Archive for the ‘festivals’ Category

Bean, beans, the musical fruit…

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

When I think of Pinson, of course I think of beans. What, you don’t? Didn’t you know Pinson is home of the Alabama Butterbean Festival? This year’s festival was a pretty big deal. That’s because they made a prety big pot of beans. In fact, it was a world record pot of beans.

musical fruit....

When I say it’s a world record pot of beans, I’m not kidding. A 1,010 gallon pot of beans even got the attention of the fine folks at Guinness. They even sent a lovely young lass down form New York to present certification of the big feat. (And yeah, Phil’s right. 1,010.65 gallons.)

Guinness agrees!

Of course, a butterbean festival wouldn’t be complete without a mascot (Bucky, of course) and a butterbean queen.


Of course, the centerpiece IS the beans-which oddly were called baked beans. Here, Phil shows they are definitely NOT baked.

Stirrin' the pot...

Our lovely young lass from Guinness was a good sport, and sampled the product. She said they were pretty good…though she does look a little scared.

scared of a few little beans???

Small town festivals will always prove one thing. Even if you think a top hat will make people think you’re Slash (regardless of the fact you’re playing a sax), you’re still just wearing a top hat while you play in a cover band.

Hep, but not hep enough.

I went to the fest because I’m rather easily amused. I’m happy to say it was amusing- but also an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday morning. (But I regret to say I did not get to catch the greased pig competition.)

We had a nice city, and you had to go make it weird!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Bonus points to my friends who know the reference. Some strange folks hit town this weekend- and I mean strange in a good way. Imagicon started Friday, and I finally managed to drop by today. Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed- but that is MY fault. I went on a Sunday, the last day, so it wasn’t at it’s peak. Also, I was too cheap to actually go in, so I hung out in the lobby of the building, where there weren’t so many people. I didn’t see too much, but there were a few things worth a mention.

First, I found out what’s inside stormtrooper armor! Apparently, it’s ninjas.

Rich, creamy ninja filling!

The star Wars crew are apparently a silly bunch. There was a chamber that is apparently to replicate the feeling of a tornado (or at least, I assumed that’s what it was based on some readouts inside, and the fact it did kick up LOTS of wind…but it was totally unlabeled), and someone thought it might be fun to lock a hapless stormtrooper inside.

Swirling stormtrooper

Then, it was Leia’s turn. She started doing the whole Marilyn Monroe bit, but wound up just showing some leg to the adoring masses.

Leia's leg.

I popped off down the hall a bit, and ran into this guy. I am not into steampunk at all. but I have to admit, his powered wheelchair is pretty cool.

OK, steampunk might actually be cool.

Sci-fi conventions are not just made up of 34 year old guys who live in their mother’s basement. Some of the guys are a little older. Not sure if his mom is still around, though…

That basement floor is really bad for his back...

Coming back to the Star Wars gang, I found my favourite shot of the day. At least you won’t see this guy begging on a street corner…

You won't see him by the side of the interstate...

Next year, I might actually go into Imagicon. Based on the gang I found int he lobby, it looks like a fun bunch. It may not be the biggest or the baddest sci-fi convention, but it’s Birmingham’s sci-fi convention, and that’s a big reason why I like it.

Lots O’ Ham Ahead….

Friday, May 21st, 2010

If you’re in the greater Birmingham megalopolis this weekend, there’s lots on tap. First, the events that started today, and continue all weekend:

      Imagicon is on at The McWane Center, Old Car Heaven, and a few other locations. It’s a sci-fi and fantasy con featuring performances, parties, and workshops on a variety of things ranging from anime to costuming to…..hard science! I hope to drop by to gawk at the guys dressed as Lord Vader, who are passing out form the high heat we’re expecting this weekend.

That’s hardly everything this weekend, though….

      Saturday night after barber I hope to stop by to see the Tragic City Rollers take on the Columbia Quad Squad. It’s been a while since I went to a roller derby bout, and hopefully, this time I won’t arrive an hour late like I did last time.

So…if you’re not in the ‘Ham this weekend, you should be!

The Lessons of Do Dah Day.

