Jerry Nelson: I found a worldly experience at the Brookings Summer Arts Festival

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Image of the author.

Sometimes life offers an opportunity to travel without venturing far from home. And if this opportunity comes with good food and free music, all the better.

At least that’s how I feel after attending this year’s Brookings Summer Arts Festival. Interesting experiences and interesting new people were available at every turn.

For instance, a booth called Frogworks Photography caught my eye. I had no idea what a "frogworks" might be, so I stopped and chatted with Bob Wilson, a professional photographer and the booth’s proprietor.

“I had a logger buddy who lived in Idaho and complained that there was nothing to do in the wintertime,” Bob said, grinning. “I told him he should start an enterprise called the Frogworks Lumber Company. It was just a whimsical name that doesn’t mean anything, but I liked it and started using it for my photography business.”

Bob was selling photos of such things as the rugged Irish coast, the stark Sahara, ghostly Machu Picchu and a furry baby mountain gorilla in a Ugandan forest.

"I participated in a program sponsored by National Geographic that sent photographers to different areas. We lived with the locals for a few days and taught photography to students,” Bob explained.

After an enjoyable chat, I moved along. I was feeling jetlagged just from thinking about all of Bob’s foreign adventures.

As I wandered the festival, I espied a booth that was named Bare Naked Soap Company. It wasn’t clear which was naked, the soap or the company. My wife wasn’t with me, but I could almost feel her disapproving glance for making that particular observation.

I attended the festival solo this year because my wife’s knee has been beset by crippling pain. Her orthopedic surgeon will be installing a new knee next week. We hope that we can get an extended warranty for this spendy new appliance.

I stopped to chat with my brother Les and his family who were operating a food booth that featured funnel cakes, blooming onions and buffalo burgers. Slaving over sizzling fryers in the searing summertime heat must feel like working in the caldera of an active volcano. Hats off to those who endure discomfort so that others can enjoy comfort food.

My brother was pretty was busy, so I didn’t tarry long. Besides, I could hear music beginning to waft from the nearby bandshell.

Kansas songwriter Lily B Moonflower takes the stage at the Brookings Summer Arts Festival.

A group called Lily B Moonflower was belting out tunes from the bandshell’s stage. Their lead singer, a young lady who couldn’t be more than 25 years old, was crooning about the blues that can afflict a person who is doing hard time in Folsom Prison. I would be willing to bet that she has never actually been incarcerated in that infamous institution.

I found a shady spot on a park bench and plunked myself down among the several hundred people who, like me, appreciated an opportunity to enjoy free music. It was unspeakably pleasant to sit in the flickering shade as a whispering breeze carried the aroma of yummy things from the food court. It was also a great venue to do some people watching.

After Lily B Moonflower’s concert ended, I resumed my perambulations. Wandering through the crowd, I couldn’t help but think of Bruce Springsteen’s’ song “Girls In Their Summer Clothes.” Ah, summertime!

I couldn’t go home without buying something for my wife, so I stopped at a jewelry booth — real men can admit to doing such a thing — and perused their offerings. Their moonstone rings and earrings caught my eye.

Moonstones are purported to have healing properties. I’m skeptical of such claims but am certain that my wife would welcome any assistance when it comes to healing.

The jewelry booth’s proprietress was a middle-aged Asian lady. As I examined her selection of moonstone jewelry, I told her about my wife and her upcoming surgery. It was silly to divulge such personal details to a total stranger, but it somehow felt right.

As the lady handed my purchase to me, she enveloped my hand in both of hers and murmured in her thick Asian accent, “I pray to God that your wife’s surgery is successful and that her recovery will be swift and complete.” She then bowed deeply, something that’s totally foreign to a Midwestern farm boy.

Her words inexplicably caused me to choke up a little. They caused my wife to instantly burst into tears when I relayed them to her.

In summary, the Summer Arts Festival was a very pleasant experience. It felt as if I had traveled around the world even though I had only driven a dozen miles from home.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.