Lauren kindly offered to share her burgeoning Thursday Thirteen fame with me today. I'm off this evening to go back to the primitive, internetless Western Michigan of my formative years for an annual party to which I so look forward every year; VanStock. VanStock is my mother's crazy Dutch family's (just the crazy one, the uptight Reformers have nothing to do with us) family-friendly version of Woodstock. We've been doing this party for I think about 15 years now. And these are thirteen reasons why we keep on doing it:
1) Music: My mother's people are like the Dutch version of the VonTrapps. They all sing, play an instrument or two, dance etc. There's a stage set up behind my uncle's recording studio where a number of bands play throughout the day: the "house band" (ie family), RePlay, awesome oldies band in which my Uncle Tone is the lead singer, my Uncle Ed's band, various jamming partners, and karaoke. That last one is less enjoyable.
2) Dancing: If there's good music, you gotta dance! And really, music from the 60s and (early) 70s is awesome for the dancing. Especially when RePlay does Del Shannon's Runaway. Only famous thing my hometown (Coopersville, and yes I know you've never heard of it) turns out and the dude was a one-hit wonder who committed suicide.
3) Pig Roast: My genius engineer dad built his own pig roaster a few years back and every year gets up at like 3 AM to haul the thing to Grandma's and start the roasting. I had to help him lift the hog onto the roaster for the last party-that part was less fun. But to go with the pig there's always tons of food and snacks.
4) Muddy Buddies: Speaking of snacks...this is the only time my mom ever makes muddy buddies (i.e Puppy Chow?). They're a pain and not too cheap but she always mixes a huge batch and the three of us kids ferret away some before it goes out for general consumption.
5) Cotton candy: We often rent a cotton candy or snow cone machine for the day. I'm more of a cotton candy girl but really, when it's hot and humid outside and it's my turn to actually make it? I end up looking like some sort of abominable snowman with punk dye job.
6) Bonfire from Hell: My uncle saves everything burnable all year long and stacks it up at the edge of the orchard. Once night falls, a little lighter fluid, a match, and WHOOSH! It's like a mountain of fire. Not too good for the marshmallow roasting though because you can't actually get close enough to the heat.
7) Fireworks: Usually I disdain fireworks, especially if seeing them involves putting me anywhere near crowds or tourists (shudder). But every year for VanStock my little brother, who is a pyromaniac, drives to Indiana, buys a ton of nice illegal fireworks (in Michigan you can't set off anything that will go in the air) and puts on a display that rivals the Grand Haven Summer Fest. His timing is brilliant and he coordinates them all so well.
8) Me: Yes I am wonderful and multi-talented and I participate. For the last couple years I've either bellydanced or fire danced. I think I actually prefer firedancing but my poi always end up...somwhere...and I'm not crazy about whirling fire around my body. Actually no, I am ok with that part. Whirling fire around my hair sans practice is anther story.
9) Tie-dye:It is a sea of tie-dye. Tie-dyed flags mark the driveway and the parking areas and fly from the stage and the recording studio. People come dressed in their own tie-dyed t-shirts, dresses, pants, etc and if you don't have anything then Uncle Tone has some beautiful pieces he's tie-dyed he'd be happy to sell you for a small fee. And this year to go along with the tie-dyed theme I'm going to make cakes that are covered with tie-dyed fondant. Yeah.
10) Family: I suppose this one had to appear in here somewhere. Death is about the only thing that stops people from coming to this. While the majority of the fam still lives in western Michigan, a few of us have strayed so I come in from DC, my sister from Florida, and an aunt and cousins from Boston. Combine my mom's brothers and sisters (there are 12 of them) with their spouses and children and children's spouses and children...and my mom's cousins and so forth, throw in everyone's friends and the various non family band members, and it's a ParTay with a couple hundred people. It also gives us a chance to thoroughly humiliate whichever cousin not so wisely brought a date.
11) Playing: In addition to the music and the dancing etc, there's always things going on. Mom's people are avid golfers so some one's always got clubs and people are using the orchard behind the field as a driving range. Random soccer games have been known to break out. There's always a kiddie pool, a sprinkler, and water guns for the kids (and the big kids too!), and there's also usually a pinata that makes an appearance. We have yet to get anyone to agree to my idea of an adult pinata full of airplane bottles of alcohol though.
12) Camping: Not my cup of tea but if it's yours...a lot of people drive up a day or two before and either pitch tents or part their RVs around the house and spend 3-4 days. It's become very handy as they're often pressed into service to help set up food tents, the old people tents, awnings, etc. There's also usually a huge morning after breakfast (although the catch is that it's followed by clean up duty).
13) Anticipation: I know it's kind of a weird thing to cite, but we prepare for this with the same fervor in which we prepare for Christmas. It's that excited feeling you get when you know something special is coming and you just can't wait!