It’s not very often that a story assignment turns into a “be my guest” invitation.
As reporters we’re often comped entry to events for work. Event coverage after all is our job and it’s a great problem to have, professionally speaking. Days and evenings spent attending functions to grab some photos, take some quotes and then later report event highlights for readers – not a bad way to earn a living.
However every now and again it is nice to attend community events as a community member. No notepad. No recording. No camera. Just a plain and simple regular Joe.
This past weekend a dear friend and I were treated to a true guest experience at the Sierra View Music Festival. The annual event is hosted by the Brunk family on behalf of the Heidi Brunk Foundation.
I’d attended once before in 2010 as a staffer and while it was a lot of fun, it was work.
It’s fair to say here that “work” Teresa and personal Teresa are not one and the same. I was taught different - personable yet professional always when on the clock.
I should also mention, that I was not familiar with the bands set to play. I knew enough however to know it would be a great time regardless. After all it was an all-day music fest with proceeds benefitting scholarships for students and less than a stone’s throw from home – I was in and so was Merky.
There is much I could say here about the overall experience and first class treatment we were gifted with by Jim and his daughter Shelbi. While it was amazing and I don’t know that there are words to properly convey our gratitude to the two of them and the volunteers – my impression was so much bigger than that.
The down side (if there is such a thing) to being a writer, is even when I’m “off the clock” my brain is always ticking. Last Saturday night, it went into overdrive more than a handful of times as I observed from a guest perspective.
As we took in the entertainment from a pretty privileged vantage point, I watched an army of people swarm around us in the name of tending to the needs of the event. There were bands with special requests in the way of food, beverage or both – off went a volunteer. There were bartenders in need of … you name it and off went a volunteer. And of course a music fest would not be a music fest if there wasn’t a person or two who had too many and chose to “get loud.” Again, in came a volunteer to find the appropriate person to handle the situation without disturbing the others.
At one point, with Merky at my side and Jim (the host) not too far behind us, I looked past the pit area and up the hillside and just simply took in the beauty. The “beauty” in this case was not a field of flowers or a classroom filled with students as I might regularly report, it was a hillside filled with diversity of all ages united by one simple thing, music.
This event, the Sierra View Music Festival was founded on the very idea that I witnessed not far from the spot I admired. It is an event founded to honor the life of Jim’s wife Heidi, taken way too soon at the age of 45 in 2008. Her love of music and students of music is what prompted Jim and their crew of friends to take on this endeavor. It is not only a first class event, but one unique unto itself.
Ticket sales were tough this year, at best. Heading to the event that night, we knew we might likely be seeing the last of its kind at the JH Ranch. Perhaps this knowledge is what caused me to pause and reflect. Perhaps it was the face of Heidi’s sweet daughter Shelbi who escorted us to our spot at the venue, which touched me so. Perhaps it was all of it or nothing at all – I’m honestly not sure.
What I do know, is that I stood at the base of a hill in the darkness of night, listening to music I’ve never heard and … I experienced magic. It just can’t get much better than that.
So, to the Brunk family, the bands who took center stage and the army of volunteers who made all of this possible – thank you for allowing us to be “guests” of your magic. As a community member, there is honestly no place I would have rather been.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.