Folky-folks enjoy bare feet!

 
NEFFA puts on a large folk festival every spring in Massachusetts, which brings attendees and performers from all over to spend a weekend soaking in music, dance, crafts, good food, and general down-to-earth folkiness.  Naturally we'd expect a lot of these folks to be barefooters and/or welcoming to bare feet, which is generally true especially in the dance halls.  It's really rather nice to do contras on a well-maintained wood floor, and have all that fine feedback about where you're going, weight shifts, and surface friction.  It's the only way *I* would dance those styles, and I've never had my feet stomped on [in spite of the "but aren't you afraid of ..." comments I and others sometimes get] because a> people who routinely dance are generally better coordinated than that, and b> the heightened situational awareness of a barefooter generally results in feet either being rapidly removed from an area of pending danger, or simply never getting into it at all.  And the one or two times the edge of someone else's foot [shod or bare] has touched mine in the thick of a crowded dance it's never come close to causing injury.  People at folk-festivals are generally more in tune with the benefits of going barefoot as a whole, and value the freedom to do so indoors and out without any worries for the entire weekend while hobnobbing with a few thousand of their closest friends.

With one minor exception, up until quite recently.  The main food area is set up in one of the school cafeterias, with vendors using some of the existing kitchen facilities and also bringing in a whole lot of their own infrastructure.  For years, gaily hand-lettered signs got posted at the public entrances to this area, "NO BARE FEET".  Which never made any sense to me, and I really resented having to drag my flats all the way over there just to go into one place and have lunch, so I finally made a bit of a stink about it to some of the NEFFA board members.  I pointed out that it really was a bit of an affront to the types of people who attended the festival, there was no legally supportable reasoning for it, and that people should be able to handle their own decisions on the issue rather than needing a faceless adminstrative nanny.  Finally someone on the board did the necessary research and got back to me, acknowledging "you're right, there are no laws or regulations about this" with regard to food areas, and the next year the signs disappeared. 

Hopefully forever, because I think a strong point was made to the Board about our attendee base and their personal freedoms.  Folkies are good about picking up their own trash, and the school's custodians are all over the realtime maintenance of the whole place, and I've never even seen anything hazardous on that cafeteria floor that I'd have to avoid let alone ever stepped in anything bad.  And that's coming out of having worked an afternoon's worth of sound and lighting setup in the gyms and auditoriums, barefoot of course, where many more foot hazards could be present.  Part of our job is to find and remove those anyway since those spaces will be home to hundreds of barefoot dancers for the rest of the weekend, and there's nobody more qualified to evaluate that than a longterm barefooter who understands what he's looking at and/or feeling.


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