Joe Comm and Vicki Robinson Jordan at the Orchards at Foxcrest’s Harvest Festival 2011 (Courtesy of Vicki Robinson Jordan.)
On Saturday, September 24th, I appeared at an Oktoberfest event at the Orchards at Foxcrest in Chester, West Virginia. This year’s theme was “Rock Springs Park” and the folks at Fox’s did not disappoint. There were rides for the kiddies, food and craft vendors, a petting zoo, games, and even a live animal act featuring a scorpion, the biggest toad I’ve ever seen, an opossum, a capybara (world’s largest rodent), a monkey, and a cheetah, among others. The cheetah remained crated for the day, but all the other creatures were shown by a petite young girl who nearly had her shirt removed by a feisty macaque. (You know, the monkeys you’ve seen pictured in National Geographic in a hot spring bath in winter with ice covering their pink faces and rockstar fur hairdos.) How could I possibly compete with that?
The event planners put me in the awkward position of having to break the number one rule of show businesses – “NEVER FOLLOW AN ANIMAL ACT.” After righting my twice-fallen portable movie screen due to a sudden increase in wind gusts and adjusting my impossible to see slide show images due to the sun deciding to come out just at the moment I was to begin, I realized I was standing in a pile of crushed Frosted Mini-Wheats thanks to my opening act - the show-stealing monkey. (Think Curious George on crack.)
I had planned for every eventuality, not knowing if I would have a microphone or a podium, would appear inside or outside, under a tent or on a grassy hillside. I had a printed speech on paper and made a timed slide show to go with it, and was ready just in case with my old standby - images of the park narrated wuth impromptu verbal descriptions. I even brought along my trusty container of bungee cords to deal with falling movie screens and blowing banners and miles of extension cords, but I did not plan for a monkey. Who would?
It was perhaps my worst performance, ever. I felt bad for those few attendees scattered about in a dozen or so folding chairs, including some old friends and a couple new ones I’ve met while posting about the park on Facebook. They saw a pathetic author giving a running commentary about barely visible slides while shuffling about in Frosted Mini-Wheat dust and giant toad puddles. Yeah, did I mention the girl kissed the toad and he wet himself all over her shoes? C’mon Man!