Michigan ~ Day 35 ~ BLISSFEST!!! Day One

0800 found me at Mass, followed by internet cafe and a phone call to Mommy. I tried to call UC, but they were still closed. Bah. I went to Petoskey to buy a sleeping bag, then headed straight to Bliss.

Day one of Blissfest!!!! For the record, it’s a $140 value which is free to all of us working the event. Isn’t that delightful?

So what is Blissfest?? This year is the 32nd annual Blissfest, at Blissfest Farm. Yes, it’s a farm. But then there’s also Blissfest Radio. Ok, I’m confusing myself.

Blissfest is unlike any festival I’ve ever been to. Just a glance at the map blows my mind. There’s food, arts and crafts workshops for both adults and kids (I wish I could make a cigar-box guitar!!! but I’ll be at work during that workshop…), shops, three stages for music on which bands play nonstop between 0900 and 2200, a dance stage, a wine and beer tent, small booths highlighting local art and skill (by skill, an example would be the guy who repairs string instruments, or the henna artists), booths for non-profit organizations and community stuff, and so much more. The variety in music is mind-boggling; 44 bands and solo artists are/have/will be performing over the next three days, and multiple times for many of them, as there are three stages to cover in different areas. My favorite band so far has been the Rukanas. I think I might need to find them on iTunes.

What really makes this place for me, though, is the emphasis on keeping Blissfest Farm clean. Recycling stations and sorting signs are everywhere, courtesy of Emmet County recycling, and in-between bands, reminders are given to clean up after yourselves and for old-time Blissfest attendees to help out the first-timers. This is the cleanest large function I have ever gone to, and people rock at recycling. There’s a lot of recycling where there are food vendors! And food waste goes into compost buckets for the farm!! This is a festival that I am not only proud to be working, but am incredibly excited to attend in my free time as well.

Booths weren’t quite open for lunch when I got there, so I started my souvenir shopping. I started with a henna tattoo, then was discovered by Chance and Kelly, who joined my souvenir shopping. I got 10 absolutely beautiful greeting cards and a ceramic mug. At about 1300, I bought myself lunch and sat down to enjoy it while soaking up some sun and listening to the bands do their sound checks. Lunch was a ridiculously awesome-sized slab of smoked whitefish.

Before 1400, Kelly and I were at the booth with Scott, Jake, and Kenny, being briefed and helping with setup. The shift was uneventful, and rather slow for the most part, actually. Health inspection happened, which amused me slightly. And there you go, that was my day. I spent 8 hours making burritos happen. The setup cracks me up. Before Pond Hill, I thought I knew what, “Make it happen,” meant, which is something that is said a lot in this industry. And you do, because you have to, for the people who should never know what you struggled through behind the scenes. But even we’re told to “make it happen” at school, we’re still given a virtually perfect and endless supply of both food and equipment. There are still some things to be dealt with – though why anyone in their right mind would go looking for fresh marjoram at MCI, I have no idea… – but we have mixers galore, and we have perfectly even tables and shelving and all the dry spices one could possibly actually think of in one sitting, and… on and on and on.

Heck, here, we don’t even have a mixer. We’ve got a whisk attachment for the stick blender, and I don’t even know where it is half the time. The slicer’s in the shed and anyone mad enough to use it risks death every time. (Sorry, that was kind of dramatic, but that thing is wicked beyond words.) Three compartment sink? Yeah right! Sanitation buckets? Nope; recycle sour cream containers. We’ve got two big bowls and heaven knows we need five for all the sides we’re making on a daily basis. U.S. Foods doesn’t stock small gloves. The two freezers we have also serve as our prep tables, which means having to clear them every time we need to get into the freezer, and we took one of the freezers with us to Bliss [because it’s that small]. We have one perforated spoon and two red-handled spatulas. We sure could use more cambros for all the food we make out of all the harvest we have to keep up with. Shelving = wire rack shelving with shelves that have been cut short and harnessed to/from places with screws and twistie ties and rope and who knows what. We’ve been through two food processors since I got here because forget heavy-duty robocoupes. This kitchen has been thrown together on an improv-as-needed basis. It drives me crazy half the time, but it’s pretty cool when you can step back and say, hey, I made that happen without all this stuff that’s normally at my fingertips back home.

I told Scott all that, and he said he appreciated hearing it, and that my saying it made him think, yeah, it really is all kinda cool. Of course he can walk into the kitchen and say it’s the crappiest kitchen [equipment-wise] that he’s ever worked in, but nobody else here knows that, and they’re all happy with what gets put out and are proud of him and grateful to him for the amazing job he does, so why worry? He told me that since coming to Pond Hill, he’s really started emphasizing working for people you like to work for and get along with. I’m glad, because with being so green, I wonder sometimes if it’s too idealistic to want to work for people you do enjoy working for. But then I hear it from Scott, and he’s been in the industry for two decades; I think that’s license enough to hope.

Oh, Scott made it clear yesterday that… Well. “Do you have anything more casual to wear?” “What? No one’s going to be wearing a chef’s jacket?” “Well, I can tell you that no one’s going to be wearing a chef’s jacket, a skull cap, and a blue apron.” So, at Bliss, I wore my MCI t-shirt, jeans, and my skull cap, and somehow we all still passed health inspection, even though Scott was wearing [close-toed] sandals with socks. Mhm.



  1. Ninong Alvin is doing something similar with whats going on in your Blissfest.He is with the group of filipino guys
    cooking b-b-q ;making potato salad(?) serving rice,etc but before the festival day there is the prep for the
    set up ..slicing and and marinating and all other work related to the craft .setting up tent.getting ready with coolers,
    dealing with sanitation inspections..etc.He left yestreday for Peoria ,ll.where the fest is and wont come back till 9 days after.Baka iba-ibang festival places ang pupuntahan.Ewan?Amazing .

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