The giggling girl seemed to speak for all assembled at the Wild Goose Festival as she splashed barefoot up to the sunshine-yellow popcorn tent. “A little rain doesn’t have to spoil a good celebration!” she said to the long-haired, bearded young man in the tent. He laughed and handed her a popcorn bag almost as big as her umbrella. Shoving their hands deep into the bag and trailing yellow kernels behind them, she and her friend headed off in the direction of some electronic thumping that might have been music.

All Smiles

All Smiles

On the first day of the recent Wild Goose celebration of faith, justice, music, and the arts in Hot Springs, North Carolina, everyone tried to stay dry during the periodic rainstorms, darting under tents or escaping into one of the few pubs and restaurants in town.

On the second day, we all flailed around with umbrellas and tarps for a while and then gave ourselves over to the rain. Everyone was drenched and laughing, and the kids were up to their knees in mud puddles. It was Woodstock redux, except there were no drugs, people kept (most of) their clothes on, and we did not come close to running out of food.

The food and drink tents were surrounded by throngs of wet people — sweaty when they weren’t rain-soaked — day and night. You could have popcorn for breakfast, french toast for dinner, and Yerba Mate energy drink any time of the day or night. The beer pavilion was ground zero during the daily thunderstorms and the nightly Beer & Hymns gathering.

Music floated over the campground from 8 a.m. until midnight, from the main stage and from several huge tents that pulsated with drumming, electric guitars, and electronic new age recordings accompanied by lava lamps the size of giant popcorn bags.

A special shout-out to the Carnival tent, which produced power for its musical performances with bicycle-generated electricity!

Pedal power!

Pedal power!

Tie-dye tees, temporary tattoos, and sparkly hair implants were popular draws, and the smell of vanilla and rosemary aromatherapy oils mixed with heavy smoke from many damp campfires.


Serious Pursuits

But Wild Goose wasn’t all fun & frolicking in the mud.

One of the biggest attractions for this largely intellectual crowd was the book tent, stacked high with hundreds of titles like Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God and How to Be a Christian without Going to Church. The biggest seller was We Make the Road by Walking: A Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Action, by Wild Goose perennial favorite, Brian McLaren.

Lining the muddy lanes that ran through the campsite were dozens of informational tents and tables, some colorful and bold: WHO WOULD JESUS TORTURE? and others nondescript and looking rather lonely: explore your calling to seminary. 

There was less heavy theology-talk this year than last, and more passionate justice-talk. Food justice, job justice, racial justice, sexual justice, LGBT justice.



Although this year’s crowd was more multicultural than in years past, reflecting a serious effort by the organizers “to be culturally accessible to an ever broadening audience,” the crowd was still largely white. Baby steps.


Reverend William Barber, founder of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” protests

Someone with Attention Deficit Disorder (me) might suffer from exploding-head syndrome after a few days at Wild Goose. So much was happening that they had to print two separate programs to fit it all in — more than one hundred pages of small print. At any given moment, you could be down by the river doing yoga or art therapy or a writing workshop, or under one of a dozen tents learning about white privilege, the death penalty, or post traumatic church syndrome.

Each night I would peruse the schedule for the following day and dutifully wield my red pen, and each afternoon I would throw up my hands and simply wander from presentation to presentation sipping my Yerba Mate. A lot of people were doing this, sampling a bit of this and a snip of that and finally settling down to a panel discussion or a few sets of music.

In one tent, this young lady explained to me that if I spun the wheel, I could find a new image of God for myself:

Spin the wheel to find your image of God!

Spin the wheel to find your image of God!

Here’s what the wheel came up with for me — not bad: a wise old woman. Her nose was not on fire, by the way, it’s just a lousy picture.


On one of my wandering afternoons, I came across this amazing fellow who wrote poetry for passersby.

Poetry on Demand by Eddie Cabbage

Poetry on Demand by Eddie Cabbage

I gave Eddie Cabbage five bucks and a theme, and he produced this sweet piece in five minutes:


The heart broken

The eyes holding

oceans of tears

The emotion spilling

and the sorrow

a tipping rain

The long road home

The dreams and the wisdom

found when the

wounds begin

to heal

The strength and the power

Inspiration to carry on

The scars now just

flesh tattoos

of a hardship

you came

shining through

Eddie’s offering alone was worth  my trip to Wild Goose this year. See more photos and read more about the festival in part one of this post. Won’t you join us next June?

Don’t Miss the Parade!