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  • Writer's pictureCraig Riddell

Impressions of the first day

Updated: May 10, 2019

Impressions from my first day and night at Lightning in a Bottle... in a word Neverland!  

The camper down the road has balloon letters that spell out the an appropriate theme DONUT GROW UP!

Day one

First of all, I have about 456 new friends. Truthfully I gave up counting after 25 or so and I'm having trouble remembering their names, but they don’t seem to mind. We are buds anyway!  I haven’t met the rest of them yet but I have high hopes. For the most part they are the kinds of kids you meet when you move to a new city or school. You know funny, serious, strong, weak, messy, funky, sweet, smart, caring, and interesting but above all friendly. So far I haven’t met the mean or snobby kids yet... maybe they show up later or hopefully don’t come at all! 

I call them kids inclusively, with all reverence that deserves and I hope to count myself among them moving forward.  For me part of the LIB experience is to reawaken the inner child, to remember to have fun, and how to like and love people the way we did when we all counted ourselves as kids.  A decade before we succumbed to our parents desires for us to #dosomethingwithourlife .

Pre Fest

For me the festival started in the parking lot of Taco Bell about a mile from LIB. I had retreated there after visiting the front gate to see about early entry which was a definite no go. However, turns out the party had already started over at the TB lot. Earlier arrivals had begun to share the anticipation of the event...a few had met before, in any case, they all had shared in a LIB fest or two, three or ten. They spoke of the event with such fevor and anticipation…like they were getting ready for a reunion of sorts! The situation could easily have been awkward for me, after all I’m six plus decades in and the vast majority of my fellow LIBers are half that…but such was not the case, as we were all getting ready to share the upcoming adventure that LIB represents. They were friendly, and inclusive and easy to speak with. They talked about the music, and the educational talks but mostly it was the shared community and the vibe ... life changing, their words not mine.

Wednesday turns out to be prefest really, there are lifts and heavy vehicles trundling about like dinosaurs amidst the LIBers.  Nobody seems to care, no close calls, just lots of busy people trying to finish up an amazing transformation while campers are wandering about.  The booths are open and everybody is getting reacquainted.  There’s a bit of music, a touch of yoga, and an amazing talk by Indian/mayan wise women and of course a hundred other things to numerous to mention.

The location

Buena Vista Lake Park in Bakersfield is pretty much as you might imagine it, flat, dusty and a lake that looks made…Nothing that a lot more irrigation, trees and shade couldn’t solve.  However, it turns out to be the perfect place to hold Lightening in a Bottle.  Just add a couple hundred life changing experiences, music, talks, art, structures, villages, food etc and you have LIB.  I guess it doesn’t really matter much where you do it, as long as you bring the spirit.  The installations of art and architecture are inspiring. I’ve seen bigger, and better but there’s an artistic, earnest touch to everything here that collectively works.


A word about the #boothtiques thats how I would describe them. The collection of goods and wares is an attraction in itself and the booths are put together as if Beverly Hills, aka Gucci were having a street faire.  At night they are perfectly lit and each tastefully decorated with passionate proprietors selling wares that they personally had something to do with, as in created, stiched, drew, sweated over.  More about this later

Food and beverages of every kind abound throughout the festival, pizza, dumplings, alcohol, organic, asian, Italian, grilled cheese gourmet and on and on. Probably 50 food booths.  Thankfully, a half dozen or so serve great coffee.  For the most part they are organic, vegan, guilt free indulgences as one the themes of the festival seems to be #friendsdonteatfriends.

Setting up

The first day I set Phil my camper up, wandered about and danced until about 11pm. I bedded down and awoke at 5:30am. I thought id be a bit sore and tired but turns out Im a kid again at least for now.  Last night I popped open my first beer in a couple of years but only had a couple of sips…maybe I’ll finish it today.  The camper is working great I’m handing out lots of my Wake-up cards and having such a great time I want to get back to it.  As I finish up this post my fellow campers are starting to stir so I think I’ll go find out whats up for today!

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