Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Margaritaville Meets Porchville

by Annette Dashofy

I remember the quiet summer evenings of my youth, playing in the yard while my parents sat on the front porch reading the paper and watching the traffic go by. Sometimes I, too, would just sit and watch the cars. The most entertaining part of traffic watching back then was keeping score of red cars and blue cars or learning to name the different automobile models as they cruised by.

Twenty years ago, that all changed. In 1987, a new concert venue opened seven miles from my rural home. Locals predicted that Star Lake Amphitheatre would be a huge flop and called it a white elephant. After all, people from the country drove to the city to attend concerts, not the other way around.


Since then, traffic watching has never been the same. Since we live on one of the main access routes to the facility, the sheer volume of traffic increases ten-fold on concert nights. “Must be someone playing at Star Lake,” one of us proclaims as a steady stream of vehicles whooshes past our house. But it’s not just the numbers of cars. Oh, no. The vehicles themselves and their occupants provide entertainment for those of us porch-sitters along Route 18.

Country western fans largely drive to the shows in large 4x4 pick up trucks sporting Confederate flags. The occupants imbibe large quantities of beer on their way to the concert. I know because, since this is farm country, rest areas are few and far between, so vehicles often pull off just past my house so that the beer drinkers can relieve themselves. I recognize the stance the guys take as they tumble out of their cars, trucks and vans.

What is frightening is that those fans who drink on their way TO the concerts also drink DURING the concerts and then have to drive home FROM the concerts. As a consequence, the numbers of drunk driving arrests and car crashes on Route 18 and Route 22 have escaladed over the years. Our local cops set up sobriety check points in Burgettstown and often have a half dozen cars pulled off to the side of the road at any given moment. Oddly, they always wave my husband and I by when we encounter one of the check points. I guess we don’t have “the look.”

But to be fair, it isn’t only the country western fans who drink. They aren’t even the worst offenders. On June 23, 1992, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead descended southwestern Pennsylvania. With them came the Dead Heads. Every VW minibus still in existence at the time drove past my house. They parked on either side of Routes 18 and 22 for at least five miles in all directions from the Amphitheatre.
They parked in people’s yards and camped there (some with permission, some without). They camped in the parking lot of Burgettstown’s only grocery store. It was as if the circus had come to town. Sadly, Jerry passed away before the Dead could make a return visit. When they came without him, it just wasn’t the same. The festive atmosphere was gone. And I don’t recall any VW minibuses camping along the road. Too bad. Since they weren’t in MY yard, I found it all rather amusing.

In 1999, the Star Lake Amphitheatre became the Post Gazette Pavilion (although if you ask any of us who have lived here more than a few years, we still refer to it as Star Lake). We may not have Jerry Garcia’s fans to entertain us on our front porches any more, but this past weekend, Jimmy Buffet made his annual stop in Burgettstown.
We don’t need a concert schedule to tell us when Mr. Buffet is here. It’s the only time of the year when cars with inflatable sharks tied to their roofs drive past our house. There are some plastic palm trees, too. One SUV had “Margaritaville or Bust” scrawled across his windows. Ah, the Parrotheads.

Back in the days when I baled hay all summer, one of the gals who helped on the farm also worked as a security guard at the Pavilion. She told me that Jimmy Buffet’s fans were the most unruly of any she had to deal with. I don’t know why, but this surprises me. Intense, yes. Loyal, absolutely. Unruly? Having never been to one of his concerts, I have to take her word for it.

Of course, since I live so close, you’d think I’d attend concerts there all the time, right? Hardly. I’ve been to a few, some rowdy (Hank Williams Jr., the Eagles) and some mellow (Chicago, John Denver).

Frankly, the traffic going to the concerts are every bit as entertaining as most of the acts that perform there. And porch seats are much cheaper.


Tory said...

When you go to a concert there, can you walk?

Thanks for an insider's look at entertainment in your area!

Annette said...

It's seven miles away on Route 18, which is rather heavily traveled and lots of tractor trailers. I suppose I COULD walk, but really can't think of anyone I want to see baddly enough to do that.

Joyce said...

I've been to a few concerts at Star Lake (I still call it that, too). The last one was James Taylor a couple of years ago. Now, that was a nice, well-behaved crowd.

lisa curry said...

Nice post, Annette, and it brings back a funny memory. In August 1997, I was pregnant with my firstborn, due the same time Jimmy Buffet was coming to Star Lake. My ob/gyn said, "If you go into labor during Jimmy Buffet, someone else is going to have to deliver your baby, because I'll be facedown on the lawn out at Star Lake. Or I can induce you before the concert. Your choice." I loved my doctor and didn't want somebody I didn't know delivering my baby. So thanks to Jimmy Buffet, Griffin's birthday is Aug. 6, rather than later in the month.

Annette said...

Lisa, that's hysterical! Gee, who'd have thought that one of the questions you should ask your doctor is "Are you a Parrothead?"

Ah, James Taylor. Yeah, I wouldn't think he would draw a bunch of crazed boozers. That's like the time I saw John Denver there. THAT was a civilized crowd. Great concert, too.

Anonymous said...

Annette: The last concert I attended at Star Lake was Bon Jovi a few years ago. The show was a blast, but the traffic...not so much.

Lisa: That's hysterical about your doctor! LOL!

Gina said...

So, Annette, you're too far to walk to Star Lake, but can you hear the music from your porch??

I've seen a lot of great concerts at Star Lake. All time favorite: Tori Amos. Best behaved crowd: Moody Blues -- it was storming so bad that nobody could do much of anything except slide around in the mud and hope the lightning didn't kill us. I also really enjoyed John Mellencamp and Sting and Smokey Robinson and . . .

Nancy said...

You know you're too old to go to a concert when your primary concern is the traffic, not where you're going to score your dope.

Wait--Lee's not still carrying a badge, is he?

Annette said...

Gina, did I say I could hear the music from my porch? If I did, sorry. No, but we hear the concert goers screaming out the windows of their cars and trucks as they go by. My experience with the music has been from inside the venue, attending a concert every now and then.

We CAN hear the fireworks from our porch when they have them.

And, Nancy, you may have just explained why it's been years since I've been there...

a.k.a. Zooomabooma said...

Hey, you saw me drive by in '92 in my VW bus? Pretty cool!

unfortunately the first night I got stuck in the traffic and missed the whole entire 1st Set while cars out on the rolled crawled along trying get somewhere to park. i had no idea. i woulda gotten there right before start time if there was no traffic and i got into a lot and parked.... but noooooooooo, missed my first ever start of a show due traffic. oh well.

Still i remember Star Lake fondly! If it didn't have a silly corporate name on it, I'd love to go back someday.

Joel "Fin" Phillips said...

Why I Hate Russia
by Joel Phillips (publisher,; owner American Coast Title and proud to be an American and a Scientologist)

When I was a kid we used to jump under our desks and hide when they rang the air alarm. The teachers said this was in case the Russians came and bombed us.

Well you know what they bombed us and did a good job of it. They have us doing whatever they say.

First of all they are leaders in religious persecution. They closed down the Scientology Center in Saint Petersburg. Now I suppose the fact that the city used to be called Leningrad tells you something. What other country closes down a church?

But they are hypocrites. They have their own church namely the Russian Orthodox Church. This church is controlled by the Russian government. This is not how you get religious freedom!

Second they are sneaky. My website and company have been attacked by Indonesians. I have listed details on my website including those for a substantial reward.

So what happens? Well it turns out the Russians protect their Internet. It turns out my company which is the sponsor of the site is being sued by OOO TRANSTELEKOM. This OOO is apparently like the AOL or Earthlink of Russia but under the control of the Russian government. They are suing because an IP address used by one of these Indonesians is their IP address and I posted it to show how I was being harassed.

They are suing for millions of dollars and they are demanding an apology. I have had to meet with Frank Berriz and Linda Blood about it as they are the other owners of American Coast Title and they are named in the lawsuit.

But they are even sneakier as they are also complaining to Stewart Title who are our underwriters. This could quite literally get us shut down all because I go through life according to my religion.

And, it gets worse. Some Russian radio station has sent press releases to my competitors telling them about this. I don’t even get my day in court with OOO and the Russians have already decided I lost.

But the real trick is they are hiding behind the Olympics. OOO is suddenly the official Internet of the Olympics. OOO says this somehow libels the Olympics.

Maybe countries that value religious freedom should boycott the Russian Olympics again. That will teach them a lesson.

So that’s it. I hate Russia. The teachers way back when were right they had us hide from the Russians. Maybe we should of kept doing that. It is clear the Russians are just going to walk all over us. They are going take away our religious freedom and who knows what they will do after that.