Castorfest '09

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sept. 10, 2009

Dear Leslie,

The cast came from California, Oregon, Florida and most corners of Missouri last weekend for Castorfest 2009. The weather for the annual Labor Day weekend of fishing, swimming, barbecuing, ice-cream making, dog petting and well-, semi- and never-rehearsed performances was cool and rainy, but half a million people at Woodstock made do, and so did we.

Unlike Woodstock, Tylenol is the strongest drug at Castorfest, and the only nakedness occurred when DC relieved herself behind our car. Peace, love and music still prevailed.

If Castorfest has a theme, it seems to be togetherness, beginning with shoulder-to-shoulder meals at the long table on the screened-in porch. DC trucked out her kiln and showed everyone who wanted to learn how to glaze raku pottery at 1,700 degrees. We circled lawn chairs to watch the colors magically appear. We also spent parts of the weekend roaming the roads and fields looking for Bandit, a Burch family hunting dog that became lost during an outing.

We're still looking. As we all know, the show must go on.

This year, due to rain, the stage moved indoors to a corner of the porch that wraps around the cabin. A reading light became a spotlight. Our theatrical niece Darci, who lives in Portland, Ore., now just got a role in a 3,000-miles-off-Broadway production. Her sister Danica does dental hygiene in Kansas City, and their sister Devon still runs a tiny corner of the kingdom for the Big Mouse in Orlando.

The Burch sisters danced a couple of numbers they choreographed themselves. When the sisters were children family members made an annual pilgrimage to their spring dance recitals. I suspected the one who most wanted to dance was their mother Danel.

When Danel complained recently that she doesn't have a talent to display at Castorfest, her brother Paul may have dissected its true appeal. "I know," he said. "That's what makes it so good." Dressed in Mickey Mouse pajamas and oversized Mickey gloves, Danel took that as a challenge and danced to "Razzle Dazzle."

Paul showed his YouTube-worthy video about the unknown Jackson, Jacques, the name of the turtle that lived in one of the family bathtubs until his demise a few years ago. An animated Jacques danced to "Beat It," and everybody stopped wondering what Paul was doing in his retirement.

This was a Castorfest of lists. DC's father might have played in the orchestra for as many high school musicals as anyone alive. At the keyboard he led a game of "Name That Tune" based on some of Broadway's most obscure hits. DC's sister Danice and her husband Larry led the audience in singing "The 12 Days of Castorfest," which included "5 Pounds of Stinky Bait" and "11 Snoring Ear Plugs." The Burch sisters' dad Doug altered the lyrics of "Yesterday" to list some of the peccadilloes in the assemblage.

DC's mother gave us the latest addition in the continuing saga of Ezra the pet flea, a story she makes up each year. I ad-libbed a harmonica solo and froze with stage fright. Everyone clapped anyway.

At this Castorfest, one of the earlier nights offered an outdoor screening of the Busby Berkeley musical "Footlight Parade" with James Cagney. In her Castorfest performance, DC twirled sparklers in an original interpretive dance as a production number from the movie flickered on a white garage wall framed by spewing multicolored fountains of fireworks.

That's the thing about people you know well and feel such tenderness for giving their best and worst at Castorfest. Every act is hard to follow.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.

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