The festival held every year in Bushnill, Illinois
, during the week of the Fourth of July
. This year it topped 30,000 people. It is the one boost in Bushnill's economy for the whole year it seems, for when we drove into it, it appeared to be mostly farmland.
He didn't want to camp on the grounds, and until I saw what became of them during a rainstorm, I thought he had been a bit prissy. We found a campground a few miles off in McComb County where the showers were closer and cleaner, the water spigot was nearby and not much else around us. A clearish lake that we could swim in, the new sawdust smell of new docks. Two dome tents under a crown of young trees. Tarp, stick and tack down, and we were off.
The dusty road looked like frosting set out for too long that had dried up and cut your mouth when you bit down. On bare legs and feet were the spongy leaves of dried mud that had been waded through, that lent your feet misgiving as you slid, working to find the patched where they had laid straw.
Striped, circus style tents towered over the largest display of mobile dwellings I had ever seen, huddled together like small children in a cave by their mother who tries to shield them from the rain. Moats of water in all directions. The sun baking down on us like a magnifying glass of an intolerable child.
People walked like they had weathered something, they had known rain in a way we had avoided from sleeping in the car the night before. There was a softened determination in their eyes, teens mostly, trudging from tent to tent, from the bath house to the lake. Legs jutting from station wagonwindows, still and brown.
At night, the world smoothed over and people woke up and shook the dust off and enjoyed themselves, sitting in folding chairs in the soggy peat under the bare light bulbs in the tents, thankful they had come all this way.