Tent People

Brian J. Sullivan

The city park enveloped in darkness stirs to life as vehicles pull off the main road onto dew covered grass. Their headlights dance across the field in uneven jerks with each surface's irregularity. Smaller beams of light from flashlights and lanterns joust with each other. Anonymous people illuminated by waving red flashlights direct traffic. A slight chill fills the air as the low laying fog drifts across the creek. The pre-dawn silence is broken by the sound of car doors opening and closing. Indistinguishable voices are heard in the distance.

The fury continues with the sounds of metal tent poles colliding. People, sometimes alone, other times in teams, begin the task of assembling their tent/canopy. Most of the time words are never spoken. Each knew their role (after doing it hundreds of times). Occasionally a brief outburst can be heard as tempers flare. Canopies go up, side walls are hung, display panels are installed, and finally the art is placed. This is only the beginning. Then there is the area around and behind one's tent which needed to be constructed. This is where the tent people would live for the next several days.

The morning sun rose in an orange glow as it outlined the cloud filled sky. Soon the gates would open and throngs of people would appear, and like a massive stampede, would challenge the once sanguine and tranquil landscape.

But for now the tent people, like the nomadic Bedouins of the desert, worked in a concerted effort to secure their space. These little villages popped up behind each row of artist booths. It included dogs, babies, coolers, grills, blankets, extra stock, and even an occasional lawn chair.

This area was sheltered from the public view by only a thin tent wall, yet it was a secret and sacred place far from the public's eyes. Entry into this world was gained only by passage through the back side of one's tent. Few privileged people would ever get to see or experience such a lifestyle. Once strangers, most tent people quickly adapt to their surroundings and become friends with their neighbors.

Then as quickly as they were assembled, these little communities disperse. They move on to the next location only to repeat the process all over again.