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A Walk in the Park 

Where meat grows on sticks

The Festival in the Park has been a favorite of Charlotteans for a long time, and for good reasons. It lasts more than one day, and it doesn't stop when the sun goes down. To boot, the Festival is now in its 40th year, so there's a little bit of history involved. People that came as kids now take their kids -- and, in some instances, even their grandkids -- it's amazing that anything in Charlotte could last so damn long. ("See, Billy? If there's no real permanent structures on site, that means they can't tear it down!")

I parked several streets up from the Festival, deciding to walk the few blocks to Freedom Park with Emerson, a dog I was pet-sitting. I fell in behind a group of five or six almost-adolescents who would dart in front of traffic at will, trusting that their youthful instincts would guide them to safety. I made great time this way, and the kids taught me to adopt their unofficial motto: "No autographs, please." Every time one of the efficient little nubbins would dart his way across a busy thoroughfare, he would bust out with the creed, always delivered with a flourish of his right hand.

After entering the park, we traversed the large hill in front of the main music stage where Don Dixon, The Spongetones, and David Childers were to play later that evening. Taking a seat on the large grassy knoll, Emerson was delighted to find that dozens of people had left their unwanted shish kabobs stuck into the ground, which gave the whole grassy expanse a sort of "it's blooming meat" effect. He also seemed to enjoy the constant parade of lithesome young lasses who wanted to come up and pet his head. And who wouldn't? Later that day, a friend of mine said he was amazed by the number of women who wanted to pet Mr. E, promising that he was going to be hitting the dog pound first thing Monday morning to get a pup of his own.

(Admission: I was told later that day that you're not supposed to bring pets of any kind to Festival in the Park. It seems that for some reason, organizers forgot to put up signs to that effect this year, so myself and about 50 others unwittingly brought their pooches inside. As far as I could tell, no harm was done, so maybe this little exercise in civil and canine disobedience will have some effect.)

By the end of the day, little E was utterly exhausted and ready to leave, and so was I -- this wonderland where meat springs forth from the ground would have to wait for another day, as would the nubile noogie-givers (E's phrase, not mine) that seemed to be waiting behind every tree. No autographs, please.

If you get a chance, be sure to check out the Spirit Square art exhibit housing the public art proposed for the Charlotte Area Transit System's "light rail" south corridor and cast your vote. Robert Hughes wannabe Pat McCrory recently did, expressing serious doubts about many of the pieces, which, you know, were like all artistic-looking and stuff. "I know I'll get the feedback, the phone calls, the letters-to-the editor," Mayor McCrory told the Observer. "Therefore, I'm not going to refrain from giving my opinion." McCrory said he was wary of another "Gumby" fiasco, referring to the ill-fated sculpture once planned for the Charlotte Coliseum. When reached for comment, Charlotte voters replied they were wary of another term by the Gumby mayor. Joe Kuhlmann and Lea Pritchard, the long-engaged couple behind NoDa cornerstone The Evening Muse, tied the knot on Saturday, along with family, friends, and "drop-a-bomb-and-take-out-the-music-scene" collection of folks from the local music community. Held at the couple's house, the ceremony was equal parts booze, beauty and Beatles, with people drinking during the ceremony and the preacher on hand reciting verse like "this is from the books of Paul and John...and George and Ringo." After the wedding, guests hustled on over to the Muse, where Shawn Lynch was spinning garage and underground hits from the 60s. Before the night was through, fireworks literally filled the air around North Davidson and 36th streets, with dancing and toasts going on through the night. In a place that's seen it share of great shows, this was the best one yet. Congratulations.

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