Activities: Don’t ya just love ’em?

Summertime fun just keeps on coming – whether you want it to or not.

Welcome to California 2000, the state where each and every incorporated municipality is required by law to celebrate roughly 70 festivals annually or be forcibly uprooted and dumped in Iowa.


For newcomers to California, the state’s official motto is “Wheeee!”

Whether it’s Suisun City gleefully celebrating the fact that it has water along its waterfront or Castroville paying festive homage to the action-packed artichoke, this is the any-excuse-for-a-festival state.

Unfortunately, California’s endless cavalcade of zany festivals can only do so much before they all begin to seem the same. Eventually, the thrill of face painting, deep-fried zucchini dogs and creaking Tilt-a-Whirls begins to wear thin.

After the 25th face painting, you and the kids are probably looking for some quality time in the nearest shower stall or automated car wash…

(“Daaaaaaad! It won’t come off! It wooooon’t! I’m gonna have Barrrrney on my forehead forrrrever!”)

Festival promoters used to try luring patrons with promises of “Face painting and much, much more!”

Of course, these clever festival fellows never said what “Much, much more!” actually meant and many of us interpreted that to mean “Much, much more face painting!” or, worse, “Much, much more zucchini!”

This year, resourceful promoters changed their tactics by avoiding a lot of detail and simply offering “Activities!” to potential funseekers.

An increasing number of festival promotions, including the painstakingly written press releases we receive here at the newspaper, are trumpeting “kids’ activities” or “fun activities” or good ol’ “family activities” without explaining exactly what any of them might be.

This has got to mean trouble.

“Activity” leaves a lot open to interpretation and, let’s face it, the average beer-fueled California festival fanatic will usually interpret things to the absolute max.

“Yabba-dabba-dooooo!” was not a term coined by Fred Flintstone. Experts (including the bartender at the old Leaky Tiki Tavern in Lake County) believe it was first uttered in the late 1950s by a funloving group of rural zanies who were trying to water ski across Clear Lake on barrel staves. That was their “activity” and they were damned proud of it. It is unknown if any of them survived past 1960.

In Santa Clara County, activity-oriented teens used to climb up on a steep bluff overlooking the sleepy little village of Saratoga and dispose of their least favorite record albums by randomly hurling the discs into the darkness at about 3 o’clock in the morning.

This quickly prompted other “activities” among the townsfolk: turning on lots of lights, cursing in several languages and removing the shattered remnants of “Bobby Rydell’s Greatest Hits” from their rooftops.

I have it on good authority that there’s also a select group of trapshooters near Bodega Bay who delight in an “activity” that involves launching overripe crabs high into the air and then trying to blast them with shotguns.

Yes, here in the Golden State, one man’s chaos may very well be another’s “activity.”

Heads up, amigos – shotgunned shellfish are nothing to trifle with, no matter how festive you’re feeling…

Originally published August 27, 2000


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