Strange Things to Do: Bumbershoot

BY JASMINE MATTSON-WOLFF, Kóot Xeech
For the UAS Whalesong
Friends, my readers, you lovely people: Why are you here in Juneau studying at UAS? I’m here for the simple fact that it was going to be a stepping stone university, and then I started learning Tlingit. Shortly after I began learning Tlingit, I enrolled in the Alaska Native Studies program. So, now I’m here for a while because it’s the most logical place to be in my field of study. Despite my story, I am aware some of you made a big decision to travel far and wide just to attend this university. Why? Well for one, this place is sort of amazing, but at the same time Alaska is also this happy balance of amazing stuff, strange stuff, and crazy weather all rolled into one snowball in the face for anybody who decides to reside here. I am here with this article to talk about an amazing yet strange (and crazy weather as well, I suppose) experience I had recently.
Over the long Labor Day weekend I traveled to Seattle with my Aunt to go to the super rad creativity festival: Bumbershoot! This was the first time I’d been out of Alaska since 2010, let alone in Seattle—I hadn’t been there since I was 8 and all I remember about that was walking the rolling hills of West Seattle’s neighborhoods. Alaska is pretty small in population and traffic compared to essentially anywhere else in the United States, being so used to living here as soon as we got off the jet at SEA-TAC it was like an over stimulus of new-everything for me. There were so many cars, people, and holy smokes—it took forever to get to our hotel and cost a small fortune with how the traffic was on the weekend! That was just mind blowing in itself, the rest of the trip was even more eye opening though.
Bumbershoot is an annual festival that happens in Seattle and features a bazillion things to do, vendors to check out, concerts to see, films to watch, and art to see. It is an amazing experience for a good price for the complete weekend price and the amount of things you can jam into a 3 day weekend. To say the least a total culture shock for myself; the “Will Call” line to get our wrist bands was over 3 city blocks long and still growing at one point! It was pouring buckets of rain while we were waiting in line too! Thunder was rumbling, lightning was striking, and some of the outdoor shows had to be put on hold due to weather. People were going up and down the Will Call line selling garbage bags for $1 it was pouring so constantly. With about six people standing shoulder to shoulder in the line there were a lot of umbrellas, garbage bag rain jackets, and people who looked like they’d just taken a shower standing in line. And, to say the least, if we lined those people up one by one, or even two by two, we could lap my hometown’s mile long boardwalk at the very least four times. It was strange and a complete “no way, that only happens in the movies” moment for me. The festival itself helped me with my insecurities with big crowds too I think. I grew up in a rural community with a population of 100, there was at no point in my trip to Seattle where I was in an area where there were anywhere less than 100 people. Total culture/life shock, folks.
There were so many options too: what to drink, eat, smoke, do, who to talk to, and the decision to make that if you ever want to see anybody again- you need to exchange information or you’re very likely to never see them again (I noticed that can be a good and bad thing depending on the person). All of these options that came with this   amazing place were very foreign to me; because in Juneau it’s quite the opposite of that and I didn’t even realize it until I went and experienced Bumbershoot in Seattle. I mean, I’d been out of state and on vacation before to places like Hawaii and California, but the busy/strange/amazing you experience in Seattle, especially at a huge festival like Bumbershoot, puts everything you’ve ever experienced up to that point into new perspective. For example, Juneau now seems incredibly quiet, small, and slow paced for me coming back from Seattle.
StrangeTickets.com is a pretty interesting site that featured a newspaper like “Strangers Guide to: Bumbershoot” that I picked up while I was there. It really showcases every aspect of the festival. There was a lot of good information in the paper, but also a lot of interesting things. Having a minor in Psychology and an interest in Social Psychology and Sociology, the ads in the paper, the writers who did the reviews on bands, artists, performers, etc., was all very captivating to me. Despite sometimes feeling like a fish out of water or an eagle with clipped wings, the festival and all of its strangeness was an experience that gave me so much more insight to what a larger society is like and a new perspective on Juneau and everything I thought about “big” up until this weekend. My advice to you all goes along with this quote that I am quite fond of, “If it’s both terrifying and amazing then you should definitely pursue it.” Take that with you as you go forth with your time here at UAS, in Southeast, Alaska, and generally in life: if it’s a little strange or out of your comfort zone don’t be quick to decline, it could be a surprisingly exciting learning experience, just like my time at Bumbershoot in Seattle!

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