Sunday, March 11, 2007

A what festival?!

What do pigs and Rick Springfield have in common? ... They were both at the Chandler Ostrich Festival which is where I spent my Saturday evening. (If this were a news article, that would be one lousy lead-in) And it turned into a day of firsts--the first time I heard "Jesse's Girl" live and the first time I ate an ostrich burger. Not bad. Juicy.

The suburb of Chandler, which is just 20 minutes away from central Phoenix, drew a pretty big crowd for this festival. A new friend/acquaintance of mine, Lauren, suggested we check it out. We made it for the 5pm ostrich races. I didn't realize there were people out there who practiced being "jockeys" on these 400-pound birds. Just like horse racing, you have to weigh under a certain weight to ride these creatures.

Needless to say, the whole event was very offbeat. First off, everyone affiliated with the company that travels with the ostriches, emus and pigs sounded like they just stepped out of an episode of "Beverly Hillbillies." The races were pretty funny to watch--as you can tell from the picture below. All the ostriches had cheesy names like "Love Bird" and "Dixie Chick" (whose jockey made a very bad joke about how everyone wants to ride a Dixie Chick). Between races, they had kid volunteers come out and chase emus and chickens around the track. The last race was a camel race. Don't know if you can tell from the picture below, but they had the camel jockeys dress like Arab sheiks and gave the jockeys stupid, un-PC names. One of the jockeys was actually called Mohammed. Oh no they didn't!

Lauren was a good sport and consented to hanging out for Rick Springfield to play at the main stage at 8:30 p.m. I think I was 4 at the height of his 1980s teen idolatry. Still, he's a part of pop culture. And I can't resist pop culture. The man is still pretty good looking 20 years later. And he knows how to work a crowd. But seriously, how did the city of Chandler get him to come? How do you craft a written plea to someone asking them to play an ostrich festival? "Dear Mr. Springfield, We think you would be a great name to put on our talent marquee at the Chandler Ostrich Festival. " I'm sure he thought it would be quite the feather in his cap. Apologies for the bad joke.

Overall, I had a very quirky weekend, which is way better than a boring one. I had forgotten what it's like to hang out one-on-one with someone--who is a girl. I can socialize with people pretty easily, but changing them from acquaintances to friends, that's a hard step. Here's hoping there are more in the future--but perhaps not involving exotic animals.