled when Nancy, who I thought was going to make an announcement about an upcoming event, called me to the stage. First, she pointed to a sign on the wall behind the stage. On it is a slogan that I, the ever-cynical marketing maven, coined many years ago regarding the coffeehouse:
“It’s free and you get a cookie.”
You see, I never thought the coffeehouse would gain enough support, both in terms of performers and audience members, to be a success. And indeed, in the early years, there were evenings where it was pretty much me and a plate of cookies. But the years have proved me wrong. Oh, the performers and crowds still come and go. But mostly, they come. They come to enjoy an evening spent together, sharing the simple talents we all possess in an environment free of most distractions other than the trains that roar past the building from time to time.
You’ve probably guessed by now that I was the person who was going to be recognized. 17 years is a long time, so I guess longevity has its perks. But I’ve been just an itty-bitty part of the success of the coffeehouse Saturdays. Nonetheless, I received a wonderful original portrait by Galva artist Ron Craig that, happily, makes me look entirely more dashing and handsome that I really am. And Nancy baked an astonishing, hand-decorated cake, complete with my name and a guitar,
So I was sorry to miss the last lovely stop on The Magical Mystery Tour.
But I was glad to be in a place where I will always belong, with people I truly love, enjoy and appreciate.
Oh yeah. And there was cake.

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