by: Bruce Mike
For a number of years early August was synonymous with Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for me. I’ve attended five times, three consecutively. I have some great Buffalo Chip stories and It was always fun, but after riding all the roads there are to ride, I just haven’t found the desire to go back again. I enjoy motorcycle related events and I attend a lot of them. Sturgis just isn’t on my list anymore.
Something else I really enjoy is live music. My wife and I recently attended the Eaux Claire Music Festival. I had never been to one of these multi-day festivals so I thought it would be fun to check it out. When I was younger, I went to a number of Grateful Dead concerts at Alpine Valley and Red Rocks and a few other outdoor venues. I’ve also been to a couple of small Bluegrass festivals. None of these compared to Eaux Claire.
When I initially suggested we go to the festival my reasoning was, there were a few bands in the lineup I wanted to see. I had no idea it was going to be as big of a deal as it was. We ordered our tickets and got a hotel room. As I get older camping has become more of a last option than a fun idea at these kind of events. I like sleeping on a bed in an air-conditioned room. Same goes for motorcycle trips. As it turned out, they sold out pretty much all of the available hotel rooms in town as well as all the campsites. They ended up renting dorm rooms at UW Eau Claire. When you take a town of 60,000 and add 22,000 concert goers, it has quite the impact.
This is where it got interesting for me. I realized I have certain expectations at these kind of events. I’m sure they are all based in my rally experiences. I figure when you put 22,000 people in a fairly small area, with live music, alcohol and warm weather, a certain level of debauchery will be reached. This didn’t happen. I was somewhat shocked. In two solid days of music and wandering around the venue from one stage to another, I saw one kid who was stumbling drunk, just one. I say kid because I figure the average age of attendee had to be around 26. Yes, my wife and I were definitely at the high end of the age range.
As I was standing in line for things and sweating my butt off, I couldn’t help but compare where I was to being at Sturgis or Daytona. The differences were dramatic. I realize the average age of the folks attending bike rallies is probably around 35 but when it comes to maturity the music festival kids win hands down. I have to admit one of my favorite things at bike rallies is watching people do crazy, stupid things and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find any of that at this festival. That’s not to say it wasn’t going on but I guess people were being discreet and respectful of others. Even the Dead shows I went to weren’t as calm and peaceful as this festival was.
On my way home on Sunday I kept thinking about the kids I had spent my weekend with. They gave me a lot of hope for our society. I can fall quickly into the negative thinking of “kids these days” but what I saw over the weekend was anything but negative. My daughter attended the festival and if these are the kind of people she’s spending her time with, I have little to worry about.
Now, if we could just get them all to start riding motorcycles and attending bike rallies.