So, yes, Sedalia.
The festival came off, despite three musicians having to cancel due to COVID-19. Alternates were found, programming went on, and a good time was had by all. Or all in attendance, anyway. I won’t speak for those who were stuck at home. And more than a week after returning, I remain symptom-free, nor have I heard anything suggesting widespread post-festival infections.
The music was, as always, excellent. The upgraded Pavilion venue is a rousing success. And good fellowship ran rampant—unsurprisingly, variants of the phrase “it’s great to be back after two years” were heard everywhere. Arguably, heard a bit too much. Mad props to Taslimah Bey for being the only person* to refer on stage to those we’ve lost over the past two years, whether to COVID-19 or other causes.
* Granted, with three widely separated stages going at once, it’s possible I missed someone else making note of our losses during the outdoor sets. But she’s definitely the only one to comment during the concerts when—theoretically—everyone was present in one place.
I believe attendance was down—unsurprisingly—but there did seem to be more local residents attending than in years past.
One of those unable to attend, regrettably, was Bill McNally. Since Bill is the director for the Ragtime Kids Program, I was worried about how it would work out, but he pulled it off remotely. Both of the Kids did stellar turns—highlights of the festival IMNSHO. Leo Roth’s symposium was well worth getting up for* and Tadao Tomokiyo’s performances drew rave reviews.
* Why does the festival only schedule symposia in the morning? There always seems to be at least one I’d like to attend, but can’t quite drag myself out of bed for. Time zones suck.
The presentation of the Ragtime Kids at the Friday afternoon concert—you can see the whole event on YouTube—went smoothly. Those long, skinny things we gave them are inscribed piano keys; part of their loot bags, which also included posters, books, and their honoraria.
All in all, the festival was a success. But being in Sedalia was, well, uncomfortable. The inhabitants don’t think the same way as us West Coasters. Which I knew going in, but it was still a bit of a shock to see and hear it.
Case in point: over the four days we were there, we went into six restaurants. One had removed tables to allow more space between patrons. Only one—a different one—had added outdoor seating. No locals were wearing masks. And the drugstore we passed every day had a sign out front begging people to drop in for COVID-19 vaccinations (around here, you need an appointment, but apparently even that’s too much to ask of a Sedalian.)
Nor does there seem to be any recognition of climate change. As we were driving into town, we noted a significant paucity of corn fields. When we mentioned it to locals, the response was a shrug and “It’s been too wet to plant corn this year. Now that it’s drying out, we’re planting soybeans.” No one seemed concerned about next year.
But the biggest barrier to understanding between the edges of the country and the center? Gas.
My local gas station has the lowest prices around. When I passed it on my way to the airport, the price per gallon was $6.139. That day, prices everywhere between Kansas City and Sedalia were between $4.129 and $4.159. Over the course of the festival, the price rose to $4.549. When I got home, the California price was $6.359.
Sure, there were some grumbles about the high price of gas. But not the sort of “this is outrageous” rumblings that are driving Californians—and other Coasters—to buy hybrids and electrics. Why should they worry? Filling the tank doesn’t require a bank loan.
If the EPA really wants to drive adoption of alternatively powered vehicles, they should push for legislation setting a single price of gas across the country. Never fly, of course; the oil industry would love the short-term profits, but they’re smart enough to know the long-term effects would kill off their business. A pity.