Located in downtown Bowling Green, Black Swamp Art Festival has been a household name and a tradition in Ohio over the past 22 years, said Deb Wiser, a volunteer who is attending the festival for the 23rd time.
On the first night of the 3-day music and arts fair when the fine arts booths on Main Street had not been set up, the town was already alive with band music, participants and vendors. As I stepped into the venue, the first thing that came to my attention was the smell of barbecue and clouds of smoke above the food stalls.
Food vendors were arrayed outside the main concert stage. The food court provided a range of cuisine choices like Thai, Greek and American, as well as various desserts like ice cream and cakes. One of the most popular stalls was a Thai booth, Thai Thai, which had nearly 30 customers in line at its peak.
In front of Thai Thai’s booth was a griller full of “Chicken on a Stick”. The cook kept spreading sauces over the skewered chicken gently without forgetting to flip the golden-brown color meat to the other side from time to time. Another chef was busying frying rice noodles. Wearing an oil-stained apron, he worked up a sweat as he tried to take orders from customers while taking care of the rice noodles. Yet he still smiled at me and every other patron.
“We are huge fans of Asian food and have experienced the best Thai food in Ohio earlier as well. This is just as good as that,” A couple from Canton, Ohio said. “I hope this stall is coming back next year.”
I had a “Mushrooms and Steak” from an American food stall called Sirloin Tip Dinner. It came as a surprise that the steak bites were unexpectedly well-seasoned and juicy, given the fact that the cubed steak that went to my plate had been on the grill before I even started standing in the line with more than 15 people. The mushrooms were perfect toppers for the steak. They were tender and full of flavor. This was just the kind of mushrooms to die for. I could not help it but ate the whole thing myself.
There were so much more at the festival. If the food does not capture your interest, you would certainly have a great time enjoying the music performances.
A fence across the food court was an outdoor concert stage where one of the festival’s headliners The Delta Saints, a blues rock band from Nashville, Tennessee, was giving their performance. I did not know any songs of The Delta Saints so I was not being extremely focused on the performance itself. But the atmosphere in the whole concert area was awesome and intoxicating.
More than 50 people who stood in front of the main stage danced along the beat of the bass-heavy music. Standing a little farther from the stage, some college students who were in their fraternity T-shirts wrapped their arms around each other and swayed to the music. As the main vocalist asked if people were “ready to party harder”, almost everybody shouted back loudly toward the stage. “Yes!”
[This year’s festival features multiple local music artists and bands. Headliner The Delta Saints was performing on stage. ]
The rest of the seats in front of the concert stage were filled with middle-aged audiences. Some audiences had beer bottles in their hands. Some were sitting with their families and dogs. At first I found it rare to see such a big proportion of middle-aged population in a rock concert. But even though the band on stage was quite young, audience members of advanced years still found pleasure in it.
“At Black Swamp Festival sometimes you can get very close to the musicians. If you are sitting right here they would be just two feet away from you.” Katy, a 68-year-old audience member from New York said. “You don’t always get that at other music festivals and that’s what I love about it here.”