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Sorry these pics are a bit late. It’s been a busy week. Last Saturday, my dear friend Kate (whom I hadn’t seen in far too long) came into town, and we went to one of the silliest-named fests ever, Do Dah Day. It’s actually a very good fest, as it raises money for The Greater Birmingham Humane Society. Unfortunately, there were some things going on that weren’t entirely humane to the dogs or the humans. Let’s get started with the nine lessons of Do Dah Day.

First, a human being makes excellent furniture for a large dog. Don’t try to fight it. The dog will win.

Human Furniture

Second, dogs have two expressions – overwhelming joy, and nothing at all. Even with an arm in the way, I think you can guess which one this is.

Happy happy joy joy!

Third, you should never dress your dog like a hot dog. Even they know it’s not clever at all.

Hot more ways than one.

Fourth, you should also never dress your dog like a hooker. It was really disturbing that there were two dogs in the same outfit. This is horribly humiliating for them on at least two levels.

Hooker hound.

Fifth, don’t show off canine cremation urns when the bowsers are about. They get really creeped out by it….

Canine cremation urn.

Sixth, it’s for drinking, not for swimming.

Drink or swim...

Seventh, never get the same hairdo as your dog – especially if it looks better on the dog.

Dog 'do...

Eighth, one-eyed chihuahuas can be every bit as creepy as two-eyed chihuahuas.

The curse of the one-eyed chihuahua...

And finally, dog spit is good for the skin. Just let ‘em at it.

Spittle spa.

If you’re ever in town on Do Dah Day, definitely stop by. The music is good, the people are good, and of course the dogs are good. In fact, they’re some of my favourite people.

The wearin’ of the green…or the black…or the red & blue…

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

The magic city finally got around to its St. Patrick’s day celebration on Saturday. Some folks might say the city was late, but I look at it a little bit differently. The city is trying to keep in the current tradition as it is in Ireland- in which you have a week of activities, including parades (more on that in a very short moment). Also, you can’t really blame organizers for waiting until the weekend. There probably wouldn’t be too much of a crowd mid-day on a weekday.

When I got to the parade, the first thing I saw was rather odd. I’m still not quite sure what Darth Vader and a bunch of Ghostbusters have to do with St. Paddy’s, but it was amusing to watch.

Vader and the gang pass on pizza...

My amusement faded quickly, when the metal cover in the following picture tossed me on my bum on the sidewalk. (Here, it’s still sitting at a cocky angle, celebrating its victory over me.) I’m fine, but my SLR and both lenses got scraped up. Darth Vader threw me an evil look, but that’s the only kind of look he has.

Evil!  Impolite and evil!

Oh yeah….I’m also not sure what Spiderman has to do with St. Patrick. :)

St. Spidey....

The Tragic City Rollers don’t really have much to do with St. Patrick’s day either…but I’m not going to argue too much on this one. :)

GOing green is kinda cute....

OK, so on to the more traditional stuff. You’ve gotta have pipers…

St. Paddy's pipers...

…and fiddlers…

Fiddlin' around...

…and dancers…

What goes up....

…and parrots. Wait. Parrots? Well, it is green- and that seems to be the only requirement.

St. Patrick was a parrot....

It was a fun time, with a little oddity. That’s just the way I like it.

It’s not quite Times Square…

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

…but then, today’s celebration was for Chinese new year. I managed to get to Boutwell Auditorium a little late, but still managed to catch unicycles, basketballs, girls doing Indian dance (not Chinese…Indian…) T’ai Chi, people holding reptiles, and maksed characters dancing to bad karaoke…..oh, and some actual Chinese dancing. :) Here are a few pics:



Indian dance

T'ai Chi

people with reptiles

costumed characters dancing to bad karaoke

Chinese dance

The Ham’s off. Today, we have chicken.

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Actually, yesterday’s ‘Ham was chicken, and I’m just a little late posting it. I’d gotten a ticket to the Kick’n Chick’n Wing Fest- which was a cook-off to benefit Magic Moments, a group that helps grant wishes to terminally ill children- but I got there very late in the fest. This is NOT advisable when the fest involves good eats. A few restaurants were starting to run out of wings when I arrived- including Demetri’s BBQ, which had just won the People’s Choice award.

