Maldon Folk Festival

Maldon Folk Festival.

“They don’t have mud wrestling Mary. I told you that in the car. You’re thinking of a different festival.”

There is an excited new-day tension amongst the brekkie crowd outside the Maldon Cafe as the first wave of sea shanty’s rolls across the street. I feel embarrassed. We’ve failed. We don’t have mud wrestling.

I have a natural inclination to write about migrating birds, the bush, farming or all three, but sometimes I must face the fact that Maldon is home to mini migrations of a human sort; people – usually from the south – arriving in large numbers to settle here for a day or two to explore our funny little town and sample our festivities and events. Instead of birdcalls, I listen and marvel at the snippets of conversation these visitors provide as they walk our streets and eat our fare.

This year we’ve seen the little cars racing up the mountain; and earlier there were people from Spain and Sweden and who knows where else, climbing impossible rock faces on motorcycles at the back of Mt Tarrangower; the “I remember grandma having one of those,” folk, at the Antique fair; and throughout the year, weekend cavalcades of old cars pull up here for a pie or sandwich and bus loads of older folk appear from nowhere in search of tea and scones.

And we all know the cacophony of the unnerving sound that accompanies the never-ending biker brigades as they arrive, stare at one another’s bikes then depart. “My mum gave it to me for my birthday.” says the giant with the schoolboy face and high-pitched voice and dressed in a complete bullock hide’s worth of leather with goggles on his forehead in place of horns, to a tiny admiring man whose deep baritone enquiry about the four-pipe exhaust draws other leather men to gaze enviously at his amazing machine.

Different things turn people on. Old shops and verandah posts and mine shafts might be the backdrop, but our migrating visitors are doing more than looking for the dates on buildings. A place you can observe some of them up close is at the supermarket. We locals might take it for granted, but to a visitor fresh from their weekly shop at a Westfield Coles or Woolies, our IGA is “so cute” it almost challenges the historic train ride or a visit to Carmen’s Tunnel. Walk around in there during a migrant event and listen and look at the faces. Bliss! They’ve never been in a supermarket like this. “Cute” is a common description.

One begins to realize that many of these visitors are supermarket aficionados. They know their stuff. They know when Dick Smith’s peanut butter is getting shafted and put too high or too low on the shelves or just isn’t there. And they know that bottles of Bushell’s coffee and chicory essence hint at an older clientele. “So cute!”

Then there are those souls with the ‘knowledge’, knowing where things should or should not be. Yes, it’s true. There are people whose view of the world is formed in part by the layout of their favourite supermarket. Thus I’ve heard: “My god. Their bin-liners are way over here next to the spaghetti,” and answered by a voice from the next aisle. “Amazing! I suppose the locals must know where to find them.”

This reminds me of the time I met a young woman in Camberwell who, on discovering that I lived in Maldon said, “We love a weekend in Maldon in the middle of winter.” When I enquired why, she said the she and her husband book their usual cottage with a fireplace and lots of firewood. When I politely asked what they did there, she replied: “relax, read and eat and drink wine. Oh, and I take the laptop to bed and order our Coles groceries on-line for delivery when we get home.” In hindsight, I feel sorry for her. She will never experience the real-world joy of looking for bin-liners. Further questioning uncovered the fact that they brought everything with them and never went off the property until they left two days later.

I’m still wrestling with our failure to provide mud wrestling. If we drained the South German dam or maybe the pond in Pond Drive, we would have mud aplenty. There is also that underground spring that pops up just inside the fence of Tarrangower Village near the Kangaroo Hotel. Our local favourite earth moving family could bring in a dozer and do donuts over it and create an instant mud venue, and the CFA could provide extra water from over the back fence, hosing off the contestants as they finish. But I should do some research first. What is mud wrestling anyway? Perhaps a wet ‘budgie-smugglers’ competition would be easier. But what is that? How does that work? These new ideas require so much research. Like where do we get the budgies?

I know for sure that this year, everyone enjoyed the festival. How do I know? I heard them telling one another in the street. Congratulations to the Festival Committee and the people of Maldon.

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