Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Becoming a Redneck

Not being one to turn down any ‘cultural’ event, when I was offered the opportunity to attend the Dogwood Festival in Fayetteville, NC for the weekend, I wasn’t going to say no. Although I was a little put off when Fayetteville was referred to as Fayett-nam, and described as having close parallels…

The Dogwood (being the state flower) festival is a country/redneck festival held every year with hundreds of rednecks (I mean people) flocking to the centre of Fayetteville for a booze fueled evening of good ol’ country music. With one awkward looking Brit trying to blend in. Being during exams only Lindsay and I went from UNC, staying at her parents place just outside of the town, meaning that I cheekily had to rearrange an exam in order to go (who said study abroad was all about studying?!) , leaving on the Friday afternoon. Fayetteville being a couple of hours from UNC, it was a short journey, and with the sun shining. windows down, and music pumping it was a sweet drive there!

Upon arriving at Lindsay’s house, I was attacked by the dog (attacked probably a strong word considering the tiny size of the thing!) and promptly tried to be cool playing with it. Which ended up me crouching on the floor growling at it. Yeah cool right…. Rescuing me from the awkward situation of a dog looking at me as if I was crazy Lindsay handed me a beer and we headed out to the porch to do what I love about Southern life. Chilling on the porch watching the world go by. The house is set in a residential neighbourhood built around a golf course, which to me is a strange concept. Looking out over the road you could see people lining up their clubs and golf buggys running around. Nice neighbourhood though and I guess pretty typical of American residential areas, with a main drive off the highway opening up to the houses. 

Downtown Fayette-nam
That evening (when Lindsay’s family arrived home from work and school) we headed into Fayetteville centre for dinner and the festival. Arriving at an Irish place in the centre of town (im guessing this by the name, although confusingly a union flag was flying outside…), and dinner was the usual American staple of burgers (and very nice too!) with Lindsay's younger sister freaking out about whether she wanted pickles or not with hers. Oh the difficult decisions of a teenager! From there we wandered around the town centre, having a look at what was going on and stopping off at a little wine shop to try some chocolate wine. Not my thing, chocolate wine, to say the least! Fayetteville itself looked a nice little place, with very typical Southern style downtown and main street. However, it is a massive military town with Fort Bragg located right outside it, and as such there were plenty of Marine types knocking around being marines. Idiots that is! One bumped into me and started going on about how I should move out of the way as a marine was coming through. Don’t think so mate, you look where you’re going thank you very much!

being all 'Merican with beer and funnel cake
The main reason for going into Fayetteville was the Dogwood Festival, which is a very Southern affair with the usual stands displaying “anything fried” signs and offering the usual deep fried candy etc and all the usual American beers on tap like Bud Light (which is awful if I may say so – like piss flavoured water!).  There was a stage where the acts were playing, headlining that evening was Gretchen Wilson of well known song “Redneck Woman” (yeah me neither). Her act was pretty good, getting the crowd going, bringing up a soldier to the stage to thank for his service and playing the National Anthem (like I said, all very Southern!) and I did enjoy watching her. Even if I had no idea what the songs were! I guess she would be considered country-rock, with a mix of electric and traditional blues instruments in use by the band. I did however keep catching myself watching this couple standing a short way from us, who typified the Southern stereotype – he was dressing in ripped denim jacket with tattoos and huge belly and she was an incredibly large women crammed into a tiny outfit. The guys arms didn’t get anywhere near round her waist. And they were so ugly as well (sorry, I don’t usually say things like that but they were. So bad!). But what kept me watching was how they would look into each other’s eyes, lean over for a tongue swallow and have to lean over so far they almost toppled into each other. Gross! (Ill stop being mean now). The set came to an end with “Redneck Woman” which you can enjoy listening too below, and fireworks. Which was all nice and dandy!

Upon dropping the lill'an off back home, Lindsay persuaded me to continue the night at Cadillac Ranch a short drive away. Now this didn’t sound too bad, except it was a line dancing type place (if you don’t know Lindsay, she loves country music, line dancing and America). My stomach instantly plunged. Line dancing? Two stepping? I can’t even keep my own feet from doing much more than step up and down whilst clubbing! Needless to say, being one to never turn down something new I agreed to go but made sure I was under no obligation to dance.  For those of you who don’t know, two stepping is a type of dance to (from what I can gather) predominately country songs, in which a male and female dance together like in salsa or ballroom dancing (except in two stepping apparently its very faux par to dance with a same sex partner). The actual dancing part itself is a little confusing at first, but being only two basic steps (hence the name!) to begin with its relatively easy to pick up. Or so I was told…

The place itself was pretty non-descript from the outside – just a corrugated iron barn type place, but inside it was rather large with a cool bar and huge dance floor. Decked out with numerous people in cowboy boots and hats to add to the atmosphere. Pretty damn cool to be honest! The music was predominately county and blues, no bad thing as I’ve come to enjoy it having been in North Carolina for so long, and it was an interesting experience to see line dancing up close and how it should be done for once. The place was also very different in atmosphere to other places I’ve been on nights out, with much more politeness and charm going around, probably due to the fact that partners are needed for dancing to a lot of the songs and so men would charm the ladies rather than just come up behind and grind them. That did take me a little by surprise! After a few beers Lindsay managed to persuade me to dance with her (by that I mean took my hand and didn’t let go till the song was over) and I was incredibly embarrassed as I thought everyone would spot that guy who had no idea what he was doing and laugh. As it was, despite fumbling over my feet, looking down the whole time and looking thoroughly British about the whole things it wasn’t too bad. Until Lindsay decided she wanted to do a twirl. Which with me looked more like a drunkard trying to gracefully fall over after being shot. Yet somehow she still managed to pull it off… It didn’t really matter anyway, because the laughter I was dreading never came: no gave a shit (or at least to what I could see) about people abilities. Thank god!

Spot the Brit...
Two stepping

I ended up really enjoying myself at Cadillac Ranch (though I wouldn’t say it at the time as the fear of dancing too much was still rather strong!) and did end up dancing a few times with Lindsay (though she would go off and join in the line dances herself – I wasn’t quite ready for that one yet!) and listening to the music being played. Some of it actually recognisable from the UK funnily enough! Eventually the night had to come to an end, with a earlyish start in the morning to get back to Chapel Hill for revision to be done for finals the next week (ugh…).

I had a thoroughly enjoyable night in Fayetteville, experiencing some more of the South and things that I wouldn’t have normally done (never would have gone to a line dancing place in the UK that’s for sure!), and also see another part of Southern culture which I really do like doing. Big thanks to the Phelps family for putting me up for the night, and to Lindsay for putting up with me, my silly questions and poor dancing!

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