I spent about an hour visiting the "Great Awakening" at Riverfront Park in Troy this afternoon. The event as a whole was scheduled for more than eight hours, but I haven't been feeling so hot this week and there were other things I wanted to do. It was still fairly early when I arrived, and despite very nice early autumn weather, attendance was not so good. The crowd could be measured in the dozens. More might have come later, but at least one woman I spoke with was disappointed by the turnout she had seen so far. She'd come all the way from Utica because, from what I could tell, a local radio host had promoted the event. She assumed that the publicity would be more extensive here and the small crowd shocked her, especially considering the trouble the organizers had taken. The park's bandshell had been wired for a multimedia display that either complemented or supplemented the live speakers or singers. While I was there a woman spoke about the environmental threat posed by jet trails occluding the sun. After a set by a singer-songwriter, a video presentation attempted to explain the surge in mass killings since the 1960s by blaming psychologists and the pharmaceutical industry. These parties colluded in the doping up of our kids, so no wonder some of them turned out crazy. This was the health and environment part of the program. Meatier topics would be dealt with later but I was feeling restless. But I didn't leave before picking up plenty of free literature from the numerous groups who set up booths. Primary Challenge was there, as were the Oathkeepers, as well as a group of "9/12" Glenn Beck fans. The Constitution Party had a stall, as did the John Birch Society. I was curious enough to give up a dollar for a DVD presentation by the Birch president, which I'll review in a later post. There were gun-rights activists promoting an April 2010 march on Washington. For all that we may think of such people as right-wingers, the guy I spoke to expressed sympathy for the anarchists taking government heat around Pittsburgh during the G-20 summit. He'd heard that the cops, Secret Service etc were hitting the demonstrators with advanced microwave weapons that supposedly were not allowed to be used against insurgents in Iraq. Overall, it didn't seem like a loony gathering, and there was no truther literature in evidence. Maybe they did get purged after all. The most typical tea party type, perhaps, was a grumpy looking old man who carried a sign saying: "Fired up? Impeach Obama! MMM MMM MMM" the significance of those last syllables eludes me. Another fellow wore a T-shirt that read "Obama Scares Me" with a hammer and sickle to illustrate what really scared him. Perhaps typically, someone showed up in a version of 18th century dress, looking rather Ben Franklin-like. He apparently served as a town crier to start the proceedings. Along with the political booths there were food vendors, someone offering massages, and a Bouncy-Bounce for the kiddies. Just to the south was the weekly Farmer's Market, close enough so that the two events might have bled into one another to mutual benefit.
I didn't consider it my business to engage anyone in debate at the Awakening. I let people make their pitches and collected their literature, and in future posts over the coming week I'll describe my collection in more critical detail. In the meantime, I'll be interested in seeing how (or if) the rest of the local media reported the event.