Twain’s World

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Posted June 18, 2009 in Music

Yo, pops . . . escape suburbia for Hannibal, Missouri, and a weekend of campin‘, cookin‘, dancin‘ and bluegrass jammin‘. The Huck Finn Jubilee—a celebration of all things Samuel Langhorne Clemens with some country and bluegrass thrown in—returns to the desert for its 33rd Father’s Day engagement. You’re gonna want to bone up on your Mark Twain because this Americana-palooza comes complete with jumping frogs, river rafting expeditions along the banks of the Mojave River (masquerading here as the mighty Mississippi) and men in overalls, straw hats and checkered shirts spinning tall tales about life on the great river.

Depending on your preferences, some of the jubilee’s attractions (Ripped From the Pages of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer!), such as whitewashing fences, building river rafts and climbing a greased pole(!), might be some of the first things you’ll hit up if you’re looking for a taste of 1880s-style amusement. Then again, you might want to check out the Russell Bros. Circus, sing for a pie in the Mountain Man Village or learn how to make a rope—who doesn’t? (Our guess is that jubilee organizers thought a swing-a-dead-rat-on-a-string contest was a bit too much. Hey, it was good enough for Tom back in the day; it was the Nintendo DSi of its day.)

 

For those who wonder if their MMA skills translate across the century, flex your muscles and engage in an arm wrestling battle of wits, and when Tom slips out of sight at the barnyard dance, steal a kiss from an eternally youthful (but age-appropriate) Becky Thatcher.

 

But if you’re here mostly for the music, they’ve got buckets of it in store with more than 30 hours of  bluegrass and country tunes by the likes of Dailey & Vincent, the Grascals and the Lonesome River Band. The cherry-on-top headlining act will be Ricky Skaggs who will perform on Father’s Day with his band, Kentucky Thunder. The Grammy-winning musician is noted for his fiddle, banjo and mandolin skills, but he did a rock music crossover last year when he recorded (contributing mandolin and vocals) a bluegrass version of “Old Enough,” a song by The Raconteurs, a group co-founded by Jack White of The White Stripes.And because you can’t have good country without a good cowboy, another marquee name for the jubilee roster is Don Edwards, a cowboy singer who was inducted into the Western Music Association Hall of Fame in 2005. Two of his album titles, Guitars & Saddle Songs and Songs of the Cowboy, say it all.

 

When it’s time to satisfy the gullet, the jubilee’s Vittles Village might have what you’ll be hankerin‘ for: homemade lemonade, apple pie, baked beans and corn on the cob. For the crafts-minded (scrapbook types need not apply), there’ll be enough quilt-making, blacksmithing and calico shirts here to keep you busy until the next county fair. And if you’re the Boy Scout type, there will be plenty of specials here on tomahawk throwing, musket loading, fire building and storytelling.

 

So pull up a trailer, pack up the family and kick off the summer with a grand staycation in your back yard, under tall cottonwoods with crickets singing their nightly, plaintive tunes all while dreaming of better times to come.

 

In these times of despair and ruin, it may be hard to maintain the belief that “spirit has fifty times the strength and staying-power of brawn and muscle.” But it was Mark Twain’s immortal words of wisdom that moved even the most economically depressed man to shits and giggles. Here’s a toast to the spirit and staying power of Mark Twain! 

 

Huck Finn Jubilee, June 19-21 at the Mojave Narrows Regional Park, Victorville, (951) 341-8080; www.huckfinn.com; Admission is $20 for adults ($15 on Friday), $5 for children ages 6-11.


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