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Your First Festival

Bran's Guide

For every Festival sponsored by the Council of the Magickal Arts, or any similar organization, there are always people there who are there for the first time. Often, it may be their first Festival of any kind. If you are one of those fortunate individuals, then welcome to a group that is very special to us, called "Newbees." We are all delighted to have you with us. We remember the magic of our own first Festival, and would like to make yours just as special.

This brief guide is intended to make certain that you show up at your first CMA Festival with all of the material necessities to make your first Festival a completely magical event. The first thing that you should put in the car is your ticket. Make certain that you can find it easily when you get to the gate. Everyone in your car must have a ticket. The tickets are sold by mail and on-line before the event. There is no other way to get them.

The map to the site and written directions will be available on the website as well as in your ticket packet. The last few miles can be tricky, so pay attention and drive carefully.

When you arrive at the Festival, your first act—after wading through the sense of wonder—will be to select a place to camp. The facility is owned by the Council of Magickal Arts. It was purchased by the membership in January of 2000, and is being slowly developed as a Festival place for the CMA, in keeping with our principles. It is private, serene, and fairly primitive. The CMA’s events are Leave No Trace Events. By this we mean that the CMA does not provide trash pickup nor trash hauling service of any kind. You must be responsible for taking any trash back with you. First, and foremost, you will need a tent.

If you do not own a tent, you will need to obtain one. They can be purchased many places, and they can even be borrowed. Whichever, your tent will be your home for up to four days. Select your tent with that in mind. Remember that you will need to enter and exit it often. You'll sleep there, dress there, and possibly, in the event of inclement weather, eat in your tent. However you acquire your tent make sure to set it up well in advance of the Festival. That way you can verify that you have all of the parts, even if it is your tent, and you've had it for years. The ground in most of the site is hard packed earth. Plastic and wire stakes will serve, but are not recommended. You should consider obtaining "tent nails" and a suitable hammer for critical points that require a secure anchorage. A roll of duct tape will work wonders on those forgotten leaks, tears, or seams. You can bring a shovel if you'd like to be able to move some of the "cow pies." If your tent is new, we suggest leaving the box at home (unless you wish to transport the tent back in it.

Before erecting your tent on site, check the ground for thorns and roots. They will become tiresome by the end of the weekend. A ground cloth under your tent is strongly encouraged. A tarp works well for this purpose.

The camping area is lightly wooded, and there are many areas boasting dappled shade. Be prepared to make your own shade if you must. A dining fly of your own will go a long way toward making your home away from home a place that you will remember fondly. A camp chair and table will also make your magical retreat more comfortable. The right lighting will finish the decoration; consider one of the citronella options.

Inside your tent, you'll want comfortable bedding, and extra blankets. It always gets colder at night than you thought it would. If you don't need them on top, they make great padding underneath you. If you choose an air mattress, consider an air pump. If you choose an electric pump, a high volume pump designed for mattresses will make the task faster, and make you lots of friends who forgot their own pumps.

When the Sun sets (which it will, just before 7:00 p.m. at Samhain, and 8:00 p.m. at Beltane), you will need light. Candles provide a warm and cozy light, but not in a tent. There are no tents that are fire proof, and a candle in a tent is an invitation to disaster. For illumination inside your tent, you should rely on battery-powered lamps, never on any flame.

Even outside your tent, flames should be treated with respect. Examine every flame source with an eye toward safety. Lanterns should be secured so that it is difficult to knock them over. Fires should be kept far from tents and cars. Citronella buckets should be positioned where they will be difficult to knock over, and where swirling cloaks will not pass through the flame, setting fire to a garment and its wearer. Garden torches are particularly hazardous because they contain a liquid fuel, and do not sit deep enough in the ground to keep them from being knocked over easily. When they are knocked over, they fall the height of their shaft from where they are set, then roll, spilling burning fuel as they do (and they always roll onto a tent).

In the event of drought conditions, the area could be under a fire ban. If the fire ban is in place, it will have been set by the authorities in Fayette County, not CMA. We are always careful to observe the burning restrictions that may be in place. The e-lists and announcements will contain information on any restrictions on burning, though more current information will be available at the site.

In the event that fires are permitted, consider the environmental effect of your fires. If you have something available, you might wish to confine your campfire to a metal enclosure or grill. If you want a fire on the ground, plan on camping around or near one of the existing fire rings that will be set at the site. If you camp in an area that does not have a fire ring but you think it would be a great place to have one, contact one of the CMA officers or guardians (more on how to locate them later) who will find the "fire ring team" and a determination will be made as to the possibility of adding a new ring. There are a few locations on the site where underground pipes and other objects may prevent you from putting the fire ring in place. Our fire ring team will know the location of these things. As for building a fire ring, there are few if any stones at the site.

Where you have any kind of flame source, consider how you will extinguish the flame when you need to do so. Always keep a water bucket near your fire (if you put a couple of ounces of Clorox in the water, you'll have a convenient way to clean your hands in an emergency).

A last note on fire prevention, a dry chemical fire extinguisher will add an extra measure of security.

During the weekend you will need to eat and drink. Be certain that you have brought enough water, and other drinks. Alcoholic beverages are not a substitute for your body's fluid needs. Soft drinks should not be considered a substitute for water either.

Dehydration can ruin your weekend. Alcohol can only exacerbate dehydration, and the sugar in soft drinks can aggravate the situation as well. Make certain that your enjoyment is responsible.

You should know your own body's nutritional requirements better than anyone. Bring the kind of food that you know that you'll require, and bring sufficient quantities for the time that you'll be at the Festival. Keep in mind the requirements for preparation; you'll need a stove, pots, pans, and can openers. Pot holders and even a colander if you plan to cook pasta are essential, and don't forget some kind of basin for cleanup later. You will need some kind of plates, bowls, and flatware. Balance the environmental impact of disposable (picnic type) paper and plastic tableware, with the impact of washing dishes, and dumping dish water. Never wash dishes in the bathhouse sinks. Many of us begrudge the time away from the events required for complicated food preparations. If you are that kind of person, bring foods that require little on site work. If you are the kind of person who enjoys preparing large meals in the field, be generous.

There is on-site water for bathing, but the determination of potability has not yet been made. Plan on bringing all the potable water you think you will need to the event.

A final note on food—we share the planet and the site with many other species. Unless you want to share your food with the ants, keep it in sealed containers. Unless you want to share your tent with the ants, remember that they'll find their way into any container eventually (food in your tent is a bad idea). The rules of basic food handling apply in the field as well. Food that must be kept cold must still be kept cold.

The CMA will have ice for sale on the site. Check at the CMA ONE pavilion in the vendor area for information. Check the condition of your ice chest, and add ice when it gets low. The ice will keep much longer if you can keep your ice chest out of direct Sunlight, even a light towel thrown over an ice chest will add hours to the time that the ice in your chest will last. There may also be firewood available for sale there. Please do not gather firewood on site.

If you plan to cook, you will need to bring some kind of stove. It is possible to cook over an open fire, but it will melt the handles of your home pots and skillets, and render even metal handles as hot as the rest of the pan. Charcoal is a safe and clean fuel, but not the easiest way to brew your morning coffee. Solid and gel fueled stoves are great for that trek across the Himalayas, but not the best way to fry eggs. Liquid fueled lanterns and stoves work well, but propane lanterns and stoves are both safer and more environmentally friendly.

Faery Altar

For the few days prior to the Festival, listen to the weather forecasts. It will be cooler at night in Fayette County than the nearby cities. Take this in mind when selecting your wardrobe for the weekend. It will probably be quite warm during the day; it will possibly turn quite cool in the evenings. Bring something warm to wear.

On site, clothing is optional, and sunburn hurts. Bring sunscreen, and wear it, whatever else you wear. Renew your sunscreen after showering. The last words uttered before most of the really severe sunburns are, "I never burn."

However you may choose to dress, from flannels to skyclad, a comfortable pair of shoes is essential. The site is in near natural condition, there are cactus, thorns, and burrs, and biting/stinging creatures in abundance. You were planning to keep those feet weren't you? It is required that you wear shoes at all times, whether it is the only thing you plan to wear or not. Keeping in mind that those biting/stinging creatures can enter into sandals of all kinds.

Clustered in the middle of the site will be the vendors. These people will have a diverse selection of wares for sale. In this area you can purchase everything from T-shirts to books to that perfect Magical artifact that you've been seeking. Be sure to leave room in your budget for that.

Between Thursday and Sunday, most of us will choose to bathe more than once. The site has showers, but you will need your own towels, soap, and shampoo. There is power in the shower building, should you find yourself unable to live without a hair drier, but you may find a bit of a line there.

All of the water on the site is pumped from a well, and we can only deplete the aquifer at a finite rate. Your showers will use a slowly replenishable resource. . . . Be responsible.

If you have prescriptions, bring them. If you have any chronic medical needs, keep them in mind. If you have any condition of which you would like the first aid staff to be aware, be prepared to warn them. There is a first aid station than can help with many medical problems. You should make certain that you can find it (right after you locate the toilet facilities). If you will advise the staff there of any condition, they will be prepared in case of an emergency.

If you have any allergies, you will find your allergens waiting for you on site. Your medications will be there only if you bring them.

On site, we will have chemical toilets The chemical toilets will be cleaned and replenished during the event. If you have children, please help them through their first experience with a chemical toilet. The chemical toilet next to the Fairie Mound (the children's tent), should be left for the children.

Since the site spends most of the year in a "natural state," it is populated by a quantity of the native flora and fauna. The birds and mammals that live on the land present little danger to adults, but the reptiles, insects and arachnids could ruin your day.

Should you encounter a snake, contact a guardian. Unless the snake has a ticket, it will be removed from the site. The ants are there to help remove any food that you may abandon (or simply leave out). The spiders and scorpions are not aggressive; if you leave them alone, they will return the favor. If you have children, explain the situation to them.

CMA requires all cars not needed to sustain the health of the members (and so marked with permits from the CMA) be parked in a parking area that is across the creek from the camping area. Please move your vehicle there as soon as your camp is established. In the event of wet weather, you car will be on the same side of the creek as the exit (the crossing may not be passable by cars for a while following a rain.)

Finally, the members of the CMA's Board and numerous volunteers can easily be recognized by the laminated tags that they wear. If you have questions or problems, they can help. A special class of volunteers are the Guardians. The Guardians have volunteered to provide assistance, and minimize safety hazards during the event. Guardians on duty have access to radios that can speed up the resolution of most problems that you may bring to them.

After reading all of this, I hope that you will prepare a checklist for yourself, with a list of all of those things that you may feel that you need. The Festivals sponsored by the Council for the Magickal Arts, are wondrous weekends of experiences. There, you will meet people, and their ideas, and share in the experiences that make our way of life special.

We wish you a Joyous Festival!

This article was written by Bran. Bran is a dedicant of Brighid who has been involved in CMA for a rather long time.

Council of Magickal Arts is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 2825 Bomar Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas 76103-2347 • 512-856-4410

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