For those attending, it lasted 3 days. For those of us helping to make it happen, it was more than a week of concentrated effort, of thinking only of Dirt Fest, and of making sure that the event went as smoothly as it could possibly go.
The houseboat arrived on Monday, and we had one last relaxing dinner among friends while watching the sun dip below the horizon. Still, there was already an urgency in the air, the mental list of tasks needing done, knowledge of the lack of sleep ahead, anticipation of the semi-organized chaos about to descend on this now-peaceful little peninsula on Raystown Lake.
The rest of the week was a blur of errands and setup. Big top tents were erected, signage was placed everywhere, a skills park was built, exhibitors and vendors arrived with Sprinter vans and trailers, and by Thursday, attendees began to pour into the campground. Bicycle-laden vehicles invaded Susquehannock, filled with camping equipment and beer and people who were nothing less than stoked about the weekend ahead.
The rain and wind came Thursday night, and by the time the expo opened at noon on Friday, muddy riders were swarming back and forth through the brightly-colored tents, checking out demo bikes, eyeing up vendor’s wares, and ordering lunch from a varied cuisine selection which included sushi, gourmet ramen dishes, and wood-fired pizza.
I had the pleasure of helping out with some of the women-specific events—a skills-based clinic on Friday and a casual ride to the vista and back on Sunday—and thus actually got to get out on a bike and on the trails. For me, as a local, it’s definitely an unusual, but by all means inspiring, sight to see so many other people on these trails that are virtually my backyard, trails that I more often than not have all to myself. .
Much of my days were spent at the registration tent, fielding questions, checking people in, and coordinating volunteers to be wherever we needed extra hands. My cell phone rang more in one day of Dirt Fest than it had in the past month, with inquiries to be answered and tasks to be done. Every now and then, I’d have time to take a walk through the expo, grab a bite to eat and a beer, say hello to friends and acquaintances and strangers, enjoy the fruits of all the labor that went into this.
On Saturday night, after the reg tent closed and all the non-campers were shuttled away for the night, several of us took a late-night stroll all the way around the campground loop, stopping at campfires and sites of friends, and relishing the overwhelming quiet punctuated by the occasional snore.
On Sunday morning, people began rolling out of the campground, and my mid-afternoon, the expo closed and the peninsula began its reverse transformation, from populated to deserted. Once all the people were gone, it was time to do trash and recycling, consolidating the refuse from all the blue bins around the expo and live music areas into a couple dumpsters, and pack up the yellow van full of signage and registration materials and bike stands.
The houseboat was returned on Monday morning, and in the afternoon, a core group of us gathered at Susquehannock to do the last of the cleaning-up. When it was all done, we drank beer, got weird, rode a collection of funky bikes around the campground and on the trails, and celebrated the success of another Dirt Fest.