The best things, the most memorable moments always seem to be spontaneous. They sneak up and surprise us. If planned for, then the magic is diminished. Not sure if this is true about everything. A kiss is nice no matter what—but typically overthinking it robs it of its impact. I’ve blogged about this earlier (link) that sometimes crazy chaos sparks, igniting a movement, the heat forging something new.
Chaos created the Cornerstone Festival Ghost Ship.
Artrageous has been part of the festival for years. Some of the art is planned, prepared, and brought to the festival. See Art Walk/Pilgrimage. But this year we also had different artists building and sculpting on the grounds. Dave Coleman, using (I think) plaster of paris, toilet paper, and ripped up sheets made a ghost ship. It stood out in the hot sun like a bleached boat, dry docked on stilts. It was a thing of beauty.
Dave loved it. That’s why it hurt so bad when Karl Sullivan, the director of Artrageous suggested that Dave burn it.
It took some convincing. Before that though, Dave had the boat lowered and asked people to use a marker and write on the INSIDE of the boat a message or simply their name. One girl, Katie K. age 13 wrote that the festival had been a big part of her childhood.
You see this was the end. The last year of Cornerstone Festival. After 29 years it was no longer economically sustainable. In a few days we would all be saying good-bye—not just for the year but possibly forever. Even if we meet again it won’t be the same. It was over.
Burn the boat down, Karl said. Give it a Ghost Ship Funeral.
So this thing that started out as an idea—sparked. No one knew how or what exactly to do, but there was talk.
The boys from the Underground Stage got together and decided they would lead the processional to the lake where the boat would be launched on its final (only) journey. The boat would need to be carried. Dave worried, Who would come over on Saturday night to help him get it to the beach? He had a concert, The Colemans! So after performing the crowd followed him over to where the boat was parked.
The processional began in the food court with Tony Krogh on the bagpipes. Then the motorcycles roared to life. Behind the motorcade were golf carts and then the boat was ordered raised. About a dozen guys lifted it up on their shoulders with Dave in it (looking completely deranged after the show with face paint running like smeared mascara down his sweaty cheeks and forehead). They carried the boat as if it were a processional icon or altar piece such as one sees in Andalusia or Sicily (especially Trapani) during the Santa semana (Easter Holy Week).
A parade of people joined in, followed by the garbage truck honking its concussive horn. The sun was just beginning to dip below the trees. Dust stirred up by the motorcycles and golf carts glowed orange. Through the headlights it seemed as if the ship was already on fire. By the time the boat reached the beach a thousand people had joined the processional.
In the growing darkness the boat was lowered and launched. Using oars Dave and a few others rowed out to the middle of the lake where they doused it with diesel fuel. Some of them had forgotten about how they were going to get to shore. They had to jump out and swim.
The plan was for Spike wearing his kilt to shoot a flaming arrow out to the boat, but it didn’t quite work. He got them to light and he got them to fly through the night sky, but they kept going out. Finally two of the guys volunteered to swim out to the ship with a blow torch above their heads.
It was magnificent. The lonely pale boat in the middle of the lake. Its toilet paper tattered sails. And the flames licking the plaster of paris mast. We stood on the shore watching it burn, singing Amazing Grace.
It will forever be a memory.
How could we have known that burning the Ghost Ship was the perfect ending? That it would come to symbolize all that we felt.
It was magic.
So the Ghost Ship is now part of the Cornerstone Festival history books. Crazy, spontaneous, inspired.