Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A whole lotta hot air

I shudda known better.

I hate crowds. I hate standing in line. I hate poorly executed music played too loud. I hate paying too much for too little.

So what was I doing at the Balloon Festival at Long Branch this Sunday? In the past we have wisely found a spot somewhere in the county (usually on our way to or from something else, to be honest) because the balloons go up in the air and you don’t need to pay $10 a person to see it.

I figured, since there were wine tastings featured also, the “family groups” would be weeded out and it would be, like other wine festivals in the area, low key. People around here are pretty well-behaved at wine festivals by not treating it as a fraternity kegger. (picture me hitting my palm to my head.)

No, it wasn’t Animal House. But it was far from low key. And apparently the venue had thought to provide for all age groups because there was a merry-go-round and a kids’ folk singer competing with the sad attempt a blue and jazz by a live band and the 70s retro music blasting from the Johnsonville-phallus-on-wheels.

The ten dollars a person was just to watch the balloons. The wine tasting – which is, to me, advertising for the vineyards – cost an additional $5 per person to buy a glass to taste. Still, in terms of wine festivals this is not outlandish and, advertising aside, you just accept that it is what it is. But for $15 I want to do more than stand in line for 20 minutes to taste some of the most mediocre wines in this state.

Believe it or not, Virginia does produce some lovely wines. Some of them were even represented at Long Branch. But not a whole lot of them. In fact, the number of vineyards overall was pitiful and probably the reason why every stall resembled half-price day at Filene’s Basement.

We Linguinis are normally a pretty flexible bunch, but this certainly snapped our sensibilities. Dark Garden refused to play the game and left, leaving me, Dirtman and John Boy to tough it out. The goal, we decided, became to buy a bottle of wine to drink while we watched the balloons go up without having to pay the $5 tasting fee (seems you had to have a wrist band and a glass to taste, thereby forcing you to buy their commemorative glass).

But we were not daunted. So we decided to buy soda elsewhere ($2) and use those cups to drink our wine. Not exactly the aesthetic method of enjoying wine but the lines to buy the good wine were another half-hour wait and, frankly, what we ended up drinking was perfectly at home in our foam cups…and other drinking vessels. And – hey – we saved $9 overall. So there.

I suppose it was interesting to watch the balloons being prepared for flight. A bit difficult for the crowds, particularly my “favorite” crowd element: the family that thinks this whole festival is being stage just for them. There were a lot of them there, stepping on each other (and us), getting in the way of each other’s photographs (“Could you 150 people move out of the way of the entire hot air balloon so I can get a picture of Finster pointing as it fills with air?”).

It occurred to me that this is perhaps the only time you can get people to pay to watch people with too much money indulge in their hobby.

So, having seen up close a few of the balloons float away, we had to agree Dark Garden had chosen the best solution.

I got home and watched From Here to Eternity on TCM and knitted. It was the best part of the day.


Leslie Shelor said...

Now, see? You could have been at SAFF having a blast with me! We had GOOD wine.

Sisiggy said...

Don't rub it in!

Dark Garden said...

I have STAFF under my arms.

Candy said...

Good post.