Demetri's wins People's Choice

I didn’t get to sample the wings from Demetri’s, but I did get to try the awesome guava and habanero hot wings from another big winner:

Sweet Bones wins Best All Around

On the other end of the sensory spectrum, my next-block-over neighbor, Mellow Mushroom, won the Sweetest Thang award, and the Shake Your Tailfeather award, for best booth decoration. (I’m just happy noone made any Tailhook jokes, especially considering the lovely lasses running said booth.) The winning wings are the ones in the foreground of the shot. Oddly, the only ones in the picture I did not try. I guess it gives me yet another reason to make the long one block walk to the ‘Shroom.

Mellow Mushroom wings

Don’t ask what this is all about. I know, but it’s more fun if I don’t tell you.

Feed your goat

Now that you know some of the best wing spots in town (locals, please comment with your faves!), let’s move on to some of the other things at the fest. First, you’ll see a little blue bag flying through the air at the top of the next photo. That’s right- it sounds Freudian but isn’t- the family that cornholes together stays together.

The family that cornholes together stays together.

And what southern fest would be complete without a band playing bad covers of classic rock & blues? OK, that was harsh. They actually are good musicians, even if I don’t care for their playlist.

Covers on a trailer...

“Keep practicing, kid…someday you can also be a creepy bass player in a cover band….”

Creepy bass player.  OK, he wasn't that creepy.

I left after about 30 minutes, as the event was wrapping up. On the way out, I found my stalkers. These Monster folks have their truck everywhere I go- even if it’s just late night in the nearly empty parking lot of my grocery store. This time, they handed me a free can of the stuff. Could come in handy in a couple of weeks, when I get the 3am shift.

My stalkers

Even though I was only there for about 30 minutes, I enjoyed the fest. I was happy to make some new friends, see some old ones, and also to have yet another body on-site for an event to support a group doing some very good work.

The good, the bad, and the just plain disturbing.

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

It was a good weekend in Birmingham. I spent most of it downtown, attending the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. I don’t tend to miss this one, as I have a passion for short films- and the feature length films I can see at the times when there isn’t a block of shorts playing.

When I got on site, the sign for the Carver Theater reminded of the added bonus: Sidewalk goes on at the same time as the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival.

Carver Theater

I didn’t have time right away to enjoy the jazz fest, as I spent the morning running between blocks of short films that were too close together on the clock, and too far away on the map. I started with some excellent documentary shorts done by UAB students, then headed over for two blocks of shorts. The fun part was when I rushed over to see Troll 2, which was the subject of opening night documentary Best Worst Movie. Troll 2, made in 1986, is a display of some of the worst writing, acting, costumes, and effects I have ever seen on the big screen, and it was fabulous! It’s not a sequel to Troll, and it contains no trolls. However, it does teach us three important things:

  • Softballs are very good communication devices
  • Goblins are vegetarians
  • People have a very hard time seeing that ‘Nilbog’ is goblin spelled backwards, even if they’re in a family constantly troubled by a child telling horror stories of them
  • Midgets clad in sackcloth are supposed to be terrifying, but are actually very funny
  • Corn on the cob can be sexy and deadly
  • A double-decker baloney sandwich can be an effective life-saving device

It was rather horrible, but in a really good way.

After Troll 2, I got a chance to grab a BBQ sandwich at one of the 4th Avenue businesses (something I don’t do enough), and took in a little bit of the jazz fest.


I like this fest a good bit, as it takes place in a predominantly black neighborhood, but having Sidewalk on at the same time brings in people of many ethnicities. It’s a good reminder that a city known for being the site of sometimes violent racial strife has mostly moved forward, and people of all types can come together and enjoy themselves side-by-side.

I returned to the fest today for more films, and was treated to a rather more relaxed pace than the one I had Saturday. When I got to my first block of films, I got another nice reminder- this time about the number of my friends who volunteer for Sidewalk. Here, my friend Thomas uses a scanner to get attendance numbers for a block of local short films.


Just after the block of shorts, I had a really special moment. World-famous animator Bill Plympton was on hand for a screening of his new feature, Idiots And Angels. I got a chance to chat with him about film for a while, and we even exchanged a few film tips before he signed my copy of his compilation Dog Days.


Sadly, I only got to see about half of Idiots And Angels before I had to run to my next block of shorts. The block was followed by one of the most disturbing films I’d ever seen, Taxidermia. It was full of things like a pig slaughter, graphic sex, competitive eating, men with tails, human embryos encased in plastic, and self-taxidermy. Yes, self-taxidermy. You jsut have to see it. I’ll offer the warning given by the guy who introduced it: “Taxedermia- in case there are any concerns- is just fucked up”.

The fest ended for me with a screening of Alabama Moon, a family-friendly tale of a young boy making his way into civilization after living in the woods with his reclusive father most of his life. It’s set in central Alabama, and was a decent film- though I was amused at their representation of Tuscaloosa as a slice of small-town south, complete with early 20th century courthouse. If you’ve been to Tuscaloosa, you’ll understand. :)

Sidewalk to me ranks among the best the city has to offer. It’s a good chance to highlight some of the talent the region has to offer, and brings in some fabulous national and international films. If you’re a film fan at all, be sure to get to the Magic City for next year’s fest.

Nothing says ‘Opa!’ like eating lunch in a parking deck.

Friday, September 25th, 2009

A non-traditional lunch is a big tradition in Birmingham. Every year, thousands of people gather in the parking deck of a downtown church for a massive Greek fest that centers on the food.

Greek food in a parking deck!

A parking deck isn’t the most inviting atmosphere for lunch, but people keep coming back for the good eats. It was load and hot, but the company was good- and somewhere in the background, we could actually hear a Greek band (Well, actually some guys with a drum machine and a few bouzoukis) playing Miserlou.

The assembly line.

The folks who put on the festival have a lot of practice at feeding thousands in a place designed more for storing cars than being a dining hall. Over nearly four decades, they’ve developed a great assembly line technique for keeping folks from standing in line.

I enjoyed my short stay in the parking deck- but I doubt I return during the rest of the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are reserved for one of my true loves- the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. This year will be a challenging one- as I love short films, and the blocks of shorts are way too close together timewise- and way too far apart geographically.

Oktoberfest returns to the Tragic City!

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

It’s been a few years since Birmingham had a good Oktoberfest. I remember fondly the events hosted by the FDSK, which focused quite a bit on German music and food. (They were also rife with very nice old German ladies trying to get me to join the FDSK.) This time around, beer took the front seat. You’d expect no less from a festival sponsored by Free The Hops. Rain was a bit of a downer in the first session (this fest was structured like a brew fest, in two sessions), but it was still great fun.

Jon tends to Joseph's shoe needs.

I got my first amusement before the fest even opened. I was met by my friend Joseph, who showed up in rented lederhosen one size too small. He couldn’t bend over to tie his shoes, so our friend Jon had to help him out.

Good People!  YUM!

My neighbourhood brewery was, of course, there with some new brews. This cask was one of the highlights of the day for me. (Good People brewery has the best tap handles anywhere!)

Die Mitternaechters

It had been some years since I’d seen Die Mitternaechters. They’d played the Weindorf at Tuscaloosa’s CityFest long ago, and allowed me the great plasure of seeing the mayor and the governor do the chicken dance together. This time around, they couldn’t take the stage early in the day because of the wet conditions- so they played unamplified on the street instead. I really liked hearing them this way.

The view from 21st Street

An overhead view of the fest, taken from the 21st Street overpass. The crowd is still a bit thin. Morris Avenue was a nice spot for the fest- not as big and sprawling as Sloss Furnaces, where we hold Magic City Brewfest.

The pretzel fairy...

it wouldn’t be an Oktoberfest without women selling pretzels! She’s made quite a bit of headway there, it looks like.

The sexiest dirndl in town...

And finally….she may not have had the most authentic dirndl at the fest, but it was the sexiest. Too bad you can’t see the white stockings, which would get any hetero male’s heart pumping. Heck, her getup was sexier than my kilt. :) As I drove home, I saw her walking down a city street, looking very far away from her car or her apartment. I wanted to pull over and offer her a ride, but that would have been really creepy- considering we’d just met an hour before, in the line for the porta-johns. But it was that kind of day; people made friends easily, and total strangers came up and danced with me. I hope next year’s fest is just as much fun.