A little ‘crazy’ is the kind of sanity we need right now

Free Souls bikers enjoy the Grand Floral Parade with families and tourists/Ned Hickson

By Ned Hickson Editor/Siuslaw News

After returning to Florence in 1996, I spent the next 20 years living in Old Town across from the Port of Siuslaw boardwalk. We grew accustomed to the arrival of the Davis Carnival during the annual Rhododendron Festival and living so close that we could practically high-five riders on the Tilt-o-Whirl without leaving the couch.

The banging together of carnival rides late Wednesday night signaled the beginning of four days of craziness that transforms our quiet community of about 8,000 into a beautiful example of controlled chaos shared by upwards of 20,000 diverse visitors.

For those four days I always marvel at how our community transforms into an unlikely concoction of flower enthusiasts, bikers and tourists, all co-mingling over beers, art, carnival rides, fast cars, bacon-wrapped hot dogs and cotton candy.  Continue reading

Things I wish I didn’t overhear at the carnival

imageAs I’ve mentioned, during our town’s annual spring Rhododendron Festival, the carnival sets up across the street from our home.

Literally.

If it were any closer, I could high-five everyone on the tilt-a-whirl without leaving the couch.  So each night after work, I walk two blocks home and pass through the carnival, enjoying the fact that the sound of screaming teenagers — for once — isn’t coming from any of mine. I take time to watch the interactions of people, the motion of the rides, the flashing lights, and take in the carnival-specific aroma of frying corn dogs and sweet cotton candy mixed with freshly spewed vomit from the squirrel cages.

Being a writer, this is a target-rich environment of atmosphere, character and dialogue that I store in my memory to either draw from later or, as in the case of what I’m about to share with you, eventually discuss with my psychiatrist or lawyer.

For example…  Continue reading

Someone wickedly wonderful this way came — and left much too soon

(Each May, as I welcome the special piece of Americana that is our town’s annual Rhododendron Festival, it also reminds me of saying goodbye to a best friend. As a tribute to him and the impact our friendship had — and continues to have — on my life, I post this every year when I see the first pieces of the Ferris wheel come together…)

This view from our office's back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

This view from our office’s back door for five days each year is always bittersweet.

As I walked to work this morning, the sun was still resting below distant Badger Mountain. The streets were quiet and the air was still as I made my way along the sidewalk, past the carnival that claims the visitors parking lot across from our home each year. Last night it was alive with the sounds of oiled metal grinding behind colorful facades — rocket ships, dragons and race cars — as carnival-goers screamed and laughed in rhythmic cycles throughout the evening.

But this morning, the neon lights are out. The colorful merry-go-round is draped in blue tarps. There are no screams or laughter. Only the occasional murmur of snoring from inside the narrow carnie sleeping quarters stacked side by side on tractor trailer beds. I cut through the carnival, stepping over a braid of thick electrical cables that eventually spread like veins through the park, bringing life to thrill rides, snack shacks and carnival barker microphones.

Each year, I make this walk to work through the Davis Carnival.

And each year, I think of my friend — and the memory of a warm, terrible spring evening that occurred this same night more than a decade ago… Continue reading

I swear I had nothing to do with this

Does this look like the face of a guilty person?

Does this look like the face of a guilty person?

We all make mistakes:

Drying boxer briefs in the microwave

Bathing your cat.

Kanye West.

But when it happens in a newspaper, it’s like taking that same mistake and repeating it, say… 15,000 times… then handing it out to people to make sure they saw it. Such was the case in our latest newspaper issue, which included a full-paged ad promoting the biggest event our small town hosts each year — and has been for the last 109 years: The Florence Rhododendron Festival. Our small town swells (it’s a swell town) from 8,500 to 18,000 for four days each May, culminating with the West Coast’s second-largest floral parade next to the Rose Parade. It also brings about 300 bikers to town.

No one knows why.  Continue